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population is of foreign birth or parentage, and if in what is called London, the proportion is less, the actual number from the continent or from Ireland, reduced to want, is undoubtedly larger. So many points are in common to the two cities, that with due consideration for their relative size and importance we shall not hesitate to express, as requested, the opinions which we have been able to form from experience of the practical working and effect of our system of relief upon the comfort, character and condition of the inhabitants.
It would be premature to judge absolutely of the effects of a system which does not profess to be complete, and has been but a few years in operation. It has manifold defects, and its only pretension is, that it is making progress.
Claims for relief from the public are no longer regarded as impositions to be resisted or made as light a burden as possible, but as affording a favorable opportunity of improving the condition of the applicant. Children are put in the way of education ; employment is sought for the adult, and all who have any capacity to earn are placed in condition to rely upon their own exertions. For the hopelessly dependant a permanent home is secured in asylums or almshouses, or else such stipends as with their other resources will relieve them of anxiety for their future. Mendicancy in the streets or at houses, a habit destroying self-respect and which otherwise debases, is now of rare occurrence. The poor, assured of the sympathy of the rich, are more contented with their condition, which they seek to improve by industry, temperance, and prudence, while those better off, if inclined, participate in investigating cases or extending relief. Both learn better to appreciate the natural laws and behests of Providence, controlling differences of condition, the prizes and distinctions of life, and also the just limits of legislation.
One good result of centralization and consolidation in the administration of charity is the association of the benevolent for a laudable object generating kindly feelings and bringing into genial fellowship members of different religious sects, persons engaged in different pursuits. With our bureau and its instrumentalities of charity as already described, are placed in intimate relations, not the poor alone, but all who give or distribute, the
affluent and distinguished connected with the several societies. Our city is not yet like London, large enough for subordinate branches in the several districts, in which a few faithful men representing the agencies of relief at the central office, and rallying the wisdom, liberality and means of the neighborhood, to co-operate, can lend a patient care and ready hand to the needy near their homes. But this will no doubt come about as Boston increases in numbers.
Our system of record and registration, making a distinction in favor of those likely to be sensitive on the subject of publicity, whose names are kept on a separate index, insures thorough. knowledge of every case relieved or rejected. This, lessens the temptation to deceive, by making imposition difficult, and thus raises the standard of honesty. By bringing under the same roof, or into constant communication and correspondence, all charitable organizations, no person entitled to aid is likely to obtain from several societies or individuals more than is reasonable.
Those who can work, but from shiftlessness or intemperance fail to obtain employment after effort has been in vain made by our Industrial Aid Society to obtain it for them, are subjected to the almshouse test. Our own settled poor go reluctantly to the institution prepared for them, now unfortunately at Deer Island, which is also a penal settlement, and the State poor consent only in the last extremity to be taken to Tewksbury, appropriated for such as cannot labor, or to Bridgewater, assigned for those who can; for although in all these institutions they are well fed and otherwise kindly treated, the discipline is necessarily strict. It would be an injustice to the industrious were the idle provided for more comfortably at the public expense than their own families by their unaided efforts, and a social wrong to lessen the willingness to work for moderate wages, upon which depends the general prosperity of the community. We have alluded to our Almshouse being on the same island in our harbor as our Houses of Industry and Houses of Reformation. This the overseers consider a great defect in our system, tending to confuse in the minds of the young and illiterate the distinctions between fault and misfortune, aggravating the afflic tions of poverty, while it renders punishment less efficacious.
It besides renders difficult the application of the almshouse test. Families are variously composed, and the innocent and deserving suffer from the sloth or sins of the vicious and idle. The support which should be provided for his wife and children by some worthless individual, is often afforded by the public to save them from perishing. Finding public or private charity ready to relieve him of his just obligations, he squanders his earnings in drink and sinks into lower degradation. In many instances, and often for their advantage, he deserts his family altogether. It would be harsh to visit his faults upon them; besides, the children are some of them at school; some earning a trifle toward their necessities by employments which in time will make them independent.
Another embarrassment, arising from the inhumanity and impolicy of breaking up families, renders difficult the application of the workhouse test. This could be in a measure obviated by adopting the method of Count Rumford, in Munich, in 1793, of a workhouse where the destitute able to work should be furnished with something useful to do, and paid the value of their labor, but where they should neither board nor lodge. Such an institution as that suggested, as it developed, would lead to real or industrial schools, like those in Germany, or one on a large scale founded by the liberality of Mr. Washburn in the neighboring city of Worcester, where boys learn the mechanical arts according to their several inclinations and aptitudes. For social reasons, and in consequence of the regulations of trades-unions, apprenticeship unfortunately is not so general as in former days, and there is more disposition to live by trade than by labor. Sixteen hundred boys over sixteen applied last year to the Industrial Aid for work, who had no skill in any useful art, and in many instances had been prevented from acquiring any by these regulations. Both labor and capital may justly combine for their respective protection, but there are bounds beyond which they should not be permitted to go. When trades' unions prevent any one of their craft working who does not conform to their rules, or by combination throw obstacles in the way of the young learning useful trades, they not only violate the liberty of work, but do serious injury to their class and to the whole community. They force the public to support those they will not permit to work, as well as others whom they prevent from gain
ing a trade. Public aid and private munificence combine to secure to the community proficiency in professional pursuits; and similar facilities for training mechanics, it is believed, would compensate the cost. It would make large numbers independent of relief, raise the dignity of labor, lessen the amount of destitution and crime, which is often its consequence, and, better work being rendered for the wages, largely promote the general prosperity. If a few carried their improved skill to other markets, the greater part by local attachments would remain to requite the public for the benefit received.
This is not mere speculation, but germane to the inquiry. For one incident of the great aggregation of foreign poor in our Atlantic cities is the large proportion among them of persons not educated to any useful employment. Four-fifths of the destitute aided, of the eleven thousand sentenced for criminal offences last year by the courts in Massachusetts, all but three thousand were of foreign birth or parentage. So large a portion of both criminals and paupers are found without common or technical education, that it seems good policy to try the experiment of giving them both. Efforts have already been made, by the introduction of drawing into the schools, by founding establishments for instructing girls in sewing and household work. Application has been made to the Legislature for power to towns to engraft on their school system those industrial branches. We are inclined to believe that in the present stage of public opinion the experiment had better also be tried in connection with such a workhouse as that suggested, which might be developed afterwards if successful nto whatever promises best for the public.*
The growth of our city and State in wealth and numbers ; the general intelligence and remunerative industry of the people; their domestic habits; their liberal support of public worship, which they largely attend; the nearly fifty thousand children in our public schools, costing, including school-houses, annually, $1,500,000; the large remittances sent home by the foreign-born to their relations in Europe; the one hundred and seventy millions
* The legislature the past winter authorized cities and towns to establish industrial schools. A workshop for the poor has also been established in Boston by private munificence.
in the State Savings Banks, not more than one thousand dollars to any one depositor; and an average of three thousand dollars of property to each individual in the city, - proves that at the present time our population is not yet to any great extent demoralized by the system we have adopted, so far as it has been put to the test of experiment.
There is always a danger that the interest now taken in what is new, will grow lukewarm, and energy and intelligence be wanting to carry out our original principles and plans. But as yet there has been no abatement of zeal, and so long as this is governed by the accepted doctrines of political economy, it promises to work well. Giving is matter of habit, and the wealthy, relieved of the drudgery of investigating cases by a well-considered and generally understood system of relief to the very poor, through their organized almoners, are found to be more inclined to consider the claims of those who have seen better days, of kindred and friends of the sufferers from calamity in other places, as well as to contribute generously to public objects at home.* This subject could be of course indefinitely extended. The questions propounded could not well be answered without trespassing on what is already sufficiently obvious; but to say more would be out of place. We know not the precise object of the inquiry.
From an impression that it emanated from the movement to organize relief in London, and emboldened by the favorable view taken of what we have effected in the way of reform, by the author of an article in the November number of Macmillan, we have endeavored to state our answers to afford information that would be useful on that hypothesis. If the inquiry is directed to the comparative advantages of indoor and outdoor relief, the information furnished may be equally of use. Upon application to Dr. Howe, chairman of the Board of State Charities, we found he had not received the circular, and it was not till after the answers were prepared that we learned that Mr. Pierce, the secretary of that board, had re
* Boston, besides other large contributions to the University Art Museum, and its last years' local charities, contributed nearly half a million to the sufferers from the fire at Chicago, and a third that amount to the sufferers from the war in France.