The American model of the welfare state, incomplete as it may be, was not plucked out of thin air by the architects of the New Deal in the 1930s. Instead it is the product and logical evolution of a long historical process. 19th century federal relief programs for various population groups, including veterans, native Americans, merchant sailors, emancipated slaves, and residents of the District of Columbia, are examined in order to help better understand contemporary welfare developments.

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