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Local Charity: An Appeal To The Unemployed

Creator: n/a
Date: February 14, 1877
Publication: Springfield Republican
Source: Available at selected libraries

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An Appeal to the Unemployed
To Go Back on the Farms, by the Springfield Charitable Committee
To the Unemployed of Both Sexes in This City


The undersigned, a committee appointed at the public meeting held January 30, at the South Church, to devise a system of efficient relief to the poor, make the following statement and appeal: --


We believe the chief cause of the present dearth of employment to be the overcrowding of our large towns and manufacturing centers, and the withdrawal from the country towns and farms of a large proportion of their population. As agriculture is the basis of all wealth, and food is the first necessity of man, a reduced production of food, or its transportation over long distances, must increase the cost of living. All persons buying and selling, either on their own account or as clerks, are non-producers, and must be fed and clothed by the farmer and mechanic. If too many people are engaged in trade, they overcrowd their own market, and impoverish each other. Rents, food and fuel cost much more in town than in the country -- often outweighing in price the higher wages earned in the former.


The best remedy for the present want of work is for the superfluous workers to return to the farms and villages at the first opportunity. Many young men and women are needed, to-day, in their own homes not far away. Farmers have been discourages and forced frequently to abandon their farms for want of the young blood -- the bone and sinew who have deserted them for a city life. Especially have the farming interests suffered for want of the young women who prefer starvation or charity in the city, or at best a scanty livelihood there, to the dullness of the country. In the busiest and most prosperous times, the Home for friendless women in this city has been besieged by two classes of persons, the first consisting of girls and women vainly seeking city employment; the other of numberless farmers' wives, broken down for want of female assistance in the domestic duties. The latter tell a sad tale of their own overwork and exhaustion, offer a good home on equal terms and reasonable wages, but are obliged to take the most -- inefficient persons, or none, because of nice country-born girls hate the country life, it is so dull! This is a depraved taste -- a craving for excitement instead of recreation: noise, show and spectacle, in place of the healthful reading and social intercourse possible nearly everything in New England. Our young men and women are becoming demoralized -- losing the Anglo-Saxon love of home and children -- unfitted for the sacred duties of citizenship and the family. We earnestly beg you who can to secure a country home. A few hundred dollars will purchase now a far better one than most o you can obtain in a town. Prudence and industry even in these times will acquire gradually the means. Some already have small capital for which this is the best investment. Raise a part of your food on a few acres -- hire a part of your time where you can -- this is the thrifty mode. Girls, if you have homes, go to them; if they are dull, try to brighten them for your mothers and fathers and the little ones -- you will soon cease to feel dull, yourselves, and grow healthier and wiser.


The poor, we are told, shall be always with us, and the helpless and infirm must be the care of the strong and able. But, when thousands of vigorous and young people in our great, fertile country are out of employment, there is a deep-lying cause, which we must find out before we find the remedy. All the material of wealth we have -- no scarcity. It is the disorganization of labor, and the unequal distribution of population which is at fault. You may say you have the right to live in the city if you choose it true -- but no right to complain or ask help, if the support you cannot earn there is to be earned in the country. Therefore, while we should aid with heart, hand and purse the really unfortunate, we must also strictly insist that those who can help themselves must do so.


The extravagant spending which puts nothing by for times of need lies at the root of much poverty. The vice of intemperance of as much more. A large part of the present distress is due to these two causes, and is unnecessary in our land of abundance.


We must remember that we owe our country's prosperity to the energy, prudence and foresight of our ancestors. They found work for themselves, and did it under circumstances which shame our degenerate days. We offer the following figures to show the great influx from country to city in our immediate neighborhood during the past few years --


FROM 1870 to 1873


Hampden county, 21 towns, on population of 78,400 gained, 15,000
Springfield and Holyoke alone gained 9877
13 other towns gained 6250
8 small towns lost, 37
Balance, 15,900


Hampshire county, 23 towns, on population of 44,380 gained, 427
Northapton and South Hadley alone gained, 1478
3 other towns gained, 332
18 small towns lost, 1443
Balance, 427

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Franklin county, 26 towns, on population of 72,635, gained, 1001
Montagne (Turners Falls) alone gained 1176
Orange and Erving alone gained, 621
9 other towns together gained, 206
14 towns together lost 922
Balance, 1061


Berkshire county, 31 towns, on population of 64,827 gained, 3488
Adams alone gained 3610
Pittsfield alone gained 1135
9 other towns together gained 1155
20 small towns together lost, 2543
Balance 3438


The small increase in the agricultural county of Hampshire especially, and in the small farming towns of all the four counties, and the great increase in the manufacturing towns particularly Springfield, Holyoke, Adams and Montague, illustrate the evil to which we have referred, and show how town and country are both impoverished.


We have said nothing new, -- and present only well-known and recognized facts, but have endeavored to put them in a shape to strike the minds of those to whom they are important, and by whom they are not fully understood. All is offered in a spirit of friendly counsel, and desire for the highest good of individuals and the community.


Signed by Washington Gladden,
Edward Ingersoll
Dexter H. Brigham
Mrs. Gordon Bill
Mrs. V. L. Owen
Mrs. N. A. Leonard

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