The Quicksands of the Poor Law: Poor Relief Legislation in a Growing Nation, 1790-1820
18 N. Ill. U. L. Rev. 1 (1997)
99 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2019
Date Written: April 19, 1997
This article reviews the development of American poor law from 1790 to 1820. Because poor law was primarily state based, the main focus is on the laws of ten states that joined the U.S. during this time: Vermont, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Louisiana, Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois, Alabama, and Maine. English poor law continued to impact the development of state poor relief law, but legislative experiences in other states began to exert significant influence as well. Work remained the cure for poverty. Poor people who could work were to do so. Poor children were expected to labor and were often apprenticed. Poor adults were put to work in workhouses and poorhouses, or jailed as vagrants. State laws of this period continue to reflect a strong theme that punishing and stigmatizing the non-working poor would prod them to work and thus cure their poverty.
JEL Classification: poverty law, American poor law, English poor law, legal history
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