Imágenes de páginas

In Massachusetts the State Board of Charities, through its several departments, has charge of the poor in the State almshouse and workhouse and of children placed in families, also of the sick State poor and of State poor temporarily aided by town officials. This board audits the accounts of towns for aid granted to the sick who have no settlement, to the aged and others who cannot be removed to a State almshouse, to paupers requiring only temporary aid, and to foundlings and destitute infants. In New York the legislature appropriates funds for the relief of State paupers, arranges with local authorities for their distribution, and the State Board of Charities supervises the accounts as well as the work.

By the County. An interesting difference must here be noted in the different conception of the relation, in different States, of poor relief to the judicial and executive branches of local government. In some States the supervising authorities are judicial, and in others administrative. They are, for example, judicial in Nebraska (justice of the peace), Idaho, Utah, and Oregon (county courts), Georgia (ordinary), and Tennessee (county judge). Commonly, the officials belong to the administrative department; for example, in New York a board of supervisors, supervisors in Mississippi, supervisors of the poor in Michigan, county supervisors in California, and county commissioners in Indiana, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, Washington, and Florida. It is usual to give to these county authorities power to levy a special tax for the benefit of the poor, by way of both indoor and outdoor relief. In some States they appoint the local almoners. In Michigan the county supervisors appoint the directors of the poor.

It is

By the Town.- Where the town system pure and simple is in vogue, the officers are elected, and report to the town meeting. their duty to investigate cases of distress and to provide suitable relief. They must keep records, which are open to the inspection of all citizens.

Under the county system the township officers bear various titles, -trustees, overseers, auditors, agents, commissioners. They are sometimes elected, sometimes appointed by the county authorities; and they report to the county officials.

It is desirable that legislation should be had requiring transcripts of all records of pauper relief to be forwarded to the State boards of public charities, for by no other means can we ever hope to secure

reliable statistics of outdoor relief. From this point of view the methods of Massachusetts, Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan, may be studied with advantage.

The mode, quantity, and kind of relief are rarely prescribed by law. Outdoor relief is expected to be temporary. The legal presumption is in favor of the maintenance of a permanent pauper in the poorhouse. But the facts of administration by no means always agree with the law in its letter or in its spirit.

Outdoor relief must be in kind, not in money. This is an unwritten rather than a written law. It is, however, legally obligatory in Minnesota. The details are left to the discretion of the almoner.


In many parts of the country, especially where the population is sparse, there is no almshouse. This may be due to the fact that there are too few paupers to justify the expense. If paupers are homeless and helpless, they need the surroundings of home life. From early times this condition has been met by boarding out such paupers,—— a method which has been approved and authorized in the statutes of many States. The county or town officials enter into a contract with a farmer or other person, who agrees to care for the paupers who may be assigned to him for a fixed sum, per capita or in gross. In making this contract, the value of the pauper as a laborer is occasionally taken into the account. In some States, as in Oklahoma, Nebraska, Indiana, and Ohio, the law stipulates that this method shall be employed until a poorhouse is provided.

Binding out is a practice not essentially different from boarding. out. It is more suitable for children and youths. In some States idle and dissolute beggars or vagrants may be bound out to persons willing to employ them. In Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island it is provided that their earnings shall be applied to the support of their families.


The alternative of outdoor relief is the poorhouse. The statutes evince a slight preference for indoor relief, but the selection of the method to be adopted in each individual instance is generally left to


the discretion of the local authorities. In theory the poorhouse or almshouse is a workhouse where it is expected that every inmate shall earn his living by his labor in so far as his strength permits. Naturally, the law takes no notice of the practical difficulty of securing sufficient labor from paupers, the great majority of whom are immature, aged, crippled, ill, vicious, or possibly criminal. Reference has been made to a class of paupers known as paupers," for whom provision must be made in institutions, where outdoor relief is impracticable or undesirable. Massachusetts maintains a State almshouse for State paupers, which is governed by trustees appointed by the governor, and is supported out of the State treasury. New York selects fifteen county almshouses, and supports its State paupers in them by agreement with the county officials as to terms and conditions.

Statistics show a steady increase in the number of county almshouses. The most common rule of law is to authorize county officials to purchase land, erect a building or buildings, and appoint a superintendent to manage the institution. In some States the county farm is leased to the highest bidder, or some other contract is made with him, by the terms of which he is granted permission to appropriate to himself whatever he can make out of the farm and the labor of the pauper inmates.

We have already seen that, where the number of paupers is small, it is often more economical to contract with some farmer or farmers to care for paupers at a stipulated rate than to purchase a county farm and provide an almshouse. Under this system the farmer's home is really converted into a poorhouse on a small scale. He is sometimes clothed with quasi-official authority, which enables him to compel the paupers under his care to perform such labor as is possible for them.

Where townships are responsible for their own settled paupers, they may be legally authorized to send them to the county farm, paying to the county whatever may be established as the rate of compensation for town poor so supported. Towns and cities are sometimes authorized, on the other hand, to provide poorhouses of their own, and to require dependents to accept relief in them.

With respect to the admission of inmates, legislation is usually limited to the determination of the officer authorized to grant the necessary certificate to enable the keeper in charge of an almshouse

to receive and retain a pauper committed to it. It is very desirable that the terms of admission should be exactly and carefully defined, in order to prevent the almshouse from becoming a snug harbor for vagrants, and in order to turn away from it children, the feebleminded, and the insane, who can be more suitably cared for elsewhere.

The employment of inmates is expressly required by law in many States. In some States, counties are authorized to establish stoneyards, wood-yards, and other labor tests. The difficulty of providing suitable occupation for paupers is very great, especially in the Northern States, where the winters are long and severe and the ground is frozen for several months. As this problem is worked out locally, the successful results of experimentation will no doubt gradually be reflected in legislation. Meanwhile the experience had with the German, Dutch, and English colonies of workingmen, requires to be carefully studied by legislators; and tentative experiments should be made in a similar direction. It is notorious that idleness is the curse of our existing poorhouses in every portion of the land.

It is important that discharges from the poorhouse should be legally controlled. The general opinion embodied in law seems to be that, the sooner a pauper leaves the public institution, the earlier will the tax-payers be relieved of the burden of his support, and that therefore we ought to place no obstacle in the way of his going. The silence of the law permits paupers to discharge themselves, so that, when the birds return in the spring and the wheel-barrows begin to creak in the lane, these migratory jail-birds move forth, singly or in groups, to frighten farmers' wives, beat their way on railroads, and beg from door to door. Frequently imbecile women make use of the almshouse periodically as a maternity hospital, and then go forth. again unhindered, to become the irresponsible prey of their own passions and of the passions of vicious men. call loudly for proper remedial legislation. vided with work, and, if reluctant to work, their own support,― an end which can be accomplished only by sentencing them to compulsory labor in a workhouse, rather than in an almshouse, for a definite or indefinite period.

Evils such as these Vagrants must be procompelled to labor for


4. SICK PAUPers.

Two general methods of caring for paupers are prescribed by our laws, which correspond respectively to outdoor and indoor relief, namely: (1) medical attendance at their homes by physicians paid for this service from the public treasury; and (2) medical attendance in some hospital or infirmary owned or subsidized by the community.

It is usual to appoint a county or city physician, who is paid from the rates. His salary may or may not be fixed by law. Ordinarily, it is determined by agreement with the local authorities; but in Pennsylvania the statute fixes it at $300 per annum, and in Nebraska at $200.

In South Carolina and Texas the town or county is authorized to provide an infirmary in connection with each poorhouse. In New York, Ohio, and many other States, special authority is given to cities to erect and maintain hospitals. Or the State itself may, as in Connecticut and Mississippi, make appropriations for the support of hospitals, reserving to itself the privilege of sending to them the indigent sick. Michigan maintains a hospital in connection with the medical school of its State university, and the poor are sent to it from the counties. Pennsylvania maintains a number of special hospitals for miners in the coal regions of that State. In that and in other States it is provided that States, counties, or cities may contract with private hospitals for the care of the sick poor at a fixed sum per patient. Or the law may provide that municipalities shall have and exercise an option whether to maintain hospitals of their own or care for the sick poor in private hospitals under con



The laws vary greatly in respect to the scope of the protection given by them to dependent and neglected children. Massachusetts is a type of the most extended assumption of parental duties by the State. All children under fourteen years of age who have no local settlement become the wards of the State, if they are public charges, are neglected or cruelly treated, are not educated, or are exposed to vicious example. The towns care for their own dependent children.

« AnteriorContinuar »