Imágenes de páginas

of produce worth $700. Apparently, this plan only needs to be taken up with sufficient energy, in order to succeed under certain conditions; but it must be always somewhat uncertain and limited in its


These representative examples sufficiently illustrate the diversity which prevails in methods of outdoor relief in Canada. There have not been lacking demands for a national system, which should at least possess the advantages of unity and of equalization of pressure of a burden which now weighs heavily on the benevolently disposed. Yet many thoughtful Canadians would deprecate the adoption of anything resembling the English poor-law system, which has produced, as we believe, so rank a crop of pauperism. For the touch of the State in administering charity is cold and lifeless. It is devoid of sympathy, which must be an element in any real uplifting force. Might not the State intervene in a far better way? To give work to the needy is a truer mode of helping him than mere almsgiving. But, although the lack of work is one of the chief causes of poverty, how is work to be provided for the relief of the unemployed? For charitable societies to attempt to solve this problem is like trying to make bricks not only without straw, but without clay. Municipalities, as a rule, will not face the question, for it means extra taxation, always unpopular with the tax-payers; and, even if they were willing to open public works for the purpose of helping the destitute, our severe winters would be a serious obstacle to success. Nor can business men be expected to form syndicates to devise work on principles of pure philanthropy. Yet, if we are wise, we shall try to find some means of stemming in time the growing tide of pauperism.

I believe that only the State can do it by establishing not centres of relief, but centres of employment. I ventured last winter to suggest, as a national jubilee scheme, the provision of government technical schools for training boys in handicrafts, little, if at all, practised in Canada, which might in time relieve the congestion in both skilled and unskilled labor; and that, in connection with such schools, bureaus of employment should be instituted where the unemployed might find work; and that those showing some aptitude for such handicrafts might receive instruction which might afterward be turned to good account. Since this suggestion was made, an article has appeared in an English periodical recounting the re

markable results growing from the encouragement of similar industries in Europe, where they were instituted as a cure for agricultural as well as commercial depression. Since we suffer from both these forms of depression, we might profitably study a remedy which has proved so efficacious for both. In Germany it has been tried with signal success. The little State of Würtemberg, for instance, was until recently purely agricultural, impoverished by overcultivation, and its condition was deplorable. Since the development of these village industries, there is not a pauper in the whole kingdom. One industry is linen weaving, which is successfully carried on by hand looms, notwithstanding the competition of machinery, by a rural population engaged part of the time in agriculture. In Switzerland we all know how the industry of wood-carving, introduced during the present century, has increased the prosperity of the Swiss peasants. In Italy, Hungary, Austria, Bohemia, Moravia, the Tyrol, and even in Russia, such industries prosper. In the province of Moscow alone, forty-three different categories of village industries have been established. In certain congested districts of Bohemia the adoption of such industries in 1874 has resulted in transforming a poverty-stricken population into a prosperous one. Among the industries which have so materially relieved the pressure of poverty are leather stamping and embossing, glass engraving, cutlery, decorative work in iron, brass, and other metals, toy-making, ribbon weaving, button-making, wire and wicker work, handloom wool weaving, the manufacture of all kinds of small iron and tinware, wood-turning, straw-work making, varnished and cardboard ware; porcelain painting, embroidery, and artificial flower making. These industries are greatly helped by the formation of village banks, which supply the small capital needed, and, being co-operative, the profits go to the people; and also by the establishment of technical as well as agricultural schools, which enable the rural youth to carry on their farm work with more intelligence and success. In the technical schools of Bavaria, boys are taught woodcarving, pottery and basket making; girls, plain needlework, dressmaking, drawing, and book-keeping. If manual training is made a regular department of our public-school work, as it should be, in order to fit the larger part of our population for their life-work, this will form an excellent foundation for technical school work, in addition to its proved usefulness in training pupils in neatness and

accuracy, as well as in the important habits of diligence, love of. order, patience, perseverance, and in that love of construction which, by inculcating respect for the work of men's hands, teaches at the same time the much-needed lesson of contempt for wanton destruction, and promotes a state of mind opposed to that of shiftless indolence.

A State system which should undertake thus to meet the need for relief by providing work for the needy could also take within its beneficial scope the perplexing question of the tramp. It is an anomaly in our Christian civilization that we have been able, on this continent, hitherto to do so little with and for this waste product of modern social forces,—a class of unfortunates whom we sweepingly mass together under an odious designation that seemingly excludes them from human sympathy, and leads us to treat them much as Orientals do their pariah dogs. Yet, while we send missionaries to India and Africa, and have some regard even for the "heathen Chinee," at least so long as he stays at home, it is surely worth our while to make an effort to rehabilitate these men of our own race, whom by our careless neglect we are brutalizing into desperadoes. Many of them have been driven into their present position by the stress of adverse circumstances, which have deprived them of a regular occupation, and forced them to roam from place to place, because there is literally no rest for the sole of their foot. The man without a local habitation is perpetually compelled to "move on.” No one wants him anywhere. City authorities are afraid to make for him the provision which common humanity dictates, lest they should become unpopular, as the result of "encouraging tramps." And so, no matter how foot-sore and weary, he must keep moving on like a modern Wandering Jew, till, perhaps, his miseries are ended forever by a hasty leap from a train on which he was stealing a ride or in the ashes of a barn which has served him for a temporary shelter. Driven from the cities, he becomes a terror to the isolated country folk, to unprotected women in lonely places; and thus, by our culpable neglect, we really keep in circulation an army of incipient highwaymen, desperate because destitute, and who feel that every man's hand is against them. It is time that this question was faced and dealt with for some purpose by the United States and Canada acting together; for, with such a long conterminous frontier, it cannot be effectually dealt with by


either alone. The yearly loss of property caused by fire through the carelessness of tramps, not to mention the tragedies which from time to time startle us from our apathy, ought to convince our legislators that it is worth while to incur considerable expense in putting an end to this evil. Why should not the ordinary municipal police laws be made applicable to the entire country, so that destitute vagrants may everywhere be arrested in their vagrant career, those who will work provided with work in an institution until work can be procured for them elsewhere, and those who will not work sent to jail or to a house of correction, and there compelled to work? The tramp who is a vagrant through misfortune should be treated with the same humanity usually shown to other destitute persons; for, while the man who will not work should not eat, the man who cannot find work must not be left to perish by the way. Such labor bureaus as have been suggested might set the hopeful tramp to work with other unemployed men, and so not only save him as a citizen, but, by teaching him a new handicraft, put him in the way of earning a surer livelihood than before. By this means we might redeem our waste humanity from becoming a propagator of social weeds and thorns, and rid the country of a growing incubus and charitable people of the painful dilemma between the certainty of positive inhumanity and the risk of encouraging idleness and vice. Even the degenerate tramp should be judiciously cared for, and, when it is possible, guided into a better way.

In conclusion, I venture to offer some practical suggestions which should certainly help us in Canada to deal with the problems before us:

1. That an effort be made to organize in every city and town a committee of thoughtful, public-spirited men and women for the purpose, not of actively relieving the destitute, but simply of giving careful consideration to the most practicable methods of finding work instead of alms for the unemployed. These might be designated "Friends of the Poor," or by any other name expressive of their aim.

2. That such committee, after ascertaining what sort of work is most practical in their several localities, should report to a conference at some central place, from which suggestions might be forwarded to our governments in regard to the formation of labor

bureaus and technical schools, should their establishment be found advisable.

3. That a strong representation be sent from this Conference to the American and Canadian governments respectively, asking that some united and effectual method be adopted for the suppression of the tramp evil, and the conversion of tramps, if possible, into respectable and industrious citizens.

If, by any such means, we can somewhat lighten the ever-increasing burden which poverty imposes upon the community, and add to the number of useful and self-respecting citizens instead of swelling the ranks of a pauperized and degraded class, we shall do the country one of the greatest services in our power to bestow.




The legislature of Indiana in 1895 enacted a law requiring that all official outdoor relief given in the State should be reported quarterly to the Board of State Charities. The reports to the board show the name, age, sex, and nationality of every person to whom relief is given, the date, the kind of help given, and its value or cost.

The board now has a record of the operation of this law for one full year. Some of the facts and comparisons drawn from the mass of statistics gathered may be of general interest, since the conditions and influences prevailing in Indiana are in the main common to all States and communities. Indiana had a population, according to the United States Census of 1890, of 2,192,464, approximately the same as that of Massachusetts or Michigan. The following statistics, for the year ending Aug. 31, 1896, have been compiled from quarterly reports from more than one thousand township overseers of the poor. Relief given by organized charities in the cities is not included.

« AnteriorContinuar »