1824 Report for Herkimer County, NY
the Poorhouse Story

(cont'd)                                                        NEWPORT.

   Perhaps it is not hazarding too much, to say, that lease-land, and extensive cotton and woollen manufactories have a tendency to increase the number of paupers in the town in which they are situated; and is it not a good reason, that these manufactories should be taxed?  [Letter from the supervisor of Newport, see also Taghkanick in Columbia co.]

FAIRFIELD.

   From my situation, I have had occasion to examine the laws relating to the poor, and observe their operation, and have long since formed the conclusion that we have copied too closely from the English system.  It is more easy to find fault, than to point out practicable remedies; notwithstanding I shall venture to suggest briefly the outlines of a system, however objectionable it may be in some particulars.
   1. Abolish all existing laws on the subject.  2. At convenient and proper places in each senatorial district, erect at public expense, permanent alms-houses, with hydraulic privileges appendent, and to these establishments send all permanent paupers, whenever their place of legal settlement, may happen to be in the state, AND LET THEM BE EQUALIZED ANNUALLY, AS NEAR AS MAY BE EXPEDIENT.  3. Appoint a visiting commissioner of the alms-house, with plenary powers, and make it his duty semi-annually to visit each house, employ agents, correct abuses, audit accounts and perform all the duties of an active officer of government.  4. Provide for the support of temporary paupers, by order of justices at the expense of the alms-house, by a graduated rule as near as may be.  5. Provide against the introduction of foreign paupers, by severe penalties and for the transportation of such as may by chance be introduced.  6. Provide that all paupers, who are able, shall labor, and for the discharge of others at proper times.  7. Let the expenses be paid out of the public treasury, and let the monies now paid, for support of the poor, be paid into the treasury.  8. Provide that all beggars shall be sent to the alms-house and put to labor.  9. All needful detail.
   I would remark,  1. It would be the cheapest mode, as a pauper can be subsisted comfortably, while in health, without labor, for $30 per annum, in the country; whereas the estimate now is four times that, or in the whole state exclusive of New-York and Albany, four hundred thousand dollars annually; a sum greater than the support of civil government.  2. The expenses would be borne equally in proportion to ability; whereas from accident or some other cause, some towns pay now three times as much as others of greater ability.  3. The expenses of removals from extreme parts, and the consequent grievous litigation, as well as the payment of the innumerable host of officers, would be avoided.  4. The infirm could be more readily healed--the idiot more humanely provided for--the lunatic more securely kept, and the youth better prepared for society.  5. The more important advantage is, that pauperism would decrease an hundred fold.  There is no remark more common for the drunkard, the dissolute gambler, the idle vagrant, and those whose fortunes and prosperity are declining, than that, when the property is all gone, the town must support them;  thus encouraging idleness, vice, and consequent pauperism.  Whereas, if it was known that, when reduced to such a situation, they were to leave home, wife, children, and friends, with their pleasures, for a house of industry, temperance and morality, excluded from the view of the world, and submit to rigid, though humane restraint, it would in many instances al least, restrain men from pursuing the course, which is the real cause of so much pauperism.  I am aware of the objections to the expenses, in the first instance, of such establishments, but believe me, they will vanish, when they are put in opposition to the result.  [Letter from A. Mann, jun. Esq. Fairfield.]

 

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