Imágenes de páginas


Tramp and Settlement Laws.




In the administration of poor relief the problems of the immigrant and of the tramp present themselves for solution. Legislation has been necessary, partly to secure adequate and effective relief of the deserving, partly to repress vagrancy and to punish the tramp. We have, consequently, settlement laws and laws concerning the relief and removal of the non-resident poor, on the one hand, and laws against tramps and vagrants, on the other. The purpose of this paper is to state as briefly as possible the legislation now in force in the several States affecting these two classes of persons.


The conditions for securing a legal settlement are designed to fix definitely the responsibility for the care of the immigrant class, and to guard against those transients who would become a burden on the community. The usual requirement is that the person shall have lived within the town or county for a given time. This is the case in twenty of the forty-eight commonwealths. In twelve States, eleven of them west of the Mississippi, the time is from one to six months; while in nine States, six of which belong to the North Central group, it is one year. Nebraska, thirty days; Montana and Colorado, sixty days; Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota,

*This paper is referred to in the paper by Professor C. R. Henderson on "Poor Laws of the United States," page 256. The same subject will be treated in greater detail in the American Journal of Sociology, March, 1898.

Wyoming, and Oregon, ninety days; Mississippi, Kansas, Nevada, and Washington, six months; West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, and Iowa, one year. In Virginia, three years' residence is an alternative for one year's residence without public relief.

Eight States, including Virginia already mentioned, have a condition of self-maintenance, or maintenance without public relief, in addition to the time qualification. These eight States are New York, Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Connecticut, Maine, and New Jersey. The residence requirement is one year in the first four States mentioned, and in the others three years, four years, five years, and ten years, respectively. In the latter State this period may be reduced to one year. A number of the Eastern States have a property qualification handed down from the colonial period, when each colony was a nation in itself, and its settlement laws were directed against foreigners. Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Pennsylvania have very complicated laws. One may gain a settlement by possessing property, holding office, paying taxes for a given time, or by being apprenticed. Ten States, all Southern and Western (Maryland, Florida, Kentucky, Alabama, Louisiana, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and California), have no settlement requirements whatever. In Missouri, settlement requirements may be heeded in the discretion of the court. Georgia and Arkansas only provide that persons removed in order to secure public support have no claim on the county to which they are removed. In Vermont a "residence" has taken the place of the old settlement requirements.

We find, too, certain checks on dependants gaining a settlement in the laws concerning the migration of paupers and the provisions for the removal of persons about to become dependent to their legal settlements. In most of the Atlantic Coast States vessels must give security for the support of (in some cases) all 'defectives and dependants, in others of all non-residents, landed by them.

Of more importance are the provisions concerning the removal of paupers from town to town or county to county and from State to State. In as many as nineteen States, mostly Northern, we find it unlawful to bring a person about to become dependent into a county or town (according as the county or town system of relief prevails) of which he is not a legal resident, with the intention of

there securing his support,-New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island, New York, South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. As a rule, the offending party forfeits a fixed sum for the support of such a pauper, or is fined or imprisoned and charged with his support or removal. Of the nineteen States here referred to, the statutes of New York, Michigan, North Dakota, and South Dakota, also apply to the removal of a pauper from his place of settlement in order to avoid supporting him. In Connecticut, Kansas, and Wyoming it is unlawful to remove a pauper from his settlement; but in Kansas alone is a penalty provided for the violation of this provision.

The legislation against bringing paupers into a town or county applies to cases where they are brought in from another State, as well as from another county or town of the same State. A few States, however, have enacted more severe legislation against interstate migration. Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, New. York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Minnesota make it unlawful to bring a pauper into the State with the intention of causing him to be there publicly supported. In Vermont the migrating pauper himself may be fined or imprisoned.

An older and more severe restriction (were it enforced) is found in the provision made by a few States that non-resident persons likely to become dependent may be removed to their settlements by the justice of the peace or other authority. This provision was stricken from the English poor law in 1795; yet it remains on the statutes of New Jersey, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Delaware, and .Indiana. The relieving officers may report any such cases to the justice of the peace, and upon the decision of that officer the pauper may be removed.

When we turn to the treatment of dependent non-residents, we find the provisions various. As was noticed, ten States have no distinction between residents and non-residents. In Missouri the court may or may not make such a distinction. In Georgia and Arkansas the county is not responsible for those moving' in order to secure relief. The State of Tennessee distinguishes between residents and non-residents, but seems to have made no provision in the law for the care or removal of the latter class. The remaining States make special provision for either the support or removal of the non-resident poor.

[ocr errors]

A number of States make it a mere matter of convenience to · remove paupers having a settlement in another State to that settlement, the implication being that any who are not removed must be cared for. In this group we have Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, Ohio, and Iowa. In Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Kansas, it is made discretionary with the poor authorities to care for those whose settlement cannot be established. On the other hand, in the seven States of Maine, New York, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Oregon, provision is made for this class, whether they have a settlement in some other State or not. In New York and Michigan their removal is expressly prohibited. When such non-residents are cared for, it is usually at the expense of the county or town giving such relief. In Maine, Connecticut, and Oregon, however, such expense is recovered from the State treasury. Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York make State provision for such persons.

Thus we find that, with the exception of a few States, those making special provision for this class of dependants leave much of it to the discretion of the poor authorities; and the matter is largely one of convenience. Looked at from the standpoint of legal provision, the treatment of another class of non-residents, those having a legal settlement in some town or county of the State, is not so much a matter of convenience. Here the purpose of the law is to provide for the immediate necessities of the indigent, and to return them to their place of settlement, both at the expense of the place of settlement. In some sixteen States, mostly Northern and Eastern, a dependant of this class is relieved, and the authorities of his place of settlement notified, whereupon they must remove him, and pay all costs of such temporary relief,— Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New York, South Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, Nevada, and Colorado. In some other cases the dependent person is relieved, and then removed to his settlement, the expense of both relief and removal being recovered. This is the case in Pennsylvania, Delaware, North Carolina, Mississippi, Minnesota, Wyoming, and Oregon. In a number of other cases common practice seems to have been enacted into law. In New Jersey, West Virginia, Virginia, Oklahoma, Indiana, North Dakota, South Dakota,

[ocr errors]

Kansas, Washington, and Montana, such a dependant may either be cared for or removed to his settlement,— a mere matter of the convenience of the relieving officers.


In the consideration of tramps and vagrants we have not so much a question of public relief as of the repression of "frauds” and the punishment of those who would live upon private charity. We have to do with those who, being able to work, do not earn an honest living, but live idly, and subsist upon charity. A "tramp," in the popular sense, is one who goes from place to place, begging. The term "tramp," as defined in the statutes of the several States, however, is not so inclusive. There we find a number of limitations made,— limitations as to age, sex, physical condition and residence. These limitations exclude (1) minors, who are usually treated as incorrigibles, (2) females, and (3) the defective and those unable to work. In some cases the law applies only to those who are begging beyond the limits of their city, town, or county. Such is the case in Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

It must be borne in mind, however, that, while the word "tramp is often used in a very restricted sense, there is further legislation to supplement that against tramps. Cities and towns usually have the power to regulate, restrain, and punish street begging. In a few States all legislation is left to the cities or local governments. This is the case in Texas, Oklahoma, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Kansas.

[ocr errors]

Turning now to the punishment of tramps, we find that in the two States of West Virginia and Kentucky they are not considered as misdemeanants, and are, therefore, not punished at all. In the former State the overseers are to exert themselves to prevent begging and to care for beggars as for the other poor. In Kentucky, beggars are sent to the poorhouse. This provision is supplemented by the vagrancy laws, however, vagrancy being a "high misdemeanor" and the vagrant being bound out or sold into servitude for not longer than twelve months. In most States, however, "tramping" is considered a misdemeanor, and as such is punishable.

The most frequent method of punishment is to commit the con-*

« AnteriorContinuar »