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Report of the Joint Special Committee on the State Asylum for the Insane Made to the General Assembly at its January Session, A.D. 1868 | State Archives Catalog

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Title:
Report of the Joint Special Committee on the State Asylum for the Insane Made to the General Assembly at its January Session, A.D. 1868
Description:

Public social welfare in Rhode Island dates as far back as 1647, when the colony's legislature  passed a law enjoining each town  "to provide carefully for reliefe of the poore, to maintayne the impotent, and...to appoint an overseer for the same purpose. " Thus, this colonial version of England's poor laws confided care for the poor and dependent to local government authorities. Each of the colony’s towns and cities was responsible for dealing with local crime, poverty and the "insane" as well as with individuals deemed morally unfit to remain in the community.  Along with jails, each town was given authority to establish asylums and poorhouses as it saw fit.  The Dexter Asylum, for example, was established for Providence in 1838 and the Butler Hospital, was incorporated by the General Assembly at their January Session 1844 and operational in 1847, maintained the poor and insane for those towns that did not have asylums. This situation endured into the twentieth century. (Click here to see an extract on Rhode Island poor laws from Department of Commerce and Labor. Bureau of Census. Special Reports. Paupers in Almshouses. 1904. Accessed June 2013.)

By the 1860s, however, the provision and implementation of social welfare programs had begun to shift to newly established state government institutions. In 1867 the General Assembly struck a joint committee to look into the feasibility of establishing a state asylum for the insane. In its 1868 report to the General Assembly, however, the committee explained that it had been necessary to broaden the inquiry to include  "a thorough investigation and review of the whole subject of pauperism." The committee concluded that state action regarding the insane should properly be taken "with reference to its natural connection with pauperism." Beyond this, the committee also proposed that crime, too, bore a relationship to their investigation, as "Insanity, pauperism and crime are evils which breed upon each other." Rhode Island. Acts, Resolve and Reports, Report of the Joint Committee on the State Asylum for the Insane. Report on the State Asylum for the Insane. Appendix #7. January 1868. 10pp

ID:
1636-194
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State Archives Catalog
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Rhode Island State Archives
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Copyright is in the public domain unless otherwise specified.  We reserve the right to restrict reproduction of materials due to preservation concerns.
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