Philadelphia: Printed for the Society. Merritt, Printer, 1817. First edition. 8vo, removed pamphlet, 53 pages (title page detached but present). Somewhat foxed and worn; a good, sound copy. Item #16706
"The citizens of Philadelphia were induced by the inclemency of the season, and the consequent distress among the poor, to assemble on the 17th February, 1817, for the purpose of devising measures for their present relief--as well as for preventing, in the future, the occurrence of so great an extent of misery." A remarkable effort at poverty reform, this pamphlet collects and documents the data gathered by the various ward committees appointed to inquiry into the nature of urban poverty in Philadelphia and its best means of relief. The queries start with basic one--"Query 1. What description of persons are most improvident? The people of colour; the lower classes of Irish emigrants; the intemperate and day labourers are generally considered as the most improvident. Query 2. What do the poor allege as the cause of their poverty? In most instances want of employment is the allege cause, especially in the winter season, but, although this may temporarily operate, idleness, intemperance, and sickness are most frequently the real causes; to which are added at present, the high prices of provisions and fuel, especially the latter, as it is generally purchased by the poor in small quantities, from the grocery and liquor stores, at a very exorbitant advance upon the prime cost." (The fact that 1816 was the "year without a summer" did not much help matters in either food or fuel.) With much in the way of early statistical reporting (the "descendents of Africa" do not in fact comprise the largest population of indigents, etc.) and much anecdotal evidence, as well as suggestions for reform. Contemporary ink signature (partially shaved) at the head of the title, "Sarah Collins, 189 Pearl N[Y]." Quaker printer Isaac Collins had been based at 189 Pearl St. in New York, this copy perhaps belonging to his daughter; Isaac had retired from business in 1808 ut the bookselling concern had continued as Collins & Co. (Isaac had been married to Rachel Budd, from an old Philadelphia Quaker family; no doubt there was interest on the part of Friends in New York on the reforming efforts of Philadelphia.) Ink blot to the title page and following leaf. Two small puncture tears to the title page.