Toward a New Deal in Baltimore: People and Government in the Great Depression

By Jo Ann E. Argersinger | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 2 Private Relief and Public Assistance
The Origins of Municipal Welfare

"For the first time since the beginning of the depression," Baltimore MayorHoward Jackson boasted in 1937, "the entire administration of direct relief is in the hands of one of the regular departments of the City Government." 1 In heralding this new era of municipal responsibility, Jackson confounded his critics and supporters alike. Committed to voluntarism, he had frequently denounced the New Deal as a dangerous departure from traditional federal policy. But in 1935, when the federal government terminated the Federal Emergency Relief Administration and returned responsibility for direct relief to the cities and states, Jackson protested, urging the federal government to continue its rightful obligations. Even with these apparent inconsistencies, Jackson perfectly illustrated the complexity of conservative change within a federal-local framework. Until 1937 he remained hopeful that the problem of unemployment would either disappear or return to a level manageable by private agencies. He consistently resisted the city's permanent involvement in the distribution of relief, preferring to rely instead on temporary measures to handle what he regarded as an emergency situation. But his own fiscal conservatism compelled him in the end to turn to the city's newly created Department of Welfare to meet the needs of the unemployed. That decision meant

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