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went up a little, and that it never afterward fell back to its former level. It was apparent that some change in the system of making appropriations was essential, that they ought to be free from institutional control, and that there should be a more equitable distribution of public funds. One of the reasons for creating the Illinois State Board of Charities was the desire to inaugurate a better financial system.
Another motive which contributed its share to the establishment of this board was the wish to correct certain abuses said to exist in the management of the State hospital for the insane, but which were denied by a legislative committee appointed to inquire into them. At that time the law allowed the commitment of a wife or minor female child by her husband or father without the consent of any court or even any medical certificate of insanity. This loose legislation was the occasion of a well-known agitation by Mrs. Packard, a patient so committed, which resulted in the swinging of the pendulum to the opposite extreme, so that the General Assembly forbade the admission of any patient not declared to be insane by the verdict of a jury. The new State Board of Charities labored for a quarter of a century, in season and out of season, before that wrong could be remedied.
The desire to co-ordinate the work of the State charitable institutions, in order to secure better administration and a more equitable share of their benefits to all citizens, led by degrees to the creation in the majority of the Northern States of purely supervisory boards, with no executive powers. The demand for them is greatest in States which are largest in territory and population, where there is the largest number of unfortunates to be cared for at public expense, and where the largest appropriations are made for their benefit.
In the experience of the Illinois board, one of the chief sources of its strength has been the attention paid by it to the financial management of the institutions. It is, in fact, a co-ordinate, independent branch of the office of the auditor of public accounts. More than one-half of the revenue of the State (for general purposes, exclusive of the school fund) is audited in the office of which I have charge, and the vouchers therein filed never go any farther. Having examined the institution accounts for the past three months and found them to be correct, and the governor having indorsed his
approval upon our certificate to that effect, the auditor, without seeing their accounts or vouchers in detail, draws his warrant upon the treasury for the next legal instalment of each appropriation then due. This power of the purse renders the board influential, so that its suggestions are respectfully considered by the institutions and by the legislature. I hardly see how the board could have attained the position which it occupies in the State government without this financial control. In a number of States with similar boards they would find themselves immensely strengthened, did they but pay more attention to the financial aspect of the institution question. The result of our management in Illinois has been that the per capita cost of the institutions has diminished within the last twenty years by one-half, while the efficiency of the institutions has at the same time been nearly doubled.
The organization of the State Boards has been followed in many States by the organization of city boards with similar relations to the municipal institutions and similar powers, except that these are more apt to be executive boards with direct control of appointments and expenditures. This Conference has perhaps made insufficient effort to have these municipal boards represented at its meetings.
The great bulk of the criminal and pauper classes not in the direct custody of the State are of course found in the rural counties, where supervisory boards are not known, and there would be nothing for them to do. It therefore becomes a matter of essential importance that county institutions should be supervised by State Boards, and that they should impress upon the county authorities their own ideals; or, in States which have town almshouses, upon the town authorities. This purpose is aided by the formation of local visiting committees acting in harmony with the State Board. The efficiency of the supervision exercised by them over county and town authorities could be materially augmented by requiring the latter to submit all architectural plans of new institutions for the care of criminals or paupers to the former for criticism before adoption.
This National Conference was the child of the State Boards. originated in the determination of these boards to have an annual meeting of their own, at which they could exchange experiences, and thus qualify themselves for greater usefulness in their official capacity. They had to "blaze" their way through what was then
a trackless forest. They had to discover their relations and obligations, to invent their work, and to establish relations with every department of that work. Being anxious to do this in an intelligent manner, they sought the advice, at their annual sessions, of superintendents of all classes of public institutions as to the method of organizing and conducting them. For this purpose they endeavored to secure their presence and counsel, and it is fitting that public acknowledgment should here be made to those who accepted this invitation and have done so much to promote the improvement of the service in all its branches. Thus the seed was planted which has developed into this tree under whose shade so many unfortunates find shelter and alleviation of their pains. The organization has outgrown its original scope, and has been of necessity accordingly modified.
The work of organization has been carried forward also by the aid of State conferences of charity, which have done a great deal to stimulate local interest and educate public opinion in the right direction.
In order to a complete presentation of this subject, the relation of State Boards to such private charities as receive State aid should be shown. That, however, I understand to belong to the following speaker, who will discuss private charities and their organization. Public and private charities are two divisions of one great system. The identity of their interests and aims is shown by the fact that, whereas this Conference was at first a conference of members of State Boards and their invited guests, in time it became necessary to include in its scope the new charity organization societies. And I think you will find that the present tendency of the Conference is to become more and more a conference of representatives of charity organization societies rather than of State Boards. There is in this change an element both of gain and loss. The charity organization societies more directly represent private, and the State Board public, charity. Together they can accomplish more than either could do alone if animated by the same essential thought,— the unification, simplification, and differentiation of charitable effort, by individuals or by the community, and the proper supervision and control of the entire system in all its parts in accordance with definite principles formulated as the result of universal philanthropic experience.
ORGANIZATION OF CITY AND COUNTY
BY JAMES R. WYLIE,
EX-PRESIDENT POOR COMMITTEE OF GRAND RAPIDS, MICH.
no one cares
We are all interested in the highway and school fund. The schools are close to the heart and pride of any community. We want to know all about the cost, the wages paid, the character and qualifications of every teacher, the buildings, light, heating, ventilation, and every detail. But about that item for the poor fund, much just how it is expended, on whom or by whom. Of course there must be a poor-master; but almost any one will answer to look after the poor. In the country the supervisors of the townships, and in the cities the aldermen or supervisors of the wards, or a poormaster elected by the people, have the matter in charge.
In the country communities, where every one knows the affairs of each, any wasteful or improper expenditure of poor funds drawn from the tax-payers' pockets would be very likely to be speedily detected, ventilated, and corrected to harmonize with the common sense of the community. But in the city and county management of the poor, where the average tax-payer could not and would not be likely to know anything of the methods, the good judgment, honesty, or intelligence in this department of the public service, the door has been open to ignorance, waste, and corruption. Men have been elected and placed in charge of the poor department for political reasons, without regard to their intelligence and qualifications, either of head or heart, for the work; and unobserved, but surely, the infection of pauperism has been fostered and infused through the individual, to the family and then to the community, till the still increasing poor fund item in the annual budget challenged the public attention.
The splendid work of this association has turned on the light in these dark places of our social and municipal life. But the trouble is not that the people generally do not sympathize with the poor, and would not be interested in the way they were being cared for and relieved, but the average citizen knows nothing about what is being done in the poor department of his city except as he knows
the amount of the poor fund mentioned in the annual tax budget. So, in discussing the improvement of public charities, it is necessary first to have an association of people interested and informed, or some form of an organized charity society, who will discuss the subject, gather information, and so far as possible inform and edu cate the community and arouse interest in a more intelligent administration of charity, both public and private.
The average citizen little realizes what a dangerous and demoralizing agency a stupidly or corruptly administered poor fund is in our body politic, what a source of disease and even crime it is capable of becoming. One of the definitions of the crime of larceny is "the felonious taking and carrying away of goods and property of another, with intent to convert them to the use of the wrong-doer." Compare the common case of a person applying for aid from the public poor fund and misrepresenting his need, in order to obtain it. Wherein is he less morally guilty than one coming within the former definition ? The result of both alike is to obtain something wrongfully. The thrift and moral character of both alike must suffer. The laws are stringent against larceny; but, if the poor fund is either recklessly, ignorantly, or corruptly managed, the crime of the other, instead of being prevented and punished, is allowed and fostered.
The first and most important subject for investigation that will present itself to any organized charity society will be the administration of the public charities. The organization of public charities anywhere simply means bringing to bear upon them, in a practical, effective way, the best intelligence and conscience of the community. This will mean better laws, more competent, conscientious, and faithful officers in charge, better system and methods in administration, and better results for the protection of the poor, not only from their poverty, but from the mistaken remedies that instead of curing do but aggravate the malady.
Although the situation may be found to vary in different cities, yet the difference is likely to be chiefly in degree, so that an experi•ment tried in one place with care and some success would be useful to other communities as a guide and encouragement in taking up the same sort of a problem for themselves. On this theory I shall venture to give in brief an account of the experiment as made in Grand Rapids, in the line of organizing our municipal public charities.