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CITY OF BOSTON.
OFFICE OF THE OVERSEERS OF THE POOR, CHARITY BUILDING.
Boston, May 21, 1872.
TO THE HONORABLE THE CITY COUNCIL :
In presenting their Annual Report, the Overseers of the Poor have reason, they think, to congratulate our citizens that the particular interest committed to their charge has not increased with the relative growth in population and the material prosperity of the city. While the census abundantly testifies that the people within our borders are rapidly augmenting in numbers, yet the class for whose special wants it is our province to afford relief, apparently does not bear (if we may judge from the past, or the condition of other large municipalities) its usual proportion.
This fact, gratifying as it is, does not warrant the assumption that this class of the poor is neglected, but is justified by the assurance of the general thrift and providence of the inhabitants of the city, and the existence of that laudable spirit of independence which prevents them from seeking aid from the public treasury. Another cause is, probably, the more systematic method pursued by ourselves, as well as the almoners of the private charitable organizations, in affording out-door relief.
In every large city there is a large body of able, but idle and dissolute persons, who either live by their crimes, or upon the charities of the public. No city of our size has probably less of this class, and measures are in progress, we trust, to make them still more limited in number. Ample
means are yearly contributed by the city or benevolent individuals to meet the necessities, and to contribute to the comfort of the virtuous poor, and in many cases to the innocent dependents of the vicious; but the known impostor and importunate beggar has less of our sympathy and but little of our material aid.
In conformity with our settlement laws, we cheerfully assist the aged who have outlived their ability to work, the sick struck down in their period of usefulness, and widows with little children dependent upon them. Through our beneficiary funds we aid another class, not absolutely destitute, and who are hardly recognized as the recipients of charity. These receive regular pensions, quarterly or semi-annually. These persons, of whom the greater proportion are females advanced in years, passed their prime of life in comfort and in some cases in affluence; they have exhausted in a great measure their means, outlived their friends, and in old age this timely help from benefactors who themselves have passed away, tenderly administers to their comfort and smooths their passage to the grave.
While the Board assists those who have a legal claim upon our sympathy, growing out of the fact of a common citizenship in the same municipality, we are also the agents of the Commonwealth for the sick poor, and of cities and towns in ministering to the wants of those who form a portion of our inhabitants, but who have claims for support elsewhere. The investigation of these cases and their liquidation occupy much of the time and correspondence of the officers of the Board. It brings us in personal relations with the officials of the State Board of Charities, and a large portion of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, and it is a pleasant fact to record that this intercourse is mutually satisfactory and that the business is accomplished with very little trouble, although often the pecuniary interests involved are necessarily adverse and antagonistic in character.
It is the duty of the Board to administer their office in conformity with the statutes of the state and ordinances of the city government, but the members are not insensible to the awakened interest in the more general subject of the causes of pauperism and its judicious alleviation, not only in this country but abroad. To the philanthropist and political economist, whether in or out of public office, this is one of the most fruitful themes of thought and discussion.
In our last annual report mention was made of the opening of a correspondence with the "Society for Organizing Charitable Relief and Repressing Mendicity,” whose headquarters are in London. A box of documents and volumes of reports of our charitable organizations, both public and private, were sent to the Society; they were gratefully acknowledged, and a corresponding set of books and pamphlets has recently been received from them by a late steamer, without any charge for transportation. We are thus enabled to judge of the methods of the administration of charity in its various forms in the great metropolis of the world. During the last summer three members of the Board voluntarily visited England and the Continent, informed themselves of the working of the systems for the relief of the poor adopted by other countries, and brought back much practical information for the benefit of our own community.
In December a communication was received through His Honor the Mayor, from our Secretary of State, Hon. Hamilton Fish, transmitting a request from the British Legation at Washington, that we should furnish, for the use of the English Government, an account of the methods pursued in Boston to meet the necessities of the destitute poor. In answer to this request one of our associates drew up an elaborate communication, a copy of which is appended to this report, for the information of our own citizens. A significant illustration of the interest taken in this subject is the appearance of an article in Macmillan's Magazine, written by
an English gentleman, on "The American System of relief to the Poor," and warmly commending some of the features of the plan pursued in our own city.
The accompanying reports of the Secretary and Treasurer of the Board will afford the necessary information as to the receipts and expenditures, and the investment of the Trust Funds. The tax upon bank shares, under the law of 1871, paid under protest by our Treasurer, has been repealed by the last Legislature, and the amount paid will, no doubt, be reimbursed by the Commonwealth, thus leaving the entire income from this source to be expended in behalf of the beneficiaries. The total amount of all expenditures is :
From city appropriation
Income of various Trust Funds ; (not
A portion of this is paid back into the City Treasury from the State, and other cities and towns.
The affairs of the Temporary Home are in a satisfactory condition. Some complaints were made as to its management, and a committee of the City Council was appointed to investigate the truth of the charges. Their report was satisfactory; they made but one recommendation as an improvement in its management, and that was a more complete record of the applications by women and children for admission to lodgings.
While doubting the policy of making public charges against an institution of this kind without any evidence to
* While this report was under the consideration of the Board one of its members stated that several of our citizens, who take a deep interest in the relief of the poor, had suggested the propriety of Mr. Bryce's article being printed with the report, whereupon it was so voted, and the article will be found in the appendix.