Portsmouth Asylum
Text of the Act Establishing the Asylum From the Portsmouth Asylum Book of Registry

  June 21 1832, An act relating to the overseer of the poor and to the asylum in the town of Portsmouth.

Section 1st
Be it enacted by the General Assembly and by the authority thereof it is enacted, that the overseer or overseers of the poor in the Town of Portsmouth, or a majority of said overseers, if more than one be appointed by said town, be and they are hereby fully empowered to commit all such idle and indigent persons as shall from time to time be found in the said town, who by their evil courses are likely to become a town charge, to the asylum for the poor established in Portsmouth: and for the better enabling said overseer or overseers to perform said service, they are hereby fully empowered to command the Town Sargeant or any of the Constables of said town, to assist them as often as occasion shall require, and said overseer or overseers, or any two of them, if more than one be appointed by said town, are also fully empowered to grant forth a warrant to the Town Sargeant or any of the Constables of said town, to take up any such person or persons as cannot give a good account of themselves or their way of living, and commit them to the aforesaid asylum; and all warrants issued by said overseer or overseers, or any two of them, for the purposes of committing any person or persons to said asylum, shall be signed by one or more members of the Town Council; and the said Town Sargeant and Constables in execution of said warrant shall have power to command aid, if any be necessary.

Section 2nd
And be it further enacted, that the overseer or overseers of the poor, or a majority of said overseers, if more than one appointed by said town be and they are hereby fully empowered with the advice and consent of the town council, to find out any such person or persons as have been committed to said asylum, if it appears that they are liable to become chargeable to said town, for a term of time not exceeding four years; and the town clerk of said Portsmouth shall sign the indentures of such persons, so bounded out, and the overseer or overseers of the poor, or a majority of said overseers, if more than one be appointed by said town be, and they are hereby fully empowered with the advice and consent of the town council, to take up any child or children who are likely to become chargeable to said town, and bind them out apprentices to some creditable person in the state, and the town clerk of said Portsmouth shall sign the indenture for said children.

Section 3rd
And be it further enacted, That the said town of Portsmouth be authorized to appoint three commisioners to govern and superintend the said asylum for the poor, established in Portsmouth; the places of which commissioners shall be vacated and filled, one of them in succession each year and said commissioners may be empowered by the town to prescribe and adopt all regulations for the government and management of the asylum, and of the people received into it, and to employ a keeper or superintendant of the asylum under them, and such other agents or officers as the concerns of the establishment may be found to require. The said commissioners shall act as a body, and organize themselves by appointing a chairman and secretary, by whom their doings shall be certified; and all regulations and all appointments and contracts made by them, shall be made at a meeting duly notified, at at which two members shall be necessary to form a quorum; and no such measures shall be appealed, altered, or interfered with, except at similar meetings. At all other meetings of said commissioners, two members shall be sufficient to form a quorum; but all the commissioners not at the time absent from the town, shall be personally notified of every special meeting by the chairman or secretary.

Section 4th
And be it further enacted, That the overseer or overseers of the poor in said town shall cease to exercise all such powers and duties as are or may be transfered by the town to said commissioners, and in all things appertaining to the government of and management of the asylum, such overseer or overseers shall be under the direction of said commissioners; and should said town think fit hereafter to appoint no more than one overseer of the poor therein, said overseer may perform all the acts as the law requires to be performed by two or more such overseers.

Section 5th
And be it further enacted, That said town shall have power to pass by-laws regulating the intercourse and communications with the asylum and and the people therein; and prescribe penalties not exceeding twenty dollars for any one offence, for a breach of said by-laws, which penalties may be recovered by the town treasurer by action od debt; and said town may also prescribe a penalty on any inhabitant of the town who having been duly appointed, shall refuse to perform the duties of commissioner of the asylum; such penalty not to exceed the sum of twenty dollars, and to be recovered in manner aforesaid: but no person shall be obliged to serve more than one term in said office of commisioner within the period of twelve years.

Section 6th
And be it further enacted, That nothing in this act shall be construed to interfere with any of the powers by laws vested in the town council of said town, nor as limiting the power of said town at any time to discontinue the government of said asylum by commissioners aforesaid; and to prescribe and adopt any other mode of government or regulating the same, which they may think proper and not inconsistent with the laws of the state: provided that all contracts made by the commissioners under authority of the town, shall be strictly complied with; and that no proposition or subject relative to the government or management of said asylum of the poor, shall be acted upon in any town meeting, unless the same shall have been specifically stated in the warrant for calling such town meeting, and also notified by the town clerkin the same manner as other similar notices are given by said town.

Section 7th
And be it further enacted, That the appointment of commissioners made by said town on the eighteenth day of April 1832 and the powers then granted to said commissioners, be and they are hereby confirmed.

Section 8th
And be it further enacted, That the annual election of said commissioners shall be at the annual town meeting to be holden, in August, and the commissioners so chosen to enter on their duty, on the 25th day of March next following.

January 25th 1849.

Transcription © 2002, William Saslow, from the Portmouth Asylum, Book of Registry, 1849-1882, Rhode Island Historical Society.

 

Portsmouth Asylum Links
  Introduction
  Historical Context
  Timeline
  Act Establishing (1832)
  Inventory Report (1833)
  Rules & Regulations (1838)
  Committee Report (1840)
  Committee Report (1857)
  The Portsmouth Cripple (1848)
  Produce Sold (1849)
  Meat Sold (1849)
  Town Council Excerpts
  1865 Census Excerpts
  1875 Census Excerpts
  1892 Account Book
  Committal Letters (1867)
  Oakum and Idle Hands
  Newport Daily News Clips (1851)
  Site Mapping (10/5/01)
  NPR Interview
  Town Farm Cemetery

Historical Texts:
  Report on Poor & Insane (1851)
  Fales Memoir (1851)
  Peterson's History (1853)

Selected Biographies
  Thomas R. Hazard -1
  Thomas R. Hazard -2
  Seth R. Anthony
  William R. Fales

Fun and Games
  
A Day at the Portsmouth Asylum

Other Poorhouse Links
  
The Poorhouse Story



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