Chapter

“The Position of Our City has Materially Changed”: Public Costs and Municipal Governance During the Civil War

Earl F. Mulderink III

in New Bedford's Civil War

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780823243341
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823243389 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5422/fordham/9780823243341.003.0009

Series: The North's Civil War (FUP)

“The Position of Our City has Materially Changed”: Public Costs and Municipal Governance During the Civil War

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This chapter details efforts by New Bedford's public officials to confront the challenges presented by the Civil War on fiscal management and municipal governance. It examines community debates over wartime costs, maintaining public services, and planning the city's postwar future. New Bedford's local officials coordinated with agents of state and national governments to meet unprecedented military expenses such as bounties. Despite the pressures of an uncertain war and an economic downturn, the city avoided large deficits by cutting costs in key areas such as public schools and collecting taxes with great efficiency. The issue of supplying New Bedford with fresh water, and its huge price tag, divided business and political leaders during a wartime referendum in 1864. Another municipal responsibility impacted directly by the Civil War was New Bedford's generous program of welfare administered by the Overseers of the Poor.

Keywords: New Bedford; Civil War; fiscal management; municipal governance; wartime costs; public services; public schools; fresh water; welfare; Overseers of Poor

Chapter.  8105 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Military History

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