This section is from the "The Subvention In The State Finances Of Pennsylvania" book, by Frederic B. Garver.
Poor relief in Pennsylvania, as has been pointed out, *26 became a local charge at the organization of Penn's government. During the century following, relief of the indigent included not only the provision of the necessities of life for those who were unable, for any reason whatever, to support themselves, but also the care and maintenance of the insane and the feeble-minded, the care of orphans, and the treatment of the indigent sick. The principle of settlement was introduced in imitation of the English poor law and each county was charged only with those who could prove residence. This provision remained very much the same as in the Statute of Elizabeth. *27 The principle that the place of residence (the county) should look after the poor was firmly established when the state first took up the policy of making grants and not even at the present time has any attempt been made to relieve the localities of the primary burden of poor relief. What assistance the state has given— and in recent years it has amounted to millions of dollars annually—has been in aid of special services such as provision for the insane, homes for defectives and orphans, and similar institutions. But this came only with the recognition of the necessity of providing institutions which specialized in the treatment of these classes.
25 Report of the Committee on the Establishment of Common Schools, Jour. of House of Reps. (1792), p. 177.
26 Supra, p. 12.
There are instances reported by secondary writers of state aid for the building of almshouses, but these may be regarded as the exceptional cases in which extraordinary local conditions, coupled with influence in the legislature, obtained for the county a special concession.
The first large grants for charity were made to privately owned institutions. Thus the Pennsylvania Hospital, which was chartered by the provincial assembly in 1751, received aid not only from the colonial government, but also, on various occasions, from the British parliament. *28 In 1793 the hospital received a peculiar grant from the state. No money was given, but the legislature conferred on it the right to receive the proceeds of certain liabilities to the state, up to the amount of $26,666.67. In addition, the commissioners in bankruptcy, appointed under the act of 1785, were required to turn over to the hospital all un• claimed sums due creditors of bankrupts. *29 The contributors to the hospital were required to assume responsibility for the repayment of these claims when the creditors appeared within the time allowed by law. The preamble of the act making this grant recited the benefits which the people of the state, and humanity in general, had received from the activity of the hospital, and asserted the claim that it had upon the generosity of the Commonwealth. But the condition of the state finances was, at that time, not such as to warrant a grant of cash directly from the treasury. So the hospital was given the right to collect some bad debts and to participate in unclaimed moneys. *30 But this assistance proved inadequate, and, in 1796, the General Assembly appropriated $25,000 to assist in completing certain buildings. This act provided that an account of the manner of expending the sum appropriated should be laid before the legislature. *31
27 Commissioners to Revise and Codify Poor Laws (1890), Report, pp. 31 ff.
28 Special Committee of the Senate to Inquire into the Propriety of Establishing a Board of State Charities, Report (1869), pp. 12-13. 29 XIV Stat. at Large, pp. 435-440.
The second charitable institution to receive state aid was The Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf and Dumb. Previous to 1821 an association in Philadelphia had been conducting a school for deaf and dumb children. The parents of the pupils were charged with the cost of maintenance and instruction whenever they were able to pay, but many charity cases were also received. In 1821 the General Assembly incorporated the subscribers of the institution. An appropriation of $8,000 was made to the school, and the state agreed to pay $160 annually for each "indigent pupil taught in said school," but no child could remain there at the state's expense for more than three years. That part of the act obligating the state to pay for the instruction of indigent pupils limited the annual expenditure for the purpose to $8,000. The duration of the annual grant was limited to four years. The corporation was required to report annually to the legislature on the finances and on the management of the institution, but no supervision, either of finance or of methods, was required. *32
These early grants to charitable institutions are significant in that they show the absence of any theory of limitation upon the power of the legislature to aid privately owned charitable institutions if such aid seemed desirable. Since the Pennsylvania Hospital had rendered notable assistance to the public, both during the Revolutionary War and during severe epidemics, it appeared just that the people, through their representatives,, should assist the hospital when it was in financial need. The grant to the school for the deaf and dumb was of a somewhat different sort, since it recognized the obligation of the state to contribute annually to the support of a charitable institution which rendered a needed public service.
30 Thomas G. Morton, in his History of The Pennsylvania Hospital, makes the statement, p. 77, that the hospital received $19,000 from the estates of bankrupts, and intimates that all the $26,666.67 was collected. He also mentions, p. 66, that in 1782 the General Assembly turned over to the hospital unclaimed shares in prizes captured by American privateers during the Revolutionary War. The amount derived from this source was not considerable.
31 Act 4 April, 1796, XV Stat. at Large, pp. 466-467.
32 Act 8 Feb., 1821, P.L. pp. 30-33.