This section is from the "The Subvention In The State Finances Of Pennsylvania" book, by Frederic B. Garver.
In 1827 the subscribers succeeded in convincing the legislature that the service they were rendering was of sufficient public interest to justify assistance from the central treasury, and a grant of $10,000, payable in installments within three years, was made for their benefit. *36 After this amount had been paid, the state made no further subsidies until 1832, when an annual grant of $5,000 was authorized to continue until 1835. *37 It seems quite clear from the language of the law making the original grant that the intention of the legislature was to assist the managers of the institution in acquiring a permanent plant, rather than to create an annual subsidy.
At the time the state agreed to contribute to the original establishment, the City and County of Philadelphia was required to pay $10,000 to the corporation within two years and $5,000 annually thereafter. *38 One reason for requiring Phildadelphia to assist in establishing and maintaining the House of Refuge is clear, if we remember that a majority of the inmates of the institution were likely to come from her jails and almshouses. Again, the institution was located in that city, and the local contribution may have been necessary to overcome the objections of members of the legislature from other counties. Children committed from counties other than Philadelphia were required to be maintained "at the public expense of the proper county. *39 The payment by Philadelphia was increased by the act of 1830 to $10,000. *40 Two years later
35 For a good exposition of the purposes for which the House was conducted see the opinion of the court in Ex parte Crouse,4 Wharton 11, (1839), a case in which a writ of habeas corpus was denied although the person for whose benefit the action was brought had not been convicted of any offense in court, before being committed to the House.
On the whole, since the children dealt with were placed in the institution, not because they were in need of education but because they either already were, or were in danger of becoming criminals, the service performed by the corporation controlling the House should be regarded as reformatory, rather than educational. The same argument would serve to show that the service was not strictly charitable; although there is an element of both education and charity contained in it, the state agreed to contribute $5,000 annually until 1835. This grant was continued from time to time and from 1832 to 1844 the amount appropriated annually was $5,000. In the latter year only $4,000 was actually paid because of the depleted condition of the state treasury.
36 Act 2 March, 1827, P.L. pp. 76-79.
37 Act 30 March, 1832, P.L. pp. 224-225.
38 Secs. II & III, Act 2 March, 1827, P.L. pp. 77-78.
39 Sec. IV, Act 2 March, 1827, P.L. p. 78.
40 House of Refuge, Report (1830), Treasurer's Report; also Act 27 March, 1830, P.L. p.134.
Thus the grant to this institution developed from an occasional subvention for buildings into a subvention for current expenses for a limited period of years, and finally into an annual permanent subvention for maintenance. The progress of the grant through these three stages indicates the changing attitude of the assembly toward this particular charity. At first it was regarded as a worthy private charity of sufficient public interest to warrant the state in assisting in its establishment; but the assembly was not ready to assume financial responsibility for its continuance. In the next stage the assembly made a grant for maintenance to assist the institution during a temporary financial embarrassment; and in the last stage the central government assumed partial responsibility for the continuance of the charity.
This development was brought about by several causes. In the first place the institution had demonstrated that it was better fitted to care for and to reform unruly children than were the common prisons. In the second place the spirit of extravagance, which pervaded the state appropriations during this period, led to greater and greater liberality; and in the third place, once the state had invested in the building of the institution it was financially committed to support it in a time of need, in order that the original investment might not be lost. *41 The last statement merely puts concretely the general principle that if governments begin to make occasional appropriations for a given service a claim is likely to be established for permanent support.
The original incorporation act provided for the management of the institution by a board of twenty-one managers, elected by the subscribers, who in turn chose the officers of administration and of instruction. *42 But in 1832, after the annual payment by the City and County of Philadelphia had been increased and the state subsidy renewed, the court of quarter sessions of the county in which the institution was located was authorized to appoint three additional managers, and the mayor of the city of Philadelphia two.13 Thus local administrative bodies were given the power to appoint five out of the twenty-six directors of the corporation. In any matter involving the conduct of business they would have been hopelessly out-voted by the directors elected by the subscribers, and it must be concluded that their function was to provide the proper authorities with information rather than to control the management of the institution. The act of 1826 required a report each year to the state legislature, *44 but, as was the case with the schools for defectives, the reports were too meagre to afford that body much real information.
41 House of Refuge, Report (1830), Treasurer's Statement.
42 Act 23 March, 1826, P.L. p. 134.
43 Act 30 March, 1832, P.L. pp. 224-225.
44 Sec. VII, Act of 1826, P.L. p. 135.