The New View of Poverty
...a vast army of the poor in this country are not in poverty because they want to be, but because they have not been able to avoid slipping down into the economic slough of despond. For the hardworking father of a large family, who has been inadequately educated, or who has indeed entered the world but poorly equipped physically to fight the battle of life, it is natural that an industrial panic, that high rents, that dust-breathing trades, that industrial accidents from unprotected machinery, that disease and other ills must almost inevitably bring poverty. And when poverty comes in at the door many of the customary virtues go out through the window... Deception, falsehood, unreliability, intemperance follow naturally in the wake of poverty.
"The Conquest of Poverty," Metropolitan Magazine, October, 1909.
A LTHOUGH the Victorian era was marked by mounting concern for the poor, few nineteenth-century students of social questions were really interested in poverty. Until quite late in the century "the poor" was used to denote persons receiving or in need of charity. Literary and political hacks heaped praise on the "honest" or self-supporting poor, but social scientists paid this group scant heed. In an age of laissez faire it was taken for granted that dependency was the only phase of the poverty problem that affected society, or with which society was competent to deal According to the prevailing view, a man's economic condition was nobody's business but his own -- until he "degenerated," ceased to be independent, and became a charge on society. Throughout most of the nineteenth century, therefore, pauperism rather than poverty engaged the attention of students, and the energies of reformers were directed less at the abolition of want than at devising methods of relieving distress.