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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/668

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

to devote it to the ostensible relief of want and suffering. It is the infliction of an aggression that has no more warrant in a court of sound morals than the seizure of his property in disregard of the forms of law. Yet this evil has reached such vast proportions that Mr. Roberts was moved to protest against it. After speaking of "the tendency of the State in building up a gigantic system" that "will call for an enormous and ever-increasing annual expenditure for maintenance," he expressed the belief in 1896 that "the time has come to call a halt before this burden of taxation becomes too heavy." He then mentioned the significant fact that while the State spent $6,000,000 for charity, $4,800,000 for public schools, $800,000 for the militia, it spent only $500,000 for judges' salaries! He pointed out also that the expenditures under the head of charity had increased from $1,468,471.58 in 1887 to $5,888,193.74 in 1897, or over four hundred per cent in ten years. He added the prophecy that it would be "a matter of a short time only when the annual expenditures for charity alone in this State will reach $10,000,000." At that time five large State charitable institutions were in process of construction, and were soon to be thrown open to the public. In the following year he reverted to the subject in still stronger terms. "God forbid," he says, "that I should put a straw in the way of charity rationally directed; but my four years' experience as comptroller . . . compels me to say that charity is dispensed in this State with an almost lavish hand, and in my judgment it is in many cases unwisely dispensed." In his last report to the Legislature the aggregate cost of the fourteen great institutions in operation, with a population of 6,621, is put at $6,898,304.52.

That this enormous largess, wrested from the taxpayers without the slightest consideration for their own wants and sufferings, is unwisely dispensed in many cases Mr. Roberts furnishes the amplest proof. The charges that he brings against this form of State activity are most serious. They reveal the same odious traits that characterize the management of public affairs in no wise connected with the love of humanity. "Nearly every locality," says Mr. Roberts, "having a State charitable institution deals with it as though it were established to afford that locality an avenue through which to reach the State treasury, and in most cases, where a majority of the managers live under or are dominated by local influence, the avenue has been profitably traveled. The result of such predominance is combination among local dealers, a division of the furnishing of the supplies among them at greatly advanced prices, the palming off upon the institution of inferior articles which would find no sale in the market, a row with