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By Order of the Governor, Council and Assembly,
Pass'd October 16th, 1759.
Printed by Daniel Fowle.
Pass'd 6th [year] of George 3[rd's reign] Jan. 17th
AN ACT TO INVEST THE OVERSEERS OF THE POOR WITH POWER MORE EFFECTUALLY TO EMPLOY THEM, AND TO PROVIDE FOR BRINGING UP THEIR CHILDREN MORE USEFULLY.
Whereas there are many poor people who spend their time idly, and neglect to provide for themselves and those who depend upon them for subsistence, by any lawful means, and neglect the care and education of their children, but suffer them to spend their time in play, idleness and a total neglect of those means by which they might be made useful members of society, notwithstanding the advantages for their improvement; by which neglect the number of beggars, as well as thieves and strollers, are increased, and many disorders committed;
For remedy whereof,
Be it Enacted by the Governor, Council and Assembly:
Overseers of the poor, &c. authorized to bind out idle persons tho' of full age, &c.
Single persons to live under some family government.
That the select-men or overseers of the poor, where such annually chosen in any town or parish in this province, or major part of them, be and hereby are impower'd, with the assent of two of his majesty's justices of the peace for said province, to set to work and employ all such persons, though of full age, married or unmarried, of whatever age they may be, if able of body to work, or perform the service to be so appointed them, who live idly, and use or exercise no ordinary and daily lawful trade or business, by which they might get an honest livelihood and subsistance. And no single person of either sex, under the age of twenty one years, shall be suffered to live a their own hand or as tehy please, but under some orderly family government.
Overseers, &c. be authorized to bind out poor children tho' not chargeable to the town.
And be it further Enacted, that the select-men or overseers of the poor aforesaid, or the major part of them, are hereby impower'd from time to time, by and with the assent of two justices of the peace, to set to work or bind out apprentice, as they shall think best for the good of those concern'd, or are the subjects thereof, all such children whose parents shall by the select-men or overseers of the poor, or major part of them, be thought unable to maintain them (whether they receive alms or are chargeable to the town or parish or not) male children, till they come to the age of twenty one years, and females till they come to the age of eighteen years, which shall be as good and effectual in law to all intents and purposes as any way and method of binding out apprentices whatsoever; and the said overseers are hereby order'd to make their contract and indentures for placing out such apprentices equitably, and for the benefit of such children at the least that the males be instructed to read and write, and the males to read, and to do such work and business as may be suitable to their circumstances and condition, so far as they may be respectively capable.
To enquire into the usage they meet with.
And the select men or overseers of the poor shall inquire into the usage of children bound out by themselves or their predecessors in said office, and endeavor to defend them from wrongs or injuries.
Notice to be first given to the parents to put out their children.
Provided always, that the said select-men or overseers shall, before they bind out any such children, not supported by the town or parish where such children belong, give their parents notice, if in the province, and direct them to bind out their children when an age suitable, and allow them a reasonable time for that purpose: which if they neglect to do, or place them with persons of bad characters, which may probably be prejudicial rather than to the advantage of the children, the said officers may then proceed to bind them out as aforesaid.
When the overseers, &c. place out any person of full age, the agreement to be in writing, &c.
And it is herby further Enacted, that when any person of full age, shall be so set to work, as aforesaid, if the said offices shall hire or place out any such person, they shall make their contract and agreement in writing, expressing the term which they are to serve, which shall not exceed one year at a time, but may be renew'd or made for a shorter time, as there shall be occasion; and the wages or earnings of the person so hired and placed out, shall be by the select-men and overseers, applied to his or her support and maintenance, and of their families respectively, so far as such earnings will go.
The persons who hire them to have authority over them.
And the person or persons with whom such poor, or idle, or negligent persons shall be placed, shall have the same legal authority over them as masters of apprentices have over them during their apprenticeship.
Notice first to be given.
And the said officers are hereby directed to give notice to such persons before they bind or place them out as aforesaid; and if they shall neglect usefully to employ themselves, after allowing them a reasonable time, the said officers may proceed as aforesaid.