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The following Tables will exhibit the amounts already allowed, and the number of recipients, and afford some idea of the practical working of the law upon the rules adopted here for extending its benefits. Though hardly long enough in operation to furnish any very complete view, it may be worth while to form what estimate we can of the expediency and safety of this system of relief at this early stage of its development, in order to detect as early as possible any deficiency that should be supplied or abuses that can be corrected.
Various doubts have arisen in our committees, as also in other municipalities, in cases where the applicants have changed their abode since the period of enlistment, whether the allowances should be paid where the volunteers were inhabitants when entering the service, or where those dependent upon them actually reside when seeking relief. The first section of the statute is susceptible of either construction. Where a family makes its abode, with the intention of remaining permanently, there would be the place where they should be taxed, and where only a citizen can vote or be eligible to office. Wherever a man's household is permanently established, there is held to be his legal habitation. By this test we have interpreted the language of the statute. This rule of actual residence has been generally adopted by our committees, of course, with the modification that where parties have gone temporarily to other places for health or on visits to their friends, Boston has been considered sufficiently their intended abode to justify payment here. This seems to be the more reasonable construction, both for the towns and the petitioners. The expense of travelling hundreds of miles to prove their claims would deprive many deserving individuals of all benefit under the statute. It would be impossible for our committees to visit Lenox or Nantucket to investigate claims, nor should we be likely to procure by correspondence information sufficiently reliable to authenticate under oath.
If our interpretation of the law be sustained, much embarrassment would be avoided should the parties intending a permanent removal to another town procure from the chairman of the committee, through which relief had been obtained, a duplicate of the petition, with a certificate indorsed, of the amounts already received, and where practicable, also a statement of any peculiar circumstances in the case important to be known. In places where parties apply without petition, a simple printed form, properly authenticated, would equally answer the purpose. This course has been substantially adopted where removals have been made from one ward to another without inconvenience, by the relief clerk, stating on the margin of the new petition what payments have already been made.
When the regiment at Long Island, of which Mr. Rice was to have been the commanding officer, was disbanded, several of its companies, eager to go to the war, joined regiments in New York. Many of these soldiers left families residing here in great distress, who have applied for relief; but they clearly do not come within the statute. They have been referred to the Overseers of the Poor, whose duty it is to relieve in the first instance all persons within their respective wards perishing from want, - more permanent wants being provided for when parties, unable to sustain themselves, by city, town, or state, according to domicile. Our policy has been, heretofore, to discourage the residence of what are called State paupers, by confining aid to a pittance the most limited in money and groceries and fuel through the winter months in small quantities. The greater proportion of these men are of this class, few of them coming within the twelve provisions of the sixty-ninth chapter of the General Statutes regulating domicile. Their families have no legal claim upon Boston; and, except as above, there is no appropriation whereby they can be relieved, and no other resource for them but the State almshouses.
The refusal to aid the families of any of our volunteers in the United States' service is thought to be harsh, and felt the more keenly by the rejected petitioners from the relief extended to others. The legislature, in revising the statute, may embrace these cases in future provisions. In the mean while it is to be considered whether, under the peculiar exigencies of the times, we ought not to enlarge our appropriations for the Overseers of the Poor, that these cases may be legally provided for. The present amount of appropriation on this account for the year is sixty thousand dollars, which, with the income of trust funds distributed by the Overseers to our own settlement poor, makes seventy thousand dollars. There is less present want in the city than has been anticipated. The money distributed by our ward committees has been a great relief. If in the winter the stagnation of business should multiply cases of destitution an additional appropriation will be required for the Overseers, which, with the soup houses proposed to be established, will prevent any extreme suffering.
Early in the war a fund of sixty thousand dollars was collected from persons of affluence, chiefly in Boston, for the benefit of the Massachusetts' volunteers. This has been reserved for cases which cannot otherwise be relieved. Several meritorious claims, to which no relief could be extended under the statute, or where the relief was insufficient to meet the peculiar circumstances of the case, have been judiciously taken in charge by the managers of the fund. If in the future, cases should occur of unusual hardship, the well-known character of these gentlemen will secure for them the most generous consideration.
In other places more liberal allowances have been made under the Relief Statute than in Boston, and the classes of recipients have been more widely extended. We have not exceeded the limits fixed by the statute of one dollar each week to each parent, wife or child, brother or sister, and that only within the other limitation of not more than twelve dollars for each lunar month. Where we do give, it is upon the declaration of the applicants that they are in necessitous circumstances, and have been dependent upon the volunteer for support. Nor is this allowance granted before investigation, and they are found upon inquiry to have no property, no near relatives able and willing to assist them, no means of earning their own livelihood. They are given to understand that as their condition improves, pay enough is received for their support, or they become in any other way able to provide for themselves, that the city allowance may be discontinued. One object of this caution is to prevent recipients from depending too exclusively upon a resource of which they are liable at any time, by legislative action, the vote of the council, or their relatives leaving the service, to be deprived.
Our ward committees have confined their payments for the most part to parents, wives, and children, all that the statute