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Paul Royster

Document Type

Archival Material

Date of this Version



Originally published in Philadelphia in August 1833. Electronic text transcribed from the "Third Edition, Improved."


Mathew Carey’s 1833 pamphlet pleads the case of the paupers, the unemployed, and the working poor in Philadelphia and other Eastern-seaboard cities. He finds it a national disgrace that hard-working seamstresses, spoolers, hod-carriers, canal-diggers, and other manual trades cannot earn enough to support their families and that they live on the edge of economic ruin threatened by temporary unemployment, accident, or illness. He discusses the “welfare system” in both America and England (with a long discussion of the history and abuses of the English poor laws), the price of labor, the cost of living, and the numbers and condition of the indigent in contemporary Philadelphia. His overall aim is to refute the idea, promulgated by nineteenth-century political economists, that provision for the poor robbed them of their industry and incentive to work. His discussion of how the previous 40 years of administration of the English poor laws had reversed 200 years of good effect, by making them an instrument for the depression of wages and transferring the costs of labor from the manufacturers to the tax-payers.