Page images
PDF
EPUB

States and even in foreign lands; and the records ought to possess a character of uniformity and continuity such as to prove that its author appreciates the fact that he is accumulating material for the future historian and really writing for posterity.

The sixth and last element which we shall name is that of integrity, not merely in the sense of common honesty, but in the etymological significance of the term,- completeness and homogeneity: The duty of a State Board, with reference to the collection and expenditure of public funds, is to see that money is not taken from the tax-payers upon false pretences, nor in amounts larger than is really necessary to accomplish the purpose in view in making a specific appropriation ; that it is properly accounted for, and not stolen, either directly or indirectly; and that it is not wasted by the employment of useless supernumeraries, or the payment of extravagant salaries, or by extravagance and display in the buildings and appointments pertaining to a public institution. A thoroughly conscientious and upright Board of State Commissioners cannot do otherwise than frown upon nepotism and political favoritism in the appointment of institution officials and employees. It regards incompetency as the worst form of waste, a wrong to the beneficiaries of institutions as well as to the public treasury, and an absolute bar to the execution of the popular will in their creation and maintenance. But there is some degree of incompetence wherever there is inexperience. Hence it is opposed to political rotation in office in institutions, where the competency and integrity of the officials in charge are not questioned. It furthermore must be just in its appreciation of the relative claims of the various classes of the unfortunate, not favoring one institution at the expense of another, nor yielding to local pressure for large appropriations at one place and resisting it elsewhere. It stands for truth and righteousness in the administration of a sacred public trust. It looks upon the entire system of charities and correction as a unit, the balance between whose parts and functions must be preserved, at any cost : and it will not swerve to please anybody, however prominent or influential, from the line of inviolable duty. This is '. standard of efficiency by which a State Board must

is is the spirit which it should seek to communicate

of the entire organization of which it is the official til it into the public and legislative conscience.

[ocr errors]
[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

success or failure in this attempt is the measure of its utility. Without a high ideal, its practical usefulness is nil, or, worse than that, a minus quantity.

We have intimated, at the outset, that the ideal of the State Boards, who form the nucleus of this body, is also the ideal of the Conference. In concluding, we beg to submit a few thoughts bearing specifically upon this point. That ideal may be summed up in a single word, “disinterestedness.” The Conference represents and embodies the altruistic, not the egoistic idea ; and the suggestion of self-seeking in the action of any one of its component parts would be a jarring note in the harmony of its discussions. It can consistently take no position inconsistent, for instance, with the largest inclusion and mutual tolerance. It knows here no distinction of creeds, religious or political, of sects or of sex. It rejects no one on account of his preference for this or that form of charitable or correctional work. Every man and every woman who has the welfare of humanity at heart is free, upon this platform, to advocate any measure or express any conviction, whether in accord with the views of the majority or not, if it is germane to the question at issue.

We think that the sectional meetings ought not to be made so prominent or exacting as to interfere with the general work of the Conference or to act as a check upon the liberty of any member.

We think that the more simply we come together as a family, animated by a single spirit, that of love to each other and to mankind, and the less formal our organization, in the shape of a constitution and by-laws, the less friction there will be, and the greater influence for good we shall exert upon the world. Our religion is the religion of humanity. We must exemplify it in our mutual relations and in our treatment of each other, trusting chiefly for our unity and wise direction to the illuminating power of that divine sentiment. Finally, with regard to the intelligence which we desire to characterize all our proceedings, our assembling in this city, whose atmosphere is that of intellectual culture, and in this hall dedicated to learning, is in itself a guarantee that we desire to benefit by the counsel of scholars, and that we do not fear their criticism. If an alliance can here be formed between the investigators of human need and pain, because that need is not satisfied, and the teachers of the youth who are in later life to grapple with these problems in a still more complicated form, when the most of us will be in our graves, the advantages of such an alliance to both the parties to it are too palpable to need elucidation. It is in the hope of effecting it that we have sought and accepted the invitation so generously extended to us by the faculty of Yale University and the citizens of New Haven; and we trust that the event will vindicate the motives and the action of the Conference,

[graphic]

FREDERICK HOWARD Wines, Chairman,
CLARENCE SNYDER,
JOHN R. ELDER,
GEORGE B. WATERHOUSE,
H. C. WHITTLESEY,
ANNE B. RICHARDSON,
M. A. HOUSEHOLDER,
STEPHEN SMITH, M.D.,

Committee,

BOARDS OF CONTROL.

BY CLARENCE SNYDER,

OF THE WISCONSIN STATE BOARD OF CONTROL.

r

S

Is A STATE BOARD OF CONTROL with FULL EXECUTIVE POWER

PREFERABLE TO A STATE SUPERVISORY BOARD WITH NO Ex-
ECUTIVE Power?

1

ir

je re y,

di

by If

Since the year 1881 Wisconsin's charitable, reformatory, and penal institutions have been controlled by a single board having full executive powers. The first centralized board sustaining this relation to the institutions was composed of five members, who were required by law to devote all their time to the work. Each was paid a yearly salary of $2,000, with reimbursement for all actual and necessary expenses incurred.

Concurrently there existed a supervisory body called the State Board of Charities and Reform, the members of which, five in number, received per diem compensation and expenses. Such duties were imposed upon this Board as are generally supposed to fall

ian

of

1 а

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

within the province of a State board of charities of average powers in the States where such organizations exist. Ample authority to visit, inspect, hold investigations in, and report upon State institutions was possessed by this Board; and it was required to visit and introduce reforms in the management of various county institutions. To carry into effect its suggestions in reference to jails and county insane asylums, it might withhold State aid from the latter, and by condemnatory proceedings make it unlawful to confine prisoners in the former. In many ways it was a power for good, and its members were well known for their grasp of the problems of the day relating to the several charities then demanding attention.

It was always represented at this National Conference; and, indeed, to it belongs a large share of the honor of originating the idea from which grew the first National Conference of Charities and Correction,

The two boards referred to were not always in harmony; and, following the political upheaval of 1890, this fact was seized as one of the reasons for the legislation following, by which both boards were abolished and a single board created to take their place. This is known as the State Board of Control. It has both executive and supervisory powers, inheriting, as it does, all the functions of the boards it superseded. It is charged with the work of maintaining and governing seven State institutions. It must inspect annually (and in some cases much oftener) all the county insane asylums, poorhouses, private and benevolent institutions, jails, and police stations in the State.

This Board probably has more enlarged powers than any other in the United States, and its duties are correspondingly more numerous and exacting.

Our institutions are unfortunately not yet free from partisan influences. Changes in board members and superintendents for party reasons still go on, and it is impossible to predict when that desired era of civil service reform will come wherein questions of political stripe and religious faith do not enter.

Little more than a month has elapsed since the enactment of a law changing the number of members of the Board from six to five; and on April 15 the present Board was appointed, three members of which are new to the work, though all experienced in business and public life. Three days later they entered upon their duties. One

[graphic]

feature of the new law is commended in some quarters, but in others is looked upon as an undesirable innovation. Under it a man or woman may be appointed by the governor to investigate any institution matter concerning which he or the public want information; and the person so appointed becomes for the time a committee of charities sitting in judgment for the purposes of a report upon the Board of Control and all the acts of said Board or the persons appointed under it.

Happily, the legislature of 1895, partisan as were its motives, did not disturb the principle of consolidation in the management of State institutions. The law has twice been tinkered, but there still remains a centralized executive board.

Wisconsin is one of the best States in the Union. It is probably freest from all forms of disorder. Its people have thrift and contentment to an extent not elsewhere surpassed. In higher education it has made remarkable progress, and in all the sociological problems to which the National Conference addresses itself Wisconsin has an intelligent and growing interest. Experiments tried in Wisconsin in the government of State institutions cannot be without some value ; and I have therefore thought it well at the outset to give this brief account of our system, a system which is accepted as having many points of advantage over that wherein separate boards of trustees govern State institutions, supervised by a State agency shorn of executive powers.

The question before us is one of system. It is my purpose to endeavor to show that a State Board of Control with full executive powers is preferable to a State Supervisory Board with no executive powers. It would be difficult to prove that under all circumstances and in all conditions the Wisconsin idea is best; but my faith is unshaken that the principle in some form is everywhere appli. cable, and that, when it is applied, it will give beneficent results.

Let us for a moment consider the time-honored form of separate, unsalaried boards and State supervising agencies of the kind General Brinkerhoff had in mind, and spoke approvingly of at Nashville

Under such a system the board meets fortnightly, monthly, or quarterly. The members generally draw no salary, in some cases not even their expenses being allowed; and it is unusual for them to perform the labor required, to become familiar with the accounts and the articles purchased, and critically examine all de

last year.

« PreviousContinue »