It is obvious that the board was not created to exercise administrative powers. No institutions were placed under its control; it could not coerce those that failed to comply with the law; and it had no actual authority over the amount of the subvention going to any institution. Its chief duties were those of inspection and publication. It was devised to secure information for the guidance of the legislature, but even for that purpose the act creating the board was faulty. Members who received no pay could not have been expected to devote much time to their duties. It followed, therefore, that the greater part of the work of inspection fell upon the general agent. But it is inconceivable that one man could, with the limited office force provided, have inspected efficiently the accounts and the quality of service of the various institutions that received state aid.

Very little was actually accomplished by the board before 1873, but the attitude of the agent was generally favorable to larger appropriations for charity. His report for 1872, which urged larger appropriations from the state treasury, contains an elaborate discussion of the problem of caring for destitute and neglected children. *164 In his opinion there were three possible methods of caring for these dependents. In the first place, the state might provide large institutions in which the children would be fed, housed and educated. But this method was rejected with the statement that " Large establishments cannot be managed so as to embrace all the benefits of family influence, which are regarded as peculiarly important to the successful education and training of children. *165 The second possible method, that of requiring the counties to provide for the children, was dismissed with brief consideration. *166

164 Board of Public Charities, Report (1872), p. 5.

165 Ibid.

166 Ibid.

167 Ibid.

168 Ibid.

A third possibility was the establishment of small local institutions by philanthropic organizations with state aid. These homes, which the agent regarded as among the most useful institutions in the commonwealth were, in his opinion, the proper establishments to have the care and training of neglected children. *167 They provided the home life necessary for the proper education of the child, and, since they were supported in part by private contributions, it was less costly for the state to aid them than to establish homes under its own control. *168

This analysis of the problem seems to have been accepted for many years following the general agent's report, and the arguments in favor of the third scheme have been used to justify and to defend the grants to private institutions even to the present time. His analysis of the problem, therefore, deserves examination. The argument that state institutions cannot bring to bear upon the child the same home influences exerted by small private institutions is based upon the tacit assumption that if the state takes over the work, it must of necessity assemble the children in a few very large homes. This assumption is not, however, a valid one. There is no reason why the state institutions should not be small enough to secure, so far as the question of numbers is concerned, all the benefits of the private institution. Furthermore, since each state home could be constructed upon the plan found to be most desirable, there is good ground for believing that such public institutions would not only provide better physical environment, but also better education and better moral surroundings than would heterogeneous private orphanages. On the other hand, it must be admitted that the state cannot hope to secure the same quality of service from its employees that is sometimes given by those who devote their lives to the training of friendless children in private institutions.

The agent's summary rejection of the local governments as the proper agencies for caring for orphans was also based upon an unwarranted assumption. At the time his report was written destitute children were usually committed to the county almshouses. Their education and moral instruction were frequently neglected and the association with adult paupers was not such as might be expected to inculcate habits of industry and morality. But the agent did not, in his published report, sufficiently consider the possibility of providing separate and distinct homes for destitute children. Of course, there is no evidence to show that all, or even a majority of the counties could have been induced at that time to undertake the expense of constructing and maintaining separate institutions. But it is probable that if the state had stood ready to aid them as liberally as it did the private institutions, a majority would have been willing to provide suitable orphanages.

Furthermore, his argument that it was cheaper to aid private institutions receiving donations from individuals, was based on the assumption that these donations either would not be forthcoming, or could not be efficiently applied unless the state aided the institutions to which they were given. The possibility of state and private homes or orphanages serving the same need in the same community received no consideration. Yet the experience of many states, in which private and public charity have been kept almost entirely separate, shows that hospitals and orphanages as well as other agencies of philanthropy will be established, if there is need, by private benefactions even though the state maintains similar institutions.