Imágenes de páginas


of the needy upon the community in which they dwelt. Here we have laid the foundation of the settlement law.

Gradually provisions which reached clear expression in the reign of Charles II were added to carry out the principle of local responsibility by allowing localities to send back to communities to which they belonged those who had come into their communities and were without residence there. From that first statute to the present day the law of settlement has been negative in its nature, rather than positive and constructive.

Here in the United States the early colonists brought over with them the ideas and institutions with which they were familiar in England. Among them were the established methods of relieving the poor, treating the criminal, caring for the sick and the defective. One of these institutions was the law of settlement. Moreover, certain conditions in the Colonies provided new motives for restricting "inhabitancy." Kelso has pointed out how, in Massachusetts, the law of settlement was partly the result of the desire of the local taxing authorities to be rid of the financial responsibility for the support of dependents, and partly the result of the desire to be rid of those who did not agree with the majority religiously. In the Middle West the settlement law was brought, by way of the Northwest Territory, likewise from the Colonies on the Atlantic coast. The law of settlement, therefore, in this country is in part a survival from the early experiments of England to deal with the problem of migrating people and dependents who were outside the parish of their residence, and partly a device to secure religious uniformity."

However, this country as well as England has been a great experiment station in social legislation. While practically all the states have accepted the English principle of legal settlement as a basis for poor relief, many of the states have tried modifications of the law which they borrowed, but these modifications have not been uniform, and therefore the law of settlement is not the same in all states. Length of residence necessary to establish a settlement for purposes of relief vary widely, and the other conditions required in some states, such as ownership of a certain amount of property or the payment of a certain rental, are not to be found in the laws of other states. The result is that often neighboring states have settlement laws which are not alike, with the result that a person may lose his settlement in one state and not be able to obtain it in another. The states have agreed only on the negative principle that a dependent must be supported in the place in which he has legal settlement. Furthermore, there is the difficulty that when court procedure must be resorted to in order to settle the question as to which state shall support a dependent, under our constitutional system the process is very difficult. What happens, therefore, is that local authorities frequently send the person on his way out of the community in x ▪ Kelso, The History of Public Poor Relief in Massachusetts, 1620–1929 (Boston, 1922), chap. iii.

a Gillin, Poor Relief Legislation in Iowa (Iowa City, Iowa, 1914), chap. vi.

which he has become dependent toward the place in which he is supposed to have lived originally. Thus we have the vicious practice of "passing on." Moreover, the time consumed by the courts in settling disputes with regard to settlements has never been justified by the results. In fact, one of the results of the settlement law has been to promote vagabondage, instead of repressing it. Finally, since the law of settlement is negative and repressive, instead of positive and constructive, it is a question whether it has any place in modern scientific relief.

The difficulties of the law of settlement early became apparent. In a number of states into which immigrants came various devices were tried to prevent the landing of those who were likely to be dependent. When that plan was proved to be ineffective, a number of the Atlantic Coast states passed laws providing for the state care of the alien poor. Perhaps the two best examples of this are New York and Massachusetts. Moreover, the private charity organizations have tended to follow the practice of the public relief authorities. They have found the matter no more satisfactory than the public. For a time they too "passed on" those who were not residents in the community which they served. Finally the evil of this practice was manifest and the Transportation Agreement was drawn up and is signed by the members of the National Association of Family Welfare Societies. The problem of the immigrant who might become dependent became so serious that the federal immigrant laws took cognizance of the matter and passed laws providing that an immigrant, to be admitted, must have a certain amount of money when he lands in the country. These laws still stand. Their ineffectiveness is notorious. Yet they probably have saved the country the support of some dependent foreigners. While a clear case can be made out for the exclusion of those from abroad who may become dependent upon our shores, to apply the same principle as between the states of the Union when no immigration laws affecting the passage of people from one state to another, and no immigration officials to control them exist, presents a much more difficult problem, and one about which there is more serious question.

The iniquity of the law of settlement from the economic point of view was seen by Adam Smith. In the fifth edition of his Wealth of Nations, published in 1793, he called attention to the obstruction of the free movement of labor from one part of England to another by that law. He pointed out that this law was peculiar to England, and that it worked the greatest hardship by obstructing the movement of labor to the place where it was required. He says:

To remove a man who has committed no misdemeanor from the parish where he chooses to reside is an evident violation of natural liberty and justice. The common people of England, however, so jealous of their liberty, but, like the common people of most other countries, never rightly understanding wherein it consists, have now for more than a century together suffered themselves to be exposed to this oppression without a remedy.1

* Smith, Wealth of Nations (Dublin, 1793), Book I, Part II, chap. x, pp. 139-41.

He concludes that the law of settlement ought to be abolished. That particular problem, however, has disappeared, owing to the breakdown of the rigid enforcement of the settlement law. Even Massachusetts soon discovered that it could not enforce a rigid settlement law in the face of the tendency of people to migrate. Hence it soon set up a board to take care of what it called the "alien poor," that is, those who had no settlement in a particular relief unit of the state. It still continues the state care of those who have no legal settlement for relief. In the face of the difficulty of actually administering a settlement law, then, we have three alternatives that seem to promise a way out of the difficulty. First, such a plan as Massachusetts has, which retains the law of settlement, forcing those localities in which a dependent has a residence to maintain him whether there or elsewhere, and having the state provide for those who have no legal settlement in any local relief unit. The difficulties with this procedure are that if you have a rigid settlement law an increasing number of people become state dependents; that in any case considerable amount of time and expense is involved in securing either the return, or payment of maintenance, of paupers who are outside of the place of their settlement; and that the monetary incentive of local communities to have a pauper or one likely to become a pauper lose his settlement. The second alternative would be to have no requirements as to settlement within local political units, and to have all expenses for the case of the poor in localities paid by the state. There are difficulties in this plan also. Local relief officials will not feel the same responsibility for looking into the circumstances of the applicant for relief if the state pays the bill as if the locality itself carries the burden. Furthermore, someone will still be charged with the responsibility of sending to other states those having their settlements there. It has the advantage of distributing to the taxpayers of the whole state the burden for the care of the dependent, thus relieving to some extent the taxpayers of the locality in which the dependent is found. It obviates, therefore, one of the difficulties in the next plan to be mentioned. A third alternative would be to abolish the settlement law entirely and to have the dependent relieved at the place in which he happens to become dependent. This plan has been objected to on the ground that it would throw an unusual burden upon the centers of population.

But someone will ask, Why should one community, which perhaps attracts the ne'er-do-well and the poverty stricken, be forced to support them when their real residence is in another place? Would it not mean that the centers of population, which draw people to them from all parts of the surrounding country, would become overburdened with dependents? Why should the people of that community be responsible for the care of those who have a legal residence elsewhere? We do not permit persons to exercise the rights of citizenship in a community until, by residence of a certain length of time, they shall have established their unity with that community. Why should we allow people to flock 1 Ibid., I, 462.

into a city, and, if they become dependent, to force their support upon that community with which they have not been long identified?

The theory of the thing is clear enough. The chief objection to the law of settlement is on the basis of practicability. We have seen that it is difficult to enforce; that it leads to practices which are socially inadvisable, such as "passing on"; and that it does not solve the problem of the person when he is sent away. He may have moved his family and his goods to the locality; he may there have had employment. Moreover, the larger community may have agencies better able to deal with him and reconstruct him than the community from which he came. Yet the law of settlement compels either that he be sent to the community in which he has settlement, or that that community must pay the bills for his care. But suppose he had no settlement. It has been recognized that such case must be cared for by the state, rather than the local political unit. From the earliest days to the present the law has not worked in many cases. Why, therefore, should we not give up the law of settlement entirely, as between the different states, and provide for the care of a dependent in the place where he happens to be? If that were done a positive and constructive, rather than a negative, position would be taken. Each community would take care of those who became dependent within its borders. The community which had constructive methods of poor relief would give its best efforts to the rehabilitation of those who had fallen into need. Those who were the victims of circumstances and desired to make their own way would be helped to do so, while those who were chronically dependent would be cared for by constructive measures that would repress their mendacity.

The incapable as well as the capable drift to the cities. Foreigners, who furnish a larger proportion than their share of paupers, congregate in the cities. However, it has the advantage of simplicity since it throws direct responsibility upon the locality for the dependents that are there, much of which rests there in spite of settlement laws, and it forces localities to use the best methods known to rehabilitate the dependent and to take measures to care, in a proper manner, for those who willingly rely upon the community for support. It forces constructive social work to avoid the evils of indiscriminate relief and pauperizing neglect. Under this plan each community would have only the paupers which it deserves by reason of its treatment of the dependent. Furthermore, since most of the state taxable property is in the cities, the burdens upon the centers of population would not seem so much greater than under the second plan as would at first appear. And again, in the cities is the wealth of the country; they are the centers of industry; they require an increasing number of people from surrounding districts for industrial purposes; there the worker is worn out and becomes finally dependent; there are the slum conditions which produce the vagrant and the ne'er-do-well; and there are the conditions of unemployment which often provide the first steps in the downward career of a respectable person.

Someone may object to this program on the ground that it would be more

difficult to secure than the adoption of the Massachusetts plan. That, however, is a question. Massachusetts and New York have had their plans for many years, and yet not many states have copied them. It would do away with the numerous difficulties now encountered under a settlement law of any sort. It might induce communities to use constructive methods in dealing with the dependent, rather than passing the burden along to someone else. The settlement law has never been an unqualified success; it is not now; and I see no reason to believe that it ever will be. Why not, then, attempt an experiment on a new line?

The discussion of this subject ought not to close without calling attention to the need of information concerning the operation of settlement laws more adequate than we possess at the present time. Curiously, in an age of science we are applying very little of it to the determination of social policies. We are still guessing at the results of the operation of our laws. How much, for example, do we know, on the basis of actual facts, of the difference between the operation of the law of settlement in Massachusetts and the law of settlement in Indiana or Wisconsin? Who has ever made a comparative study of the relative values of the various systems? If we should determine to have all the states adopt uniform settlement laws, what should it be? Would it not be wise, therefore, before we attempt to have enacted a uniform settlement law, to make a comparative study of various laws, and on the basis of the findings of such a study determine what kind of a settlement law should be uniform, or whether there should be one at all? It seems to me that the indication of the present situation is that we should have the facts of the matter before we proceed farther. For over half a century this matter has been discussed at this Conference without very much attention being paid to the results of the various systems. Is it not time that someone should interest himself in finding out the facts with respect to the results of our settlement laws? In this field, as in all other fields of social policy, the need of the hour is research. Experiments we have, but no one has collated and compared the results of the various experiments. What would you think of a scientist who was working on a problem by different methods and did not compare their results? Is it not high time that we apply scientific methods to the determination of social policies?


Louise Cottrell, Social Worker, Extension Division, University of
Iowa, Iowa City

Iowa has perhaps the most informal plan of all the states in county welfare work. Mr. O. E. Klingaman, the first director of the Extension Division of the State University, created it in 1912. Ever since then the Extension Division of the University of Iowa has placed a social case worker at the service of the peo


« AnteriorContinuar »