The Quincy Report (10.81 MB) was a Massachusetts Legislative Committee Report chaired by future Boston mayor Josiah Quincy. The focus of the report was on the problem of increased pauperism in Massachusetts.
The Committee was of the opinion that some of the long-established habits of distributing public charity to the poor should be investigated and, if need be, altered. At this time many people in Massachusetts felt that they shared many similarities with England in regards to rapidly increasing expenditures for care of the poor. England’s pauper expenditures had in the 30-year period between 1785 and 1815 increased from two to five million sterling. Similarly, in Massachusetts, from 1801 to 1820 expenditures increased from twenty thousand to seventy two thousand dollars. In 1816, England’s House of Commons instituted a Select Committee to deal with the evils of pauperism and to consider new ways to address the issue.
The Quincy committee was created in reaction to initiatives set by Parliament’s House of Commons select committee. The Massachusetts Legislature sent surveys to all towns in Massachusetts as a way of finding out how each community provide aid to paupers. They determined that, based on the results returned by 161 communities, there were basically four modes of providing for the poor:
- Outdoor Relief: provides supplies, food, fuel, and/or cash to poor families in their own homes.
- Pauper Auction: provides for the poor by letting them out to the lowest bidder in families at large within the town.
- Bidding the Local Poor Out to the Lowest Bidder: a town contract system where one person bids to take care of the all of the community’s poor.
- Poorhouse or Almshouse
The Committee identified two classes of poor:
- The impotent poor, who were totally incapable of work due to old age, infancy, sickness, or physical disability
- The able poor, all of who were capable of some degree of work. For these people Houses of Industry were recommended.
The Committee was of the opinion that in providing for the poor it eventually caused the poor to consider this expenditure their right. They also stated that both England and the United States were in agreement on five basic principals:
- That of all modes of providing for the poor, the most wasteful, expensive, injurious to their morals, and destructive of their industrious habits is that of “outdoor relief”.
- That the most economical mode is that of the Almshouses, Workhouses, or Houses of Industry, in which work is provided for every degree of ability amongst the paupers. Thus the able poor are made to provide, at least partially for their own support, or for the comfort of the impotent poor.
- That of all modes of employing the labor of the pauper, agriculture affords the best, the most healthy, and the most certainly profitable. The poor being thus enabled always raise at least their own provisions.
- That the success of these establishments depends upon their being placed under the superintendence of a Board of Overseers constituted of the most substantial and intelligent inhabitants of the vicinity.
- That of all causes of pauperism, intemperance (alcohol abuse) in the use of spirituous liquors, is the most powerful and universal.
Quincy Report Introduction Questions
- According to the Quincy Report, what are the pros and cons the Committee uses in evaluating these four modes in providing for the poor?
- Outdoor Relief
- Public Auction
- Contract System
- Almshouse / Workhouse
- Which modes would have been more popular in small towns? Why? Which would have been more popular in large cities? Why?
- The Committee was of the opinion that providing for the poor eventually causes the poor to consider this a right. Do you agree? Why?