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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total wage income of all the manufacturing establishments of
the country. These estimates are not given as having final value,
but as indications of the gravity of the national problem of cost
and burden.

Cost of Crime in the United States. — The cost to the public of all
forms of dependency must include that of crime, because pauper-
ism and crime arise from the same social causes and flow into
each other as phenomena of a common tendency.

Mr. Warren F. Spalding estimated (1900) the direct cost of
crime to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as $4,795,174

Mr. Eugene Smith estimates that there are in the United
States about 250,000 who make their living, at least in some de-
gree, by the practice of crime. Their annual income, he thinks,
is $1,600 each, or an aggregate income of $400,000,000 annually.
Taxation caused by crime is set at $200,000,000. These figures
do not include the value of property destroyed by criminals, of
the money value of time, life, and labor lost and the amount of
private expense entailed by these crimes; nor the expenditures
caused by the existence of crime, as for locks and bars and bolts,
steel safes, safe-deposit vaults, burglar alarms, involving the
outlay of many million dollars. Beyond all the material losses
are the miseries and moral degradation which go with crime in
all its phases.^

A. Legal Aspects of Public Relief in the United States. —
History and Principles of Public Poor Relief. — To say that there
is in the United States no characteristic system of public poor-
relief would be both true and misleading: true, because there is
no single national poor law or general system of poor-relief
throughout the whole country; and misleading, because there are
certain characteristically American methods and laws on the sub-
ject, enacted and enforced in the various States. American
poor law is based upon English poor law. Briefly, the general

* P'-oceedings of National Prison Association, 1900. House Document No.
491, s6th Congress, 2d session.


purpose of the public poor law is to provide for the local care
of such persons as are unable to support themselves and have
not relatives bound to support them. Such public support is
placed under the supervision of officers of the community where
the recipient resides, with restrictions intended to prevent va-
grancy and imposture, and to forbid the removal of the burden of
support of any pauper from the locality where he properly be-
longs to some other not properly responsible for him.

In the United States we find that both poor law and adminis-
tration exhibit two main types (both transplanted from England)
which may be called respectively the Virginia type and the New
England type, or the county type and the township type, cor-
responding to the two general forms of local government respect-
ively established in America by these two localities.

With migrations these two types of government were propa-
gated westward according as the character of the country and
the traditions of the people demanded the extended and more
autocratic county form adapted to sparsely settled territory, or
the more concentrated democratic form of township government.
In time, of course, the two types have modified each other, pro-
ducing, as in Pennsylvania and New York, more composite

Of the development of the township form the city of Boston
is an interesting example. Here as early as 1691 poor super-
visors were chosen at the town meeting. Their duties were lim-
ited and defined by statute in 1793. Each township was made
responsible for its own poor, and the supervisors were to see that
sustenance and work were provided for deserving and needy per-
sons. As the town grew the number of supervisors of the poor
was increased (there being twelve in 1895), all of them serving
without pay. At present the system in Boston has been organized
under a commissioner of public institutions — a paid officer of
the city — supervising institutions for the insane, the poor, delin-
quents, and children. Whereas at first the poor were cared for
in a more or less unsystematic and incidental way, to-day there
are organized in the city two reform schools, one truant school,
an insane hospital, a children's home, and three poorhouses, all
under careful and expert public supervision, — besides numerous
private charities. This example illustrates the devlopment of


the important principle of division of labor and expert specializa-
tion which is being rapidly introduced into modern poor-relief.

According to the United States Constitution the legislation
and the administration of poor-relief in America are controlled
wholly by the State legislatures. The only exceptions to this
are the District of Columbia, the Territories, and a few institu-
tions, such as those for disabled soldiers and sailors, which are
controlled by the national government.

The Law of Responsibility in Public Poor-Relief. — As indicated
above, the public is under obligation to relieve and support
all indigent residents of the community who are unable to sup-
port themselves and who have no relatives upon whom this legal
obligation rests. This general principle is elaborated in various
ways in the different States. Frequently between the parent and
the child, whether minor or adult, the duty of support may be
said to be reciprocal, — where either has become indigent.*
Sometimes the obligation includes grandchildren and grand-
parents as well.^ In some states brothers and sisters are made
reciprocally responsible.^

Such obligations can not be enforced against those living in
another state, nor (frequently) in favor of the vicious or the

The enforcement of the obligations on behalf of an indigent
applicant must be attended to by the relieving officer through the
agencies of the county or other local courts. The county sys-
tem IS prevalent in all of the States west of the Mississippi save
Minnesota, in Pennsylvania, and in all south of Mason and
Dixon's line.'^ In the New England and the Middle Atlantic
states the town (or township) officials are in general responsible

nn N. Y., N. J., Ga., Mich., Wis., N. Dak., S. Dak. (Cf. Millis, American
Journal of Sociology, Vol. 3, page 379.) Much valuable material upon poor laws
and administration used herewith was derived from Professor Millis' articles in
the Journal, reference to which hereafter will be indicated by the abbreviation M.
(Some changes in laws have been made since these articles were written.)

== Mass., N. H., Ver., Maine, R. I., Conn., Pa., Del., Ala., Miss., Iowa. (M., Ill,
page 374.)

' 111., Minn., Nebr., Mont., Colo.. Nev., Wash. (M., Ill, page 479.)

♦ 111., Minn., Nebr. (M., Ill, page 380.)

' Although some of these States have a more or less mixed system. (M., Ill,
page 381.)



for the enforcement of the poor law. For the care of certain
institutions and general relief agencies the State governments
themselves are sometimes directly responsible,^ Special and
usually distinct poor jurisdiction is given by the legislatures to
the cities.

Wife Desertion. — The new law which went into effect in Illinois
July I, 1903, may be taken as a typical illustration of the present
tendency in the United States to compel men to support their
families in case of neglect. The statute of 1891 had contained
penal provisions which are retained in the new law, and impor-
tant new factors have been added. In case a fine is imposed, it
can be paid to the wife or minor children, instead of to the State
as heretofore. Before the trial (with the consent of the de-
fendant) or after conviction, instead of the imposition of a fine
or imprisonment, the court, in its discretion, shall have the power
to make an order directing the defendant to pay a certain sum
weekly for one year, to the wife, guardian or custodian of the
minor child or children, and having so ordered, to release the de-
fendant on probation. When released in this manner the de-
fendant must give his promise, or give bond if the court so
requires, that he will faithfully obey the order. If during the
year included in this order the defendant violates the agreement,
the court may forthwith proceed with the trial under the original
indictment, or sentence him under the original conviction, as
the case may be. As the real object of this statute is to obtain
support and to punish as a last resort only, the defendant is given
an opportunity at all stages of the prosecution to stay proceed-
ings by making provision for the support of his family as the
court thinks proper.-

The Law of Settlement. — The question arises how the respon-
sibility of a community for poor-relief is to be decided in the case
of persons who move from one locality to another. All but ten of
the States have laws of settlement to determine this question.
The only condition found in twenty of the forty-eight common-

' Except as in the case of Pa. as above, of Maine and N. H., where the
county cares for those having no town settlement, and in N. J. and Del., where
the county is responsible for outdoor relief.

^ W. H. Troyer, attorney for the Bureau of Justice, Chicago, in "Co-operation,"
March 5, 1904, p. 73,


wealths is that the person shall have resided in the town or in the
county for a given time. In the Western States having such a re-
quirement the time is shorter than in the Northern and Eastern
States.^ Several States have, in addition, property or self-main-
tenance qualifications for a settlement. As a rule a settlement
is retained until a new one is gained.

At this point the question of poor-relief is complicated by the
problem of immigration and inter-state migration. IModern stu-
dents and charity officers are agreed that if it be possible an inter-
state migration board on the basis of a Federal law to decide
points of doubt arising out of conflicts of settlement laws, would
be of great value. ^ Several States have provisions that if a per-
son is likely to become dependent it is the duty of the poor
authorities to report him to the justice of the peace, and, upon
the decision of the court, to remove him to his former locality
before he secures a settlement.^ "The laws directed against the
migration of paupers are of three kinds, according as they are
directed: (i) against bringing a pauper into the county or town
in which he has no settlement, or, (2) against the poor authori-
ties removing him in order to avoid supporting him, or, (3)
particularly against inter-state migration. However, they all
have the one purpose of checking the tendency of communities
to shift the responsibility for the support of their poor." Six-
teen of the States have the provision that the non-resident appli-
cant shall be given temporary relief, and notice of his indigence
be sent to the authorities of his place of settlement, they upon
receipt of the notice to remove the indigent and pay all costs of
his temporary relief.* Other States give the relieving officer the
option of having the non-resident indigent cared for or removed

^ In the following 12 States the residence required is from one to six months:
Nebr., i mo. ; Mont, and Colo., 2 mos. ; Ok!a., N. Dak., S. Dak., Wyo. and Oregon,
3 mos. ; Miss., Kans., Nev. and Washington, 6 mos. (M., Ill, page 633.)

* This is one of the cases growing more and more numerous with the increas-
ing integration and complexity of the country where desirable national legislation
on inter-state questions may be at present unconstitutional.

* N. J., R. I., Pa., W. Va., Va., Del. and Ind. — the provision is not usually
enforced (M., Ill, page 635.)

*Mass., Conn., Ver., Me., N. H., R. I., N. Y., Mich., Ohio, 111., Wis., Nebr.,
Iowa, Nev., Colo., S. Car. (M., Ill, page 640.)



to this settlement.^ Protested questions of settlement are de-
cided by the court or other local authorities.

Settlement Laws. — A writer of long experience, Mr. F. B. San-
born,- expresses the judgment that strict laws of settlement, such
as those of Massachusetts, have an advantage over laxer laws
like those in many other States ; and the reason he gives deserves
consideration : "It may be asked how^ it is that strict settlement
laws, making the support of a pauper in any towm depend on cir-
cumstances of birth, taxation, marriage, etc., can facilitate relief
for good cases, and the denial of aid to impostors? The answer
is that they compel careful inquir}- and the following up of cases,
the registry of evidence, things that of themselves bring the true
situation of any poor family thus investigated to the knowledge
of the overseer of the poor." Mr. Sanborn also suggests that it
is desirable not only to secure fairness and courtesy between the
counties and towns of a State, but also between States. In the
absence of any Federal umpire between States he recommends
referees who wall act as expert arbitrators and determine what
political division is chargeable with the support of paupers in
cases of disputed settlement.

Another class of non-residents, the vagrants or tramps, pre-
sents a serious problem in public poor-relief. In this problem we
have, perhaps, not so much to do exactly with relief, as with the
repression of frauds and the punishment of parasitism. The
term tramp is usually defined by the laws as an able-bodied per-
son roaming from place to place and asking or subsisting upon
charity.^ In most States tramping is considered a misdemeanor
and as such is punishable.* The usual method of punishment
provided in the statutes is to commit the convicted tramp to
jail, where he is confined on a determinate sentence. With a
few exceptions, every State west of the Mississippi having a stat-
ute upon the subject employs this method; and it is noticeable

^N. J., W. Va., Va., Okla., Ind., N. Dak., .«^. Dak., Kans., Wash., Mont. (M.,
Ill, page 641.)

"Charities, April 30, 1904.

^ The term vagrant is usually made to include petty gamblers and swindlers.
Classes excluded from the term tramp are minors, females, and economically in-
capacitated adult males.

* Cities and towns are usuc'ily given power to punish tramps, and especially
street beggars.


that the length and usually the hardness of the sentence are
greater in the Northern and Eastern States and become less se-
vere as we move toward the Southern and Western States. Al-
though a sentence to prison without hard labor is not very de-
terrent to the tramp, and although the failure to repress vagrancy
and imposture seriously cripples poor-relief, yet many of the
States regularly require no severe labor of imprisoned tramps,
and when the sentence has expired release the misdemeanant
without any assurance of future good behavior.

Immigration of Defectives. — Congress has exercised the power of
territorial sovereignty in the law of March 3, 1903,^ restricting
immigration. The social principle on which this law rests, as
distinguished from the merely juristic principle, is the protection
of the vitality and culture of the people from the influence of an
infusion of degenerate stock. This legislation aims to exclude
idiots and insane, paupers or persons likely to become public
charges, persons suffering from a loathsome or dangerous con-
tagious disease, persons convicted of crimes, and polygamists.
"Cases involving the exclusion of persons coming from other
States have not come before the Supreme Court, but it has been
intimated that a State may protect itself from an influx of pau-
pers, criminals, or persons affected with contagious diseases."^

Classes of Indigents Who Have Claim for Public Relief. — Per-
sons who have a legal claim to public relief must, in the first
place, as stated above under the law of responsibility, have no
relatives or friends who are legally obliged to support them.
Further, they may be divided into three classes: (i) indigent de-
fectives, (2) neglected and abused children, (3) mentally and
physically able adults in extreme indigence.

The first class may be subdivided into the following groups,
for which, in most States, public and often State institutions have
been provided, namely: (a) for deaf mutes, {h) for the blind, (c)
for the insane, {d) for the idiotic and feeble-minded, {e) for epi-
leptics, {f) for inebriates, and {g) for consumptives.

The provisions made for deaf mutes and for the Ijlind in the
United States are in general similar. The blind as a class can

^32 Stat, at Large, p. 1213.

5 E. Freund, Police Power, sec. 71, quotes Hannibal, etc., R. R. Co. vs. Husen,
95 U. S., 465. — Cf. Freund, p. loi, sec. loi, p. 259.


usually, with extreme difficulty, become self-supporting. Many
are thus necessarily supported at public expense. Almost all
of our commonwealths have made provisions for educational
institutions for the blind, supplying as a rule maintenance and
tuition for all inmates free of charge. In some sixteen States,
however, those able to pay their expenses are compelled to do
so.^ In several States efiforts have been made to provide means
whereby the blind may be enabled to earn their own support after
leaving the schools.^

Historically the insane have been treated, first, as possessed,
then as vagrants, and finally as diseased. In 1744 all the insane
of England were considered subject to confinement as a danger-
ous class of vagrants. All of the commonwealths except Okla-
homa have provided one or more hospitals for the care of the
acutely insane. Provision for this class, however, is in many
States very inadequate, many being still confined in the alms-
houses or even in jails. Four methods of dealing with the insane
are in vogue in the various States: (i) They are arraigned in
the county or justice's court, and committed to the hospital with-
our medical examination or the testimony of a medical authority.^
(2) They are tried in the county or justice's court and committed,
an examination and certificate of insanity by one or more phy-
sicians being required.* (3) They are examined by, and com-
mitted upon the certificate of one or more physicians, the func-
tion of the court being reduced to registering their findings.^ (4)
They are arraigned and an investigation is made by a regularly
constituted commission.® Six States have established asylums
for the care of chronic insane.'^ In Wisconsin somewhat of
an innovation in this matter has been inaugurated by authorizing
the counties to establish, with the consent of the State Board of
Control, county insane asylums, which are then subsidized by the

1 N. H., Ver., Md., N. J., Pa., Va., S. Car., Fla., Miss., Ala., Ky., Idaho, Nev.
Ariz., N. Mex., Oregon. (M., IV, pp. 52-53-)

*Ohio, Cat, Iowa, Md., N. Y. (M., IV, pp. 53-54-)

^ Colo., La., Md., N. Mex., Texas, Va., Wyo.

*Ariz., Ark., Idaho, Mo., Nev., N. J., Ohio, Ore., Cal., Conn., Mass., Mich.,
Minn., Mont, S. Car., Utah, Wash.

" Del., Miss., N. H., Pa., Vt. and the District of Columbia.

' la.. Me., Nebr., N. Dak., S. Dak.

•^ Cal., 111., Mass., Nebr., N. Y., Pa. (M., IV, pp. 54 and 59-)


State^ and are subject to central inspection. The idiotic and
feeble-minded require special institutions for education and treat-
ment. Twenty-three States now provide facilities for their
care, — but as a rule inadequately. But in those States where no
provision has been made large numbers of the idiotic and feeble-
minded are to be found in the almshouses. Admissions to the
public institutions for them are usually limited to children of
school age.

Little has yet been done to remove the epileptics from associa-
tion with the insane and the feeble-minded. Only the three
States of Ohio, New York and Massachusetts care for the epilep-
tics in separate institutions. The laws which relate to the com-
mitment and support of the insane apply also to the commitment
and support of the epileptic.

Inebriates are now generally looked upon rather as diseased
persons than as criminals. A few States have accordingly made
public provisions for their treatment, either in special institu-
tions, as in Massachusetts and California, or in hospitals, as in
Vermont and Pennsylvania, or in private asylums at public ex-
pense if indigent, as in Michigan, Wisconsin, Louisiana, and

As for the treatment of consumptives, Massachusetts has led
in providing a special State hospital for their care. The laws re-
lating to the insane apply to inebriates and consumptives as well
as to epileptics.

Regarding the second class, neglected and abused children,
we find in the history of their treatment an instructive sidelight
upon the development of the spirit and methods of charity. At
the beginning of the eighteenth century it was considered by
public officials a progressive measure to care for neglected chil-
dren in the almshouses. Before this they had remained utterly
destitute. Indeed, societies for the prevention of cruelty to ani-
mals existed in America before the organization of public efforts
to protect children. It was not until 1871 that dependent chil-
dren began to receive public care in the United States separately
from dependent adults. Before that year dependent minors were
cared for with the adults in the almshouses or with their parents
by outdoor relief. This system of keeping children in the

^ N. J., Mo. and Kans. have adopted similar plans. (M., IV, pp. 60-61.)



almshouses was seen to have terrible results, and in the above
year Michigan established a State public school, excluding chil-
dren from the almshouses and providing means for their special
maintenance and education. In 1875 New York made a similar
enactment, and from that time the policy has been gradually
adopted in other States. But this policy of carefully discrimi-
nating between different classes of dependents has by no means
been carried far enough, and as a consequence many merely
destitute and homeless children are committed to the industrial
schools and reformatories and even to the jails, along with young
criminals, and sometimes even with old and hardened ones. In
1880 almost eight thousand and in 1890 almost five thousand chil-
dren were still to be found in poorhouses, but many of these
were defective in body and mind. It is only a question of
time when their removal will be complete.^ At present eleven
States prohibit the retention in the almshouses of those classes
of children fit for family care, while others have made such legal
provision that their retention, although not prohibited, is unnec-

Four distinct public methods of dealing with dependent chil-
dren are legally authorized in the United States: (i) the institu-
tional method, — the care of children in great orphanages and
State schools ; (2) the home method, — the care of the children in
smaller houses under a domestic system ; (3) the boarding and
placing system, — family care by special contract ; and (4) the
Michigan system, — a union of the two latter systems by the re-
ception of the children at a central place and their subsequent
transference to family care.

Of the first method, as we have seen, the retention of children
in the almshouses is now rapidly falling into disrepute, and they
are being referred more and more to special orphanages, public
schools, and other forms of public care.

The home method is a modification of the institutional
method, and is gaining in public favor, — but historically it is
more recent than the boarding and placing system.

In nearly all of the commonwealths the poor authorities are

^ Miinsterberg, Poor Relief in the United States, American Journal of Sociology,
Vol. VII, p. 660.

* M., American Journal of Sociology, Vol. Ill, p. 782.


made the special guardians of dependent and neglected children,
and are explicitly authorized to secure their adoption or binding
out. As a rule the power of these authorities to bind out such
children without the consent of the parent or guardian is discre-

Twenty-nine of the forty-eight commonwealths (for the most
part Southern and Western) have made no further provisions.^
The discretionary authority to bind out dependent children is
often not exercised, and they are cared for in the almshouses
supported with the parents in the home, or treated as young
vagrants. About nineteen States have thus far provided well

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 41 of 73)