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CITY OF BOSTON.
In Board of Aldermen, June 4, 1861. The Joint Special Committee of the City Council, who have had under their consideration the petition of Col. Albert J. Wright and others, and also that of the Hon. Josiah Quincy, Jr., in behalf of the Union Hall Relief Association, that relief may be extended by the City to the families of such of our citizens as have joined the army, respectfully submit the following
The Legislature, on the twenty-third of May last, provided by law as follows:
AN ACT in Aid of the Families of Volunteers, and for other purposes. Be it enactes, c., as follows :
SECTION 1. Any town or city may raise money by taxation, and, if necessary, apply the same, under the direction of their selectmen, or mayor and aldermen, or city council, for the aid of the wife, and of the children under sixteen years of age, of any one of their inhabitants, who, as a member of the volunteer militia of this State may have been mustered into or enlisted in the service of the United States, and for each parent, brother, or sister, or child, who at the time of his enlistment, was dependent on him for support.
SECT. 2. Any city or town may by vote raise money to defray any expense already incurred, or to carry out and fulfil any contract heretofore made with, or in behalf of any of its inhabitants who may have enlisted as members of the volunteer militia, or who have been, or may be called into the service of the United States; but all contracts now subsisting between any town or city and any member of the volunteer militia as such, shall terminate in ninety days from the date of such contract or the date of enlistment if subsequent to such contract and previous to the passage of this act.
SECT. 3. No compensation, in addition to the regular pay of the army or
navy of the United States, other than that mentioned in this act, shall be given by any town or city to any of their inhabitants, who, as volunteers, or otherwise, shall enlist in the service of the United States; but all contracts made with any members of the volunteer militia who have been mustered into the service of the United States for the term of three months, shall be valid during such term, and no pay shall hereafter be allowed by any town or city for the expense of drilling.
SECT. 4. Any city or town, when danger from attack from the sea is apprehended, is authorized to organize an armed police to guard against such an attack, and may provide, by taxation, to maintain the same.
Such force may, for this purpose, act in any part of the county within which such city or town may be situated.
Sect. 5. Of the sum so paid or applied by any city or town for the support of the family of any inhabitant, who may be actually engaged in the service of the United States, as provided in the first section, there shall be annually reimbursed from the State treasury to such town or city, a sum not exceeding one dollar per week for the wife and one dollar per week for each child or parent of such inhabitant, who, at the time of his being called into the service of the United States, was dependent upon him for support; provided, that the whole sum so reimbursed shall not exceed twelve dollars per month for all the persons named in this section so dependent upon any such inhabitant.
SECT. 6. No reimbursement shall be allowed from the State treasury to any town or city, as provided in the previous section, until a full report, certified and sworn to by a majority of the board of selectmen of any town, or of the mayor and a majority of the aldermen of any city, containing a statement of the inhabitants of such town or city, whose families have been assisted, as provided in the first section, and of the persons who have been assisted, and the relations which such persons severally bear to such inhabitants, and the sums paid to each person, has been made to the auditor of the Commonwealth, and carefully examined and approved by him.
SECT. 7. A statement certified and sworn to by a majority of the board of selectmen of any town or of the mayor and a majority of the aldermen of any city shall be made to the auditor of the Commonwealth on or before the fifth day of January in each year, of the full amount due such city or town for aid furnished in accordance with this act.
SECT. 8. This act shall take effect upon its passage. [Approved May 23, 1861.
It will be perceived that the statute leaves it discretionary with the cities and towns to extend this relief or not, as they may deem it expedient. But the moral obligation to provide for families whose natural protectors are risking their lives and enduring every hardship in the defence of our national existence, is clear and imperative, and there should be no hesitation in meeting it with the utmost alacrity. The faithful performance of this duty may be attended with many embarrassments, may entail upon us heavy responsibilities, we may be tempted, by our sympathies, beyond the limits of prudence in the amounts allowed and the character of the persons relieved, but if any system appears practicable by which just claims can be satisfied, without subjecting us to importunities exceedingly unreasonable or pretentions utterly groundless, we think it should be tried.
At a national crisis of such grave importance to our whole community, and which has not called in vain upon its united energies, all are eager to share in the unusual duties which it brings. In every branch of preparation, public spirited individuals have been found ready to devote their time and means, and, for the more effectual accomplishment of the object, have formed themselves into general or local committees. Wherever a want has been experienced, it has been promptly provided for. The urgency of the occasion, when, by the attack on Sumter we were precipitated into civil war, forced numbers away to the defence of Washington, without other thought for their families than a very reasonable assurance that they would not be permitted to want. Some of these were left without means of subsistence, and great sufferring would have been inevitable had not the generous and affluent rallied for their relief. Many thousands of dollars were collected, chiefly in this city, as a State Soldiers' Fund, but it was thought best to hold this in reserve for wants of a more permanent nature than the supply of immediate necessities.
For these committees were appointed by meetings called for the purpose, and they have been enabled, through individual liberality, to relieve a large number of cases. The task they have assumed they do not propose to abandon. They have already organized a plan which secures concert of action, yet prevents any waste of effort. They now petition the City Council to carry out the objects of the statute by instituting some system of relief in co-operation with their own.
Our laws have always recognized the claims of the destitute
to public aid. But there is a wholesome prejudice amongst our people against becoming its recipients. The claims we are considering are of a different nature, and should be provided for in a different way. Confidently expecting, as we do, that the war will be but of limited duration, no permanent plan would seem to be called for. One sufficiently efficient for the occasion should be formed, and if it impose any unusual amount of duty, this will be cheerfully borne in consideration of the object.
Perhaps there would be no very serious objection to devolving on committees, formed at large, not only the preliminary investigation of cases, but their final decision. But as the statute imposes upon the municipal government this responsibility, its delegation to others would be in dereliction of duty. Whatever the functions with which we are legally clothed, we should discharge them conscientiously, and with intelligence. With so many other demands upon our time, we could not hope to do justice to claimants if we attempted the sole charge of their applications. It would seem more judicious to leave, for the most part, the examination of cases to the committees which have heretofore attended to this duty with zeal and fidelity. It should be understood that all applications are to be made through them, or if made at the City Hall may, at the discretion of the Ward Committee, be referred to them. Their organization can be indefinitely extended to meet all the requirements of the service, and proper places can be established for the reception of applicants. Moreover, from the character and influence of those who have undertaken the charge, there is good reason to believe that they will always be able to control funds from the contributions of the generous to relieve any pressing necessities.
They have already, we understand, improved every opportunity of procuring information to guide their labors. They have obtained from the State House, forts, and the colonels of regiments, reliable lists of all who have entered the service here. They are collecting all other facts and circumstances which will guard them against mistake. In proper books are to be entered, against the names of the soldiers, their regiment and company,
age, residence, previous employment, the number of their families, and their general condition and ability, so far as it renders them independent of the public. In these books will also be noted all changes and transfers, and also, as nearly as may be, the position from time to time where they may be posted. We propose that duplicates of these books be kept at the City Hall, and from them the names be distributed as nearly as may be into ward lists, according to the residences of the families. If each application should state the successive changes of residence, any embarrassment on this score could be easily obviated.
Of course, the largest proportion of all who have joined the army are unmarried, and have neither families nor dependents. Of those that have, many possess competence or adequate means to protect them from want. Many who have been kindly cared for will prefer to earn a subsistence by their exertions, to becoming dependent upon the public, while others will be provided for by their friends or relatives. A liberal share of the pay of the men will, no doubt, be also conscientiously appropriated to this sacred duty. We do not, consequently, apprehend that applicants for relief will be very numerous. Those really in destitute circumstances should be diligently sought for, and ungrudgingly supplied. If from illness or for other cause, the statute allowance prove inadequate, private charity invoked by the committees will be generously extended.
It is not perhaps advisable, in the outset, to discriminate between those who have settlements in Boston, and such as are living in the cities or towns of the Commonwealth, or other States. If our liberality be abused, or subject us to too heavy a burden, this policy can be changed. All, whose natural protectors have enlisted or have legal settlements here, would seem entitled to aid.
It would seem important, to prevent confusion, that some simple rules for the details of the proposed plan should be prepared, and this duty, it is suggested, as those claims demand immediate attention, might be performed by your present committee. That full knowledge of all that is expended may be communicated to