Portsmouth Asylum
Rules & Regulations - 1838

  Rules and Regulations for Government of the Portsmouth Assylum1
- 1838 -
Whereas the direction and care of the Portsmouth Assylum and of the Poor of the Town of Portsmouth require that certain standing rules and regulations be adopted and established concerning the same.

Be it therefore ordered by the Town of Portsmouth in town meeting assembled on the twenty eighth day of August, one thousand eight hundred and thirty eight that the management and government of the Assylum and the Poor aforesaid shall be as follows:

RULES relating to the Commissioners
1st -
The Commissioners of the Assylum shall hereafter advertise in the month of November (whenever it shall become necessary to procure a new keeper or keepers) by setting up three notices in three public places in said town of Portsmouth and by publishing the same in one of the newspapers published in Newport for a male and female to keep, and manage said Assylum and Poor; to commence on the 25th day of March next after said notice and after notice for one month as aforesaid the commissioners shall select and contract with two such persons for Keepers as said Commissioners shall judge suitable and fit, and report the contract at the next April town meeting.

2nd -
Commissioners shall meet at the Assylum once in every month, to inspect into the state of all maters relating to the support and employment of the Poor, and to give such orders and directions respecting the same as to them shall appear necessary and consistant with the designs of the institution.; they shall also meet at such other times as they may judge nessessary for the purposes aforesaid, and at such other places as the charge of the Poor in Portsmouth may require their attendance.

3rd -
The Commissioners to take regular turns in visiting the Assylum and to attend as often as a majority of them may think proper for the purpose of directing the Keepers in the management of the Poor.

RULES relating to the Keepers of the Assylum
4th -
A male and female of approved integrity and ability shall be selected by the Commissioners as Keepers of the assylum conformable to the power vested in them by the town.

5th -
The male keeper of the Assylum shall keep a register of all persons admitted into the same, and note down under the directions of the Commissioners, the time of their entrance, death or discharge, their age, employment or in a book furnished for that purpose by the Commissioners.

6th -
The male keeper of the Assylum shall keep a correct inventory (to be furnished by the Commissioners) of all linnen bedding, tables, chairs, bedsteads and all other household and kitchen furniture belonging to the Institution, enumerating the respective qualities of each article and noting the condition of the same; said inventory to be added to and altered as new effects are procured or the old worn out or destroyed.

7th -
The male keeper to superintend all within the AssyIum as well as within the out-buildings and other premises thereunto belonging and to see that the rules of the Institution, and the orders of the Commissioners be duly observed; he shall take particular care that the clothing, bedding and other articles furnished for the poor, be not wilfully or wantonly wasted or destroyed; he shall without delay inform the Commissioners of every person who shall waste or destroy any such property.

8th -
The male keeper shall see that the inmates of said Assylum (except such as are sick) rise early in the morning and wash themselves before they eat; and see that all fires and lights are extinguished except such as may be nessessary to be kept, and those shall be left by him under proper care.

9th -
The male keeper shall as much as possible attend to the security and proper management of insane or deranged persons; he shall have power to take to his aid, one or more of the inmates of the Assylum whose duty it shall be to execute his orders.

10th -
The female keeper shall take care that the rooms be properly cleaned and swept, the beds made every day, the windows opened for airing the house, the inmates kept clean in their apparel, that they have a change of clothing once a week, that the beds be aired once a month and be kept clear of vermin, that all foul clothing and bedding be washed in due time and with proper care; she is especially intrusted with the superintendance and care of the females and children in the Assylum; and shall observe that nurses and others employed under her directions behave with becoming attention and humanity to the sick, infirm and aged placed under their care; and discharge their several duties with diligence and facility for which services and other occasions of the house the Commissioners, or any one of them shall select such as so many persons from among the people in the Assylum as he or they may deem fit and sufficient to assist the female keeper; and when any of the Poor die at the Assylum, she is to take charge of the clothing of the deceased and cause them to be washed and cleansed, and if necessary to be mended and to deliver them to the male keeper, who shall deposit them in safety, and give an account thereof to the Commissioners or to one of them, to be disposed of according to his, or their orders. All persons dying at the Assylum, his or her relations or friends may have the liberty of burying them at their own expence; but if at the town’s expense, they may be buried at the Assylum or elsewhere at the discretion of the Commissioners.

RULES relating to the reception of persons into the Assylum
11th -

All persons upon their admission shall be examined by the male or female or by his or her order, to see if they are free from disease or otherwise unclean, such as have any disorder or are unclean, shall be placed in some apartment by themselves until they are cleansed.

12th -
No intercourse whatever, shall be allowed between the unmarried males and females belonging to the Assylum and all unlawful connections between the sexes is strictly forbidden, any breach of this rule shall be punished as the Commissioners may sentence.

13th -
None of the inmates of the house shall strike, abuse or give ill language to each other - curse, swear or be guilty of immoral conduct.

14th -
No one of the Poor shall go off the farm without permission from the Commissioners or keepers; every one who obtains this permission shall return in good order, at the appointed time; if anyone should be suspected of bringing strong liquor - or stolen property into said Assylum or on the farm, the keeper shall search such persons and if found guilty, shall be punished as the Commissioners or any one of them may direct.

15th -
No one shall beg for money or any other thing from any person who may visit the Assylum on pain of being punished as the Commissioners may direct.

16th -
In all cases of Solitary Confinement for criminal conduct, the person shall be debared from seeing or conversing with any person except the Commissioners - the keepers or the person employed to supply their wants; and their food shall consist of bread and water and shall be kept in confinement as long as the Commissioners or any one of them shall direct.

17th -
No one shall smoke or chew tobacco in his or her bed on penalty of forfeiting the liberty of smoking or chewing, so long as the Commissioners or any one of them may direct.

18th -
If any person maintained in the Assylum shall wilfully deface the walls or break the windows of the house or injure any of the premises or shall disturb the house by clamour or otherwise, or shall quarrel, abuse or strike any of the Family, or shall behave disrespectifully to any of those having the care and charge of the house, or shall drink to excess or be guilty of theft or embezzlement or shall profanely curse and swear or be guilty of lying shall be put into the dark room and there kept so long as the Commissioners or one of them shall judge fit.

19th -
Every person directed by the Commissioners or keepers to work, shall immediately repair thereto at the place and time appointed for that purpose and shall diligently attend to his or her employment for so many hours as to him or her may be prescribed by the keeper.

20th -
If any person capable of working shall refuse or neglect to work or shall be idle or will not perform the task of work to him or her prescribed or alloted; or shall spoil or waste anything delivered to him or her or shall violate any of the orders of the keeper or keepers, shall be punished as the Commissioriers or any one of them may direct.

21st -
The Commissioners shall purchase all nessesary stock and materials for the inmates or poor to be employed in, and sell the same when manufactured.

22nd -
The afore written rules and regulations shall be read to all the Poor of the Assylum (who have the capacity to understand them) once in every month by one of the Commissioners or keepers.

Thomas Cory     
Committee - Samuel Clarke   
Peleg Coggeshall

Services of Committee $3.00

[1] John T. Pierce Sr., Historical Tracts of the Town of Portsmouth, Rhode Island, 1991: Portsmouth, Rhode Island, Hamilton Printing Company.


Portsmouth Asylum Links
  Historical Context
  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

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

Over the Hill to the Poor-House
by Will Carleton, 1897

Over the hill to the poor-house I'm trudgin' my weary way---
I, a woman of seventy, and only a trifle gray---
I, who am smart an' chipper, for all the years I've told,
As many another woman that's only half as old.

Over the hill to the poor-house---I can't quite make it clear!
Over the hill to the poor-house---it seems so horrid queer!
Many a step I've taken, a-toilin' to and fro,
But this is a sort of journey I never thought to go.

What is the use of heapin' on me a pauper's shame?
Am I lazy or crazy? am I blind or lame?
True, I am not so supple, nor yet so awful stout;
But charity ain't no favor, if one can live without.

I am ready and willin' an' anxious any day
To work for a decent livin' and pay my honest way;
For I can earn my victuals, an' more too, I'll be bound,
If anybody is willin' to only have me 'round.

Once I was young an' hand'some---I was, upon my soul---
Once my cheeks was roses, my eyes was black as coal;
And I can't remember, in them days, of hearin' people say,
For any kind of a reason, that I was in their way!

'Tain't no use of boastin' or talkin' over-free,
But many a house an' home was open then to me;
Many a han'some offer I had from likely men,
And nobody ever hinted that I was a burden then.

And when to John I was married, sure he was good and smart,
But he and all the neighbors would own I done my part;
For life was all before me, an' I was young an' strong,
And I worked my best an' smartest in tryin' to get along.

And so we worked together; and life was hard, but gay,
With now and then a baby to cheer us on our way.
Till we had half a dozen, an' all growed clean an' neat,
An' went to school like others, an' had enough to eat.

An' so we worked for the child'rn, and raised 'em every one---
Worked for 'em summer and winter, just as we ought to've done;
Only perhaps we humored 'em, which some good folks condemn,
But every couple's own child'rn's a heap the dearest to them!

Strange how much we think of OUR blessed little ones!---
I'd have died for my daughters, and I'd have died for my sons.
And God He made that rule of love; but when we're old and gray
I've noticed it sometimes, somehow, fails to work the other way.

Stranger another thing: when our boys an' girls was grown,
And when, exceptin' Charley, they'd left us there alone,
When John he nearer an' nearer came, an' dearer seemed to be,
The Lord of Hosts, He came one day an' took him away from me!

Still I was bound to struggle, an' never cringe or fall---
Still I worked for Charley, for Charley was now my all;
And Charley was pretty good to me, with scarce a word or frown,
Till at last he went a-courtin', and brought a wife from town.

She was somewhat dressy, an' hadn't a pleasant smile---
She was quite conceity, and carried a heap o' style;
But if ever I tried to be friends, I did with her, I know;
But she was hard and haughty, an' we couldn't make it go.

She had an edication, and that was good for her,
But when she twitted me on mine, 'twas carryin' things too far,
An' I told her once, 'fore company, (an' it almost made her sick)
That I never swallowed a grammer, nor 'et a 'rithmetic.

So 'twas only a few days before the thing was done---
They was a family of themselves, and I another one.
And a very little cottage one family will do,
But I never have seen a mansion that was big enough for two.

An' I never could speak to suit her, never could please her eye,
An' it made me independent, an' then I didn't try.
But I was terribly humbled, an' felt it like a blow,
When Charley turned agin me, an' told me I could go!

I went to live with Susan, but Susan's house was small,
And she was always a-hintin' how snug it was for us all;
And what with her husband's sisters, and what with child'rn three,
'Twas easy to discover there wasn't room for me.

An' then I went with Thomas, the oldest son I've got:
For Thomas's buildings'd cover the half of an acre lot,
But all the child'rn was on me---I couldn't stand their sauce---
And Thomas said I needn't think I was comin' there to boss.

An' then I wrote to Rebecca, my girl who lives out West,
And to Isaac, not far from her---some twenty miles at best;
And one of 'em said 'twas too warm there for anyone so old,
And t'other had an opinion the climate was too cold.

So they have shirked and slighted me, an' shifted me about---
So they have well nigh soured me, an' wore my old heart out;
But still I've borne up pretty well, an' wasn't much put down,
Till Charley went to the poor-master, an' put me on the town!

Over the hill to the poor-house---my child'rn dear, good-bye!
Many a night I've watched you when only God was nigh;
And God'll judge between us; but I will al'ays pray
That you shall never suffer the half that I do to-day!

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