PRIVATE OUTDOOR RELIEF IN AMERICA 1 It is now time to consider the part which has been taken by private charity in the relief of the poor in their homes.
With the rise of more populous towns in the early half of the century, and the consequent increase of the number of families for whom special relief of one kind or another seemed necessary, there sprang up naturally a number of private charitable agencies, each, as a rule, giving special attention to some particular class of needs. Among these were some intended for particular national ities ; as, for example, the German Society of New York, organized in 1787, similar societies in Baltimore in 1817 and in Boston in 1847, the French Benevolent Society of New York, organized in 1809, and that of Boston in 1854, the Scots Charitable Society in Boston in 1657, St. Andrew's Society of New York, founded in 1756, and one of the same name iu Baltimore in 1806. Others, however, were intended for widows or for other particular classes of de pendents. The Widows Society in Boston was started in 1816, and in the year following there was organized the Boston Fatherless and Widows Society, both intended primarily for Protestants. The Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children in New York City was organized in 1798. In Boston numerous special trust funds are still administered by the overseers of the poor, some of which date from the last century, although others have been added in recent years. By the year 1840 there were over thirty relief-giving societies in the city of New York. These associations were instituted " on the prin t For the sake of completeness several paragraphs are reproduced in the latter part of the present chapter from the author's earlier and more elementary "Practice of Charity." 314 ciple of providing for particular classes of the indigent, which united moral objects with the relief of physical want."' An informally constituted committee in the winter of 1842-1843 made a careful examination of the situation, the results of which, in the form of conclusions, were stated by the committee as follows : "First. That the want of discrimination in giving relief
was a fundamental and very prevalent defect in most of these schemes of charity. They had no adequate arrange ment by which it was possible to learn the character and condition of applicants. Of course no sound judgment could be exercised in distributing aid ; and the societies being subjected to constant imposition, large sums were so misapplied as to create more want than they relieved.
" Second. The societies were found to act independently of each other, which was another very fruitful source of evil. For as there was no concert of action or reciproca tion of intelligence between them, they were ignorant of each other's operations ; and artful mendicants so turned this ignorance to their own advantage as often to obtain assistance from many of the societies at the same time without detection. The most undeserving consequently received the largest amount of assistance, and were thus encouraged in dissolute and improvident habits ; while the better class of the needy not only obtained less aid, but often far less than their necessities required and the benevolent would have bestowed, provided such a knowledge of their character and circumstances had been possessed which a better system would have conferred.
" Third. They made no adequate provision for personal intercourse with the recipients of alms at their dwellings, nor for such sympathy and counsel as would tend to en courage industrious and virtuous habits, and foster among them a spirit of self-dependence. In short, the final and prospective end of all true charity was generally unattained by them, inasmuch as, in addition to other defects, they failed to provide for the permanent physical and moral improvement of those their alms relieved.
1 First Annual Report of the Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor, p. 14.