Human ‘Perfectability’

Indoor relief- almshouses, outdoor relief- relief in the home

Chapter 3- Pre Civil-War, 1777-1860

  • Colonial America saw poor as an organic/natural part of society, as it went into the 19th century poor were looked on as deviants, and needing reform.  Change their environment vs. containing them to keep order
  • Colonies- only white men with property were allowed to vote.
  • After independence – first 3 decades property requirement was eliminated. Most white men could vote.  Women, blacks and NA were not allowed to vote.  NA were considered “domestic dependent nations”- aliens not even citizens.  And they did not count at all vs. slaves were counted as 3/5th of a person.
  • States were made responsible for social welfare needs of families and individuals- as it was not addressed within the constitution.

Pre-Civil War- rapid change and population growth

  • Population growth: 1790- 3,929,000/ 1800- risen 34%= 5,297,000 (19% nonwhite/6% lived in urban areas)/1830- 12 mil/1840- 17m/1850-23m/1860-31.5mil
  • 1790- less then 2% of population were 65 yrs +, median age 16.  Age equaled status
  • 1860- median age 20, increasingly aged society— wealth, income and property equaled status
  • AA population- 4.5 million—4 million were slaves.  By 1775-1st attempt prohibition of importation of slaves.  Revisited and tried again in 1808.  Restriction of growth of AA population to birth and death. Down from 19% to 14% by 1860.
  • Urbanization- 20% of population lived in urban areas
  • IMMIGRATION wave beginning in 1830’s, peaked in 1850s.  Mainly from Ireland and Germany (87% of the migrant population). Stayed mainly in the North.
  • Perceived as a threat, due to foreign and Catholic to protestant territory.  Threat to employment as they take lower paying work and needed immediate financial assistance.  Anti-immigration feelings were strong. The Naturalization Act of 1795 increased residency to 5 years  for white persons.  Alien and Sedation Act of 1798 increased to 14 yrs. Later repealed.
  • Native American population- decimated due to war, disease, destruction of lands and game.  Pushed to the west and beyond the Mississippi.
  • Territorial Expansion included Northwest Territory/Louisiana Purchase/Florida Purchase and the Texas Annexation, Oregon and Mexican territories, Gadsden Purchase.  Increased to from 13 original states to 33.
  • The invention of the cotton gin base of southern economy which created the need for large plantation and need to expand westward into more land.
  • Spinning jenny and the power loom in the North led to textile factories and continued industrialization.
  • Expansion of cotton production were driving the economy- which spurred the development of the Mid-Atlantic states which produced farm commodities, meat and dairy products, lumber and other necessities—became shipping and banking centers.  Each region was dependent upon each other—south- cotton plantations- north textile factories, and mid-Atlantic- everything else.  Rise of cotton- ensured that slavery was the bedrock of the American economy.
  • South- maintained the need for slave labor- due to this idea that everyone was taken care of and no need for social welfare.  But there were groups in need: poor whites, abandoned and orphaned children, mulattoes and freed slave== noblesse oblige
  • North- production of textile mills first required large labor force.  Originally recruitment of native-born young farm girls, who were housed in dormitories.  Continued increase of production moved to immigrants and Catholics.  Native born women went into teaching.
  • Factory system was born- spread to other industries and rapid growth in New England, which increased the population of the cities.

Industrialization and urbanization created social issues that needed to be addressed.  Need for mobility and wage labor became requirements for family security.

  • Affect on the family; technology revolution, made families more dependent on wage labor outside the home.  Decline in the farming as means of support.  Separated men from the home, and defined women’s role (specifically middle class women) centered in the home, family and church.

Early 19th century saw a comeback of Protestantism= more optimistic and humanistic

  • Response to unemployment and inequality in income led to reform.  First unions were established.
  • Industrialization developed the middle class- skilled workers, artisans, merchants and owners of small business and professional and service entrepreneurs.  And expansion to the west created small independent land owners
  • 1828- Jacksonian democracy- egalitarianism and move for individual achievement.  Reform of the individual—centered around right to universal and complete education, left to the states to develop—establishment of schools by localities spread from New England to the West and mid-Atlantic states.  South did not have public education until after Civil War.
  • Male suffrage expanded due to the western expansion, and universal right to vote for all males (even free blacks in NY was reality by 1821).  Women did not achieve suffrage, but start of the women’s suffrage movement 1848.
  • Women became involved in reform movements- Temperance, suffrage and abolition of slavery
  • Temperance Movement—due to growing past time of drinking whiskey, spending time in the saloons, physical abuse that occurred after drinking episodes, and loss of time and work due to drunkenness.  Growing concern between correlations of drinking to unemployment to pauperism.
  • Women became key components of moral reform movements.  The central reform of the North and the West became abolition of slavery due to religious humanitarianism, moral force surrounding black uprising on freedom, growing democracy.  At the same time, the white south united in an effort o maintain and extend slavery.


  • Reform in pre-civil war geared towards the individual.  Formal institutions developed as a means to addressing need.  32 hospitals for the insane were built during this period.
  • (Dorothea Dix reformed the mental institution- to be more humane, provide treatment when it can, and be a place for rest and stability- requested land for the building of institutions.  Granted 10  mil. Acres)  In 1854 President Peirce vetoed government responsibility, made it states responsibility to deal with social welfare issues and private charity.  Only veterans (disabled vets, widowed vets wives and orphaned vet children) were maintained as govt. responsibility
  • Poverty still viewed as individual fault- poor laws continued as basis of social welfare.
  • Identified to Aggravate Causes of poverty= lotteries, pawnbrokers, houses of ill fame, numerous charitable institutions—giving and taking help encouraged the tendency to idleness (continued debate today regarding welfare reform) and extravagance, relaxed their need for industry and became absolute dependent and burden to community. Cost of poverty- created need for prevention efforts.  Volunteer organizations, established to remove causes of poverty through friendly advise (friendly visitors)= ignorance and lack of religious fervor reinforced pauperism.  Outdoor relief (cash assistance) promoted continued dependence—some states abolished programs. Indoor relief of farming out and indenture were not viewed any more positive.

Largest groups of paupers, children and elderly (not looked at often).  Yates report re: paupers of New York and welfare system four major findings:

(1) farming out caused neglect and abuse
(2) education of poor children nonexistent
(3) no provision of employment for the poor
(4) no attention to disbursement of funds

Recommended the “poor house plan”.  Those that were able to work-long term care and housed in poorhouses, those unworthy poor thrown in jail or forced to work. Established indoor almshouses as the main approach to poverty.  Dramatic increase of almshouses throughout the states.  Massachusetts in 1824 had 83 almshouses, by 1860 there were 219

Increase in criticism as increase in growth due to lumping together any that deviated from the norm of society.


  • Fear of permissiveness in the care of children and the growing presence of immigrants, continued to concern for discipline and education of children.  Institutions for children established, 1st one 1729.  1st part of the 19th century saw increase in orphanages. By 1851 there were 77 children institutions, additional 47 by 1860.   Orphan asylums, houses of refuge, reformatories for delinquent children—privately owned by religious, social, foreign born national groups. Many child institutions were receiving state subsidies for the care of children.
  • Many reformers saw poor families as causes for social problems and considered bad influence to children which limited their contact with their child.  Orphan asylums and institutions for delinquents, goal was submission and obedience of the child.
  • Houses of refuge modeled “family home care”—shelter, routine, discipline= semi military, characterized by discipline, training and rehabilitation.
  • Child institutions declined by 1850, almshouses continued to be the most available form of care—increasing growth of homeless, orphaned and delinquent children, with the lack of ability to continue to build institutions, decline in need for child labor, apprenticeship or indenture and rise in public education.
  • Charles Loring Brace- president of the Children’s Aid Society of New York developed the idea of foster home placement outside the city was best solution.  During a 12 year period, Children’s Aid Society placed 4614 children with western farmers.  Continued until WW1, over 120,000 children were placed.