Manuscript invoice from the Constable Josiah Waters for delivering warrants of removal from Charlestown to women and families

(Item #5159) Manuscript invoice from the Constable Josiah Waters for delivering warrants of removal from Charlestown to women and families. Poverty, Homelessness, Immigration, Family Welfare.
Manuscript invoice from the Constable Josiah Waters for delivering warrants of removal from Charlestown to women and families
A colonial constable profits from his role in enforcing the removal of impoverished families from Charlestown
Manuscript invoice from the Constable Josiah Waters for delivering warrants of removal from Charlestown to women and families

Charlestown, Colony of Massachusetts: July 4, 1730. Single sheet measuring 11.75 x 7.5 inches with manuscript text to recto and manuscript docketing to verso. Minor chipping along sheet edges; minor paper loss along top fold line, where a pen was used to excise an error, and accompanied by the author's signed verification "Error Excised by Josiah Waters." An exceptional survivor, the present document provides information about the magisterial infrastructure in place in Charlestown to enact policies by which impoverished or recently arrived immigrants who had not established residency were denied town assistance and banished.

From Charlestown on July 4, 1730 -- 46 years before the date would be linked to independence -- Constable Josiah Waters seeks remuneration from the town magistrates for several jobs conducted between 1728 and 1730. At the very top: "In the year 1728. To warning Mary Vine out of town by way of town warrant...Again, To warning Thomas Webb and his wife and Two Children out of town, by town warrant of the same." Beneath this are a series of single men also removed. Accompanying each warning is a fee. At the document's footer, another hand provides information on payment: "Allowed 7£ for warning our of Town, 20£ 2 --- in his List of Rates. Abated James Brown Rate in F. List 16£ 11."

"During the middle decades of the eighteenth century, people in Massachusetts experienced poverty in a way that they had not known it before. The numbers of poor and dependent people increased sharply in both the countryside and in seaport towns; transiency became more common as 'strolling poor' people moved from town to town in search of work and poor relief" -- all of these heavily influenced by sustained population growth, resulting restricted economic opportunities and inflation, and displacement of families during the French and Indian War (Colonial Society). "English in heritage but American in their social origins, Massachusetts poor laws underwent a dramatic transformation...representing a tension between...on the one side, compassion and humanitarianism...on the other, fears of 'great disorder and idleness' that required containment and control" (Colonial Society). The system of "warning-out" became the key means of locating non-resident poor and homeless individuals and removing them from the town's social welfare programs.

Desperation clearly drove not only individual men to seek out employment in unfamiliar places. Lone women such as Mary Vine took those risks as well, as did families such as the Webbs. Further research could be done into whether they relocated and survived. Research could be conducted as well as into how the costs of the warrant system compared to the costs of providing safety and shelter for such people, and what periods or costs were associated with establishing residency. Links between colonial laws and present policies surrounding social safety and welfare, as well as immigration and the forced control over migrants also deserve study.
(Item #5159)

Price: $2,750