This section is from the "The Subvention In The State Finances Of Pennsylvania" book, by Frederic B. Garver.
During the years 1844 to 1859 subventions to private charitable institutions increased very slowly. The financial difficulties of the state, due to the failure of the state works, tended to prevent the development of new subventions and restricted the increase of those already in existence. But the period immediately following the Civil War witnessed an unprecedented extension of the subventions to all sorts of charitable relief. *113
Three types of charitable relief not previously assisted began to receive aid during the decade preceding the Civil War. In 1852 the state began to subsidize the Western Pennsylvania Hospital, which was located at Pittsburgh. *114 The grant was made for the assistance of an asylum for the insane, which was conducted as a department of the hospital. It was not at first a permanent annual payment and a period of five years elapsed before a second appropriation was made; but, after 1857, the hospital received aid annually.
110 Act 11 April, 1868, P.L. p. 28.
111 Act 11 April, 1867, P.L. p. 18.
112 Annual Message, 1861, Pennsylvania Archives, IV Ser. VIII, p. 280.
113 As has been pointed out in Chapter IV, but three institutions were recognized, in 1844, as having a claim for an annual subvention. These were the House of Refuge, the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and the Pennsylvania Institution for the Blind, all located at Philadelphia.
114 Act 4 May, 1852, P.L. p. 553.
It is not quite clear why the state should have begun a subvention for the benefit of an asylum for the insane. A state hospital for that purpose was already in operation at Harrisburg. It was asserted that an asylum should be located in the western part of the state, partly for convenience and partly because the Harrisburg institution could not accommodate all the insane who might have been committed to a public asylum. But there seems to have been no good reason why another state institution should not have been established at Pittsburgh, unless the General Assembly believed that it was temporarily cheaper to assist a private concern.
The fact that the state contributed to the support of the hospital did not obligate the managers to receive patients free of charge. At that time the state hospital did not, in theory at least, provide free treatment. The estate of any insane person, or his relatives liable according to the poor law for his support, were chargeable with the cost of food, clothing, and care. The state provided the building and equipment and medical treatment. If the person committed was a pauper, the county of which he was a legal resident was responsible for the cost of his maintenance. In making the grant to the Pittsburgh institution the legislature required it to admit patients on the same basis as the state hospital at Harrisburg. There was, of course, only the roughest sort of approximation between the amount of the grant and a fair remuneration for the service rendered.
This subvention to Dixmont, as the department for the insane was afterwards called, was one of the most significant that the state ever introduced. It initiated a policy which has had highly unfavorable effects upon the entire system of state charitable and correctional institutions. When it became the settled practice of the legislature to appropriate large amounts to privately managed concerns, there was an ever-present danger that the state institutions would be neglected in order to deal liberally with those under the control of individuals. The full effects of this policy become evident especially after 1873. *115
115 See Chapter IX, infra.
In 1853 an institution that provided care and training for another class of defectives gained assistance from the state. The act that incorporated the Pennsylvania Training School for Idiotic and Feeble-Minded Children also provided for a state contribution of $20,000 toward the cost of building and grounds, if an equal sum should be raised for that purpose by private subscription. *116 This was a lump-sum grant modeled after those made in earlier years to the institutions for the training of the blind and of the deaf mutes. Following the precedent set in the case of those two institutions, the act of 1853 also provided that the state should pay $200 annually, per child, for not more than twenty inmates of the institution for the feeble minded. *117 These children were to be apportioned to the various counties in proportion to their representation in the lower house of the General Assembly. It was required that they should be indigents, and the period of their training at state expense was limited to five years. *118
During the next six years the state contributed liberally to the cost of buildings. Of course, it was usually provided that such contributions should be dependent upon the subscription of certain sums by private persons. But the fact that the institution returned again and again asking aid for the completion of the buildings originally planned raises a strong presumption that the private subscriptions were not always paid in full. *119 The state took no lien upon the property nor any other security for its investment, and aside from the practically futile requirement that the corporation should make an annual report to the legislature, no control or audit of accounts seem to have been required.