Breaking the Social Stereotypes of the 19th Century French Poor

History of Government Thoughts, Care, and Policy Towards the Abandoned

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The Revolution's Role in Abandoned Children's Care: The state took over the care for the children because private charity could no longer provide enough due in part to a lack of donations. The revolution dealt the final blow however to the religious and private charity. Through nationalization of the lands and wealth of the church and clergy, "the revolution cut the economic underpinnings of the system of charity in general and of the treatment of abandoned children in particular" (Fuchs 17). However, at the same time, the revolution declared the right of all needy persons to public charity and assistance. In 1790, the Committee on Mondicity of the Convention studied the case of abandoned children. It decided that the conditions were deplorable, and declared it the duty of the state to care for them. By this, they meant that the state was to make them useful citizens by training them for positions in military, agriculture, and in the colonies (Fuchs 17). Through this decree, the revolutionaries tried to stamp out the prejudice, but it only occurred on paper.

Reasons for Giving Care: Often state officials believed that they should try to curtail child abandonment; however, at the same time, they felt that it was their duty to care for them. In the last fourth of the century, social reforms no longer tried to curtail child abandonment. They felt that the state, "by means of social welfare programs, could do a better job of creating ideal working-class citizens than biological parents" (Fuchs xiii). Social welfare for the children was one means for the state to protect and control the underclass of the population.

Government Laws: The decree of October 17, 1801 legally placed the financial responsibility for the first time on the budget department.

The policy: Fashioned and refashioned to create a docile, economically useful and politically neutral, family-oriented underclass out of the of the segment of the population that the officials believed would otherwise an economic drain and potentially dangerous criminals or political threats (Fuchs xii-xiii).

Source: Rapps, Anns., 1875-1895. Taken from Fuchs

Children's Obligations: The were expected to repay state for the money spent on them through work, which included serving in the military, working in agriculture, and working in the colonies.. Often boys were sent to serve in the military for a couple of years (Fuchs xiii).

Economics: As today, the state in 19th century France

was ruled by economics. Therefore, they often planned care for the abandoned children around the economics. The state found that it was most cost and labor effective to send the children to foster families with wet-nurses in the country (Fuchs xiii). This system although did not provide the best care for the children because more children died in the country than in the hospices. (Click here to see statistics). The economics also governed at times the abuse of the system regarding wet nurse.

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