92 structure altered.

In document Hobart town society, 1855-1895 (Page 163-178)

8o instituted a House of Mercy soon after his arrival in I 889

92 structure altered.

The absence of one parent was not considered a sound excuse for a claim for relief. There had always to be an

^ Oddfellow, 1 December I

87

I. H . of A.J. 1889? Paper 60. Appendix N o .

4

exceptionally large family - five children below working age could usually produce sympathy - or the surviving parent had to be infirm in some way. It stands to the credit of the scheme, and to the general felxibility of the system of private

administration, that the Society was always ready to consider each application for aid on its face value, and subsidiary payments were frequently made to widows to supplement their small incomes during bad times.

The professional beggars of i860 constituted the enemy to the Committee of the Benevolent Society:

There are a large number of persons habitually beggars, and who find they can realize a much better livelihood by imposing upon the credulity of the benevolents, than by the exertions of honest industry. Many of these beggars by

profession have - notwithstanding their miserable appearance - handsome deposits in the Savings' Bank. Furthermore, many blind, crippled and otherwise disabled persons, will not remain in those public Institutions where infirmity is

sheltered and the sufferers well caredfor, but Q , rather trust to mendicancy...

Charity in all British societies in the nineteenth century faced a sharp dilemma of, on the one hand, social responsibility of the strong for the weak and, on the other, the desired

self-reliance and inner-responsibility of those aided. These sentiments were reinforced in a community where so many of the weak had shown themselves to be ungodly by their original

93

c r i m i n a l a c t s . D e c e p t i o n a n d i m p o s t u r e by t h o s e s e e k i n g r e l i e f w e a k e n e d t u e p o s i t i o n o f t h e c h a r i t a b l e b y p r o v i d i n g m a t e r i a l f o r t h e a r g u m e n t s o f t h e i r c r i t i c s , who f o u n d i t d i f f i c u l t t o a c c e p t t h a t c o l o n i s t s h a d r e s p o n s i b i l i t y f o r c o l o n i a l p o o r . As n i n e t e e n t h c e n t u r y c h a r i t y d e p e n d e d u p o n a c o n c e p t o f p r o g r e s s t o w a r d s a b e t t e r s o c i e t y , d e c e p t i o n was t h e e x h i b i t i o n o f t h e t e n d e n c y t o m o r a l l a p s e w h i c h was t h e a n t i t h e s i s o f p r o g r e s s . D e c e p t i o n w a s , t o some, w o r s e t h a n s t a r v a t i o n and f o r b o t h e x p e d i e n t and m o r a l r e a s o n s i t s p r e v e n t i o n was e s s e n t i a l . The c h e c k s and c o u n t e r c h e c k s o f p r e v e n t i o n o f d e c e p t i o n con sumed much o f t h e c n a r i t a b l e t i m e a n d e n e r g y o f

94 t h e C o mm i t t e e a n d R e g i s t r a r . The p o s i t i o n o f t h e S o c i e t y ' s R e g i s t r a r a n d t h e E x e c u t i v e C o m m i t t e e a s c o n f i d a n t e s a n d c o u n s e l l o r s o f a l l a p p l i c a n t s f o r a i d g a v e them a g r e a t i n f l u e n c e w i t h i n t h e c i t y . They we re e v e n t u a l l y g i v e n d i s c r e t i o n a r y p r i v i l e g e on a d m i s s i o n s t o a l l t h e g o v e r n m e n t p a u p e r i n s t i t u t i o n s - t h e O r p h a n Asyl um, t h e B r i c k f i e l d s a nd t h e New Town P a u p e r Asylum - a n d p o w e r o f

r e c o m m e n d a t i o n f o r p a u p e r t r e a t m e n t a t t h e H o s p i t a l s f o r I n s a n e a n d t h e G e n e r a l H o s p i t a l . The C o mm i tt e e o f t h e S o c i e t y was so h e a v i l y c r i t i c a l o f g o v e r n m e n t i n t e r v e n t i o n i n o u t - d o o r r e l i e f 9 ^ S e e B. D i c k e y , ' C h a r i t y i n New S o u t h W a l e s ' , P h . D . t h e s i s , A . N . U . 1967> PP« 46“ 56> f o r d i s c u s s i o n o f a t t i t u d e s t o w a r d s c h a r i t y i n N.S.W.

That it was granted control over all admissions to relief in the city until, in 1873> the two parties, private and public, agreed on the principle that the Society should provide relief for up to three months duration and the government would then accept these Society cases as more permanent charges:

After the 30th June, a Store for the supply of food instead of money was opened in Argyle St., in connection with the office of the Administrator of Charitable Grants, and from that time all the cases which had been supplied for that Department, by the BenevolenT Society's Depot were witndrawn....

the Executive Committee of the Benevolent Society will undertake to provide in full, as far as they

think required, for all the wants of destitute persons that are of an urgentor temporary nature. But should such cases become chronic or permanent, so as to require long continued assistance, say

beyond three months, then To transfer them to the Government Store. All chronic and permanent or

long continued cases to be provided for in full (without being supplemented in any way by this Society) from the Government Store...the

Administrator of Charitable Grants furnishes The Society regularly every month, wiTh a printed

list of all on the GovernmenT books, arranged

alphabetically with the food and money allowances __ issued to each.

The influence of the Benevolent Society did not end with supervision of all out-door relief. The Dorcas Society was providing its layettes and midwife fees for poor but honesT mothers, out it was the Benevolent Society which was asked to administer the government's lying-in arrangements.

The Committee of the Society helped in applying the public pressure which brought about the opening of the Industrial Schools and Reformatory, and eventually caused the Orphan

Asylum system to come to an end. By 1880 the Benevolent Society Committee had taken over the supervision of the boarding-out of children, and discretion on admittances to the government

pauper depots largely devolved upon the Society by means of its collation of all records of city paupers admitted and discharged from all institutions.

The comprehensiveness of overseeing by the Society’s Committee yielded to it the status of a Charity Organization

96

Society without this being a deliberate intention. It was even used as the vehicle for the control of emergency relief after the occasionally damaging floods and fires from which Hobart has always suffered.

This remarkable isolation of power was not without its disadvantages. The Society’s very success hurt the consciences of those idealists who had considered the eleemosynary process as essentially finite, and themselves as social tinkerers who

9 A letter to the editor of C.N., December I

889

> discusses whether Tasmania should have a C.O.S. In I

89

O George Stanton

Crouch and the Reverend J. Simmons were Hobart representatives to the Australasian Charity Organization Society inaugural meeting in Melbourne. Crouch read a paper written by Lady Teresa Hamilton - P.F., December I

89

O and G.S.Crouch, Reminiscences, p.51*

would, get the machine to run smoothly. Instead they became intermediaries dispensing a perennial social service as agents of the State.

Moreover the group of men who began the Society in i860 received little replacement from the younger generation. They openly deplored the situation but there was no doubt an element of possessiveness in the tenacity of the ageing philanthropists. The Chairman in I

885

was the Reverend J.W.Simmons, who led a Committee of 29 and a membership of 66 subscribers and all resident ministers. His report to the 26th Annual General Meeting was received by a total attendance of ten. In the records we are informed that he discussed the way that:

...year by year the voluntary contributions had been decreasing, and unless the position of affairs

could be properly understood he was afraid they would cease altogether. They could not disabuse the public mind of the theory that they had become a Government institution, and people when appealed to for subscriptions said, ’It is a Government affair now, why come to us privately?' It was the same with the hospital and other institutions, they were leaning on the State for everything

instead of people meeting them halfway, contributing their share, and then asking the Government to

subsidize them....they were simply saving the Government a great deal of money,...

It was quite a problem; the wheel had turned almost the full circle. The difference between the benevolent

institutions of

1850

and those of

I89O

was that the former were administered by paid, expatriate officials, and the latter

by a small group of private citizens impelled by moral and social imperatives, but with the financial burden still upon government.

How successful were the institutions created by the

charitable citizens in improving the community? It is necessary to distinguish the two groups of needy; the remnants of the emancipists, and the new generation of children. One conclusion is clear; the two groups enjoyed different fortunes. The

changes which faced the maturing native born are described in further chapters but very little which is written there concerns the survivors of transportation. The inefficients, the

emancipists who did not become respectable, formed a hard core within the city who did not seem to be amenable to any of the philanthropy offered by their fellow citizens.

F.S.Edgar, Government Inspector, the man who was paid to go into the houses of the city‘s poor, who could exact little respect and special attention when he mixed with them, could advisedly record their;

...idleness, intemperance, immorality, extravagance and a determination on the part of some who are able bodied persons not to work, but rather to

o b t a i n a p r e c a r i o u s s u b s i s t e n c e anyway r a t h e r t h a n p r o v i d e f o r t h e m s e l v e s o r f a m i l y by t h e i r ~ own i n d u s t r y . . . . T h e y c o u l d be v e r y c o n t e n t w i t h t h e i r l i u t l e c o m f o r t s when t h e c o n c e p t o f p r o g r e s s h ad n o t become t f t e i r e t h i c . A f t e r t h e v a r i o u s m i n e r a l s t r i k e s :

Many a man comes b a c k w i t h a few h u n d r e d p o u n d s i n h i s p o c k e t , a nd l i t e r a l l y d o e s n o t know w h a t t o do w i t h t h e m . I f he i s u n m a r r i e d , a nd h a s no f i x e d home, t h e p u b l i c h o u s e i s t h e b a n k f o r h i s d e p o s i t s . I f he i s m a r r i e d , w i t h a f a m i l y , t h e r e i s more p r o b a b i l i t y o f h i s w i s h i n g t o do s o m e t h i n g w i t h h i s money, a n d t o do i t f o r o t h e r s , n o t f o r h i m s e l f . Bu t i n m os t c a s e s he d o e s n o t know w h a t t o d o; a n d a f t e r p u r c h a s i n g a g o l d w a t c h o r t w o, a n d a r i d i c u l o u s o u t f i t o f s i l k s a n d s a t i n s f o r h i s w i f e a n d d a u g h t e r s , h i s i n g e n u i t y i s f a i r l y e x h a u s t e d , a n d t h e r e s t o f h i s money l i e s i d l e i n t h e B a n k . . . . T h e s e p e o p l e a p p e a r i n c o n g r u o u s a g a i n s t t h e i d e a l i z e d p i c t u r e o f t h e n o b l e c o l o n i a l workman s t r u g g l i n g f o r p o w e r i n

In document Hobart town society, 1855-1895 (Page 163-178)