Poverty and Social Work Essay example

8858 Words Mar 10th, 2011 36 Pages
From Poor Law to Welfare State: A History of Social Welfare in America- Walter I. Trattner

Chapter 1: The Background

The chapter traces the origin of welfare practices and caring for the needy from primitive times to the Elizabethan Poor Laws. References include Hammurabi, a Babylonian ruler who included protection of the vulnerable a part of his code in 2000 BC and the ancient Greeks and Romans (including Aristotle, 384-322 BC) who considered giving to charity a virtue.

Perhaps more important to American welfare, were ancient Jewish doctrines which established that giving and receiving were duties. Those who could give were obliged to do so, while those who were in need were obliged to accept help. The Talumd codified these
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Various residency requirements were used to determine who should get aid. During the 17th and 18th centuries, strangers were warned to leave town within a given period of time. The expanding economy in the colonies made settlement determinations increasingly difficult and this system was nearly abandoned by the end of the 18th century.

The “unsettled poor” led to the first major revision in poor relief. Many people were driven from their homes to Boston during King Philip’s War, which led the locality to appeal to the state for funds to care for the poor in 1701.

Attitudes toward poverty relief stemmed from the Elizabethan poor law system. Public responsibility for the needy was stressed. At the same time, Calvinism was very influential. Hard work was considered “a calling” and a virtue, leading to the widespread condemnation of the able-bodied poor. Idleness among the able-bodied was punished via indentured servitude, whipping, and exile from town. Idleness was akin to a crime.

The native American’s refusal to adopt western religion and ways of living was also considered a vice and led to extermination. Slaves were to be taken care of by slave owners and free blacks were excluded from official poor relief.

Apprenticeship was used to care for children, both because it was a good means of discipline, it was efficient, and it corresponded with Calvinistic ideas. Separate laws for the mentally ill were less common. Massachusetts enacted a law

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