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Making Legal HistoryEssays in Honor of William E. Nelson$
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Daniel J. Hulsebosch and R. B. Bernstein

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780814725269

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814725269.001.0001

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Was the Warning of Strangers Unique to Colonial New England?

Was the Warning of Strangers Unique to Colonial New England?

(p.91) 4 Was the Warning of Strangers Unique to Colonial New England?
Making Legal History

Cornelia H. Dayton

Sharon V. Salinger

NYU Press

This chapter first considers the “warning out” system practice in colonial New England towns, which served to bar strangers for receiving inhabitancy. It challenges the conventional portrait of warning as a harsh, exclusionary measure reflecting Puritans' aversion to “others” and their desire for homogeneity. Instead, it argues that warning was at its essence a registration system for those on the move. It allowed labor to flow into the port town, but it also protected the town's budget from explosive relief costs. The remainder of the chapter sketches the ideological origins of Massachusetts's welfare regime and the English legal origins of the warning of strangers. Concluding that warning had precedent in an obscure English writ, it then reports on the effort to determine whether other British jurisdictions in the New World ever used the warning mechanism or a system akin to the province poor account. How did other cities cope with relieving strangers, given that urban leaders everywhere were concerned to be seen as beneficent and civic-minded?

Keywords:   colonial New England, warning out, welfare system, Massachusetts

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