This section is from the "The Subvention In The State Finances Of Pennsylvania" book, by Frederic B. Garver.
Section 18 of Article III imposed further restrictions upon the power of the legislature to make subventions to privately owned and managed institutions. *184 This section reads, "No appropriation, except for pensions or gratuities for military services, shall be made for charitable, educational, or benevolent purposes, to any person or community, nor to any denomination or sectarian institution, corporation, or association." On the face of it, this section would seem absolutely to prohibit subventions or grants to an institution controlled by a religious organization engaged in charitable, educational, or benevolent undertakings.
Debate on this section showed that the proponents of the prohibition had chiefly in mind grants to orphanages and hospitals controlled by the church. *185 One delegate stated specifically that the state subventions to religious charities were bringing the churches into politics, and that the result was extravagance in appropriations, since attempts were naturally made to satisfy the demands of all denominations and sects. *186
A further reason advanced for the support of this section was that the state subvention was discouraging private contributions to charitable institutions. It was alleged that private philanthropists no longer felt that there was a distinct and separate field for their activities and that private institutions came to rely more and more upon state support. *187
184 Thorpe's Constitutions, V, p. 3128.
185 See general statements by Mr. Bartholemew, Convention to Amend the Constitution (1872-1873), Debates, II, p. 676, col. 1; by Mr. Dallas, idem, II, p. 686, col1; and by Mr. Newlin, idem, II, p. 686, col. 2.
186 Mr. D. N. White, idem, II, p. 688, col. 1.
187 Mr. D. N. White, idem, II, p. 688, col. 1; and Mr. Bartholemew, idem, II, p. 676, cols. 1 and 2.
Sections 17 and 18 did not, of course, pass the convention without opposition. Very few of the delegates ventured to deny that many abuses existed, that appropriations were frequently misused, and that the legislature should be more careful in making the subventions, but the sections were opposed by those averse to limiting too closely the powers of the General Assembly. *188 It was also denied that the subventions were chiefly of local benefit, for, although the institutions were located in the large cities, they received people from much wider areas. *189 Finally, it was denied that the subventions tended to discourage private benevolence. *190 On this last point no evidence of a substantial character was introduced either by the opponents or advocates of the subventions. And, although there has been much discussion of the subject in recent years, no comprehensive investigation of the accounts of a large number of institutions, which would prove or disprove the assertion, has ever been made.
Section 19, Article III, deals briefly with appropriations for the support of soldiers' widows and orphans. *191 It permits grants to private institutions that assist either of these special classes, but the moneys so appropriated must be used directly for the support of such beneficiaries and not for the general purposes of the institutions.
188 Mr. Wayne MacVeagh, idem, II, p. 636, col. 2; and Mr. Hunsicker, idem, II, p. 661, col. 1.
189 Mr. Darlington, idem, II, p. 638, cols. 1 and 2.
190 Mr. Darlington, ibid.
191 Thorpe's Constitutions, V, p. 3128.
The period 1844 to 1873 witnessed only a very slight development of the subvention to charitable institutions before the year 1860. Because of the necessity for economy in state finance there was no opportunity to make large appropriations for charity. With the Civil War, however, came a great increase in the number and amount of these subventions. The causes contributing to this increase were the needs arising out of the war, the increase of state revenue, the elaboration of government, the development of political interests that found the subventions useful for accomplishing their purposes, and the growth of a public opinion which demanded appropriations for local purposes. For the most part the subventions were made in a haphazard manner without serious attempts on the part of the legislature to determine the total amount or its distribution in accordance with rational principles. State audit and control of the amounts appropriated were almost entirely absent. Although a majority of the legislature was favorable to the increase of the subventions, many members regarded the growth of these appropriations as undesirable in its effects upon state finance, upon some of the institutions subsidized, and upon the distribution of the burden of taxation among the communities of the state. The opposition to the subventions resulted in the insertion of certain prohibitions into the new constitution in 1873, which, it was hoped, would eliminate all but the least objectionable of these grants.
Subventions during this period for purposes other than those of education and charity were of no significance, and Table II, Appendix, shows that only small amounts were expended for other services. These appropriations were chiefly for the benefit of the State Agricultural Society and the Colonization Society and for the assistance of the growers of silk worms. But so small were they in amount that it cannot be said that the state pursued any definite policy toward the organizations receiving them. The amount paid to them is to be regarded as incidental and unavoidable leakage from the state treasury.