Thomas Chalmers' poor relief theories and their implementation in the early nineteenth century
Furgol, Mary Theresa
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There are three main themes in this thesis. Firstly, an analysis of the development of Thomas Chalmers' poor relief theories. Secondly, an evaluation of their impact on his contemporaries at home and abroad. Lastly, the establishment of their degree of success when put into practice in the early nineteenth century. Chalmers' ideas on poverty and pauperism are usually presented as having been formed relatively early on in his life and remaining fairly static throughout. Using the surviving correspondence, Chalmers' diaries and writings, this thesis traces the origin of his poor relief ideas in Enlightmement concepts and demonstrates the impact of the various stages of Chalmers' career upon them. In particular, Chalmers' conversion to evangelical Christianity, his experiences as a minister in a large parish in industrialising Glasgow, his life as a professor in St. Andrews and Edinburgh, and his involvement in the Disruption of the Church of Scotland are all considered as regards their contribution to his poor relief solution. At the same time, the popularity of his poor relief ideas among many of his contemporaries is explored and explained as the product in some cases of similar educational background, common social problems facing many industrialising areas in the period, and Chalmers' influence as a teacher and writer. The major practical experiment in poor relief and pastoral care embarked upon by Chalmers in St. John's parish in Glasgow is described at some length. The surviving evidence among the parish papers and correspondence concerning the work of the agency of deacons, elders and teachers is examined. The emerging picture is of a parish that for a time had dedicated pas tors and lay helpers working to improve its moral, spiritual and material welfare, but which was successful only in terms of its educational facilities. For the first time it is proven that the poor relief side of the St. John's experiment was a failure, both financially and practically. The other attempts and their failure to implement Chalmers' poor relief theories in the nineteenth century are also considered, using the surviving kirk session records, parish histories and correspondence. In conclusion, Chalmers is shown by the end of his life to have concentrated more on evangelisation than political economy, the conversion and education of the people as opposed to their immediate material improvement.