"Ye relief of ye poor of sd towne”: Poverty and Localism in Eighteenth-Century New Jersey

John Grigg


In keeping with all the colonies of British North America in the eighteenth century, New Jersey residents grappled with the poor in their midst. Since the early seventeenth century, people in Britain and in its colonies had accepted that even hard working people could slip into poverty through no fault of their own. This, in turn, meant that officials and townspeople recognized the need for some form of poor relief either through providing work options for the able poor or through direct relief for those unable to work. In eighteenth-century New Jersey, provincial poor laws and local town practices imitated, to some extent, common practices in Britain. However, these practices were modified by both the character of New Jersey settlement and by the broad requirements of provincial legislation which allowed for a significant degree of local interpretation. Thus, poor relief in New Jersey towns was carried out on a personal level and was influenced by both compassion and pragmatism. Research for this article was funded in part by grants from the New Jersey Historical Commission and the University of Nebraska-Omaha's Committee on Research and Creative Activity.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14713/njh.v125i2.1057