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An Essay Upon Projects by Daniel Defoe

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Another objection lies against the possibility of inclosing the
lands upon the waste, which generally belongs to some manor, whose
different tenures may be so cross, and so otherwise encumbered, that
even the lords of those manors, though they were willing, could not
convey them.

This may be answered in general, that an Act of Parliament is
omnipotent with respect to titles and tenures of land, and can
empower lords and tenants to consent to what else they could not; as
to particulars, they cannot be answered till they are proposed; but
there is no doubt but an Act of Parliament may adjust it all in one

What a kingdom would England be if this were performed in all the
counties of it! And yet I believe it is feasible, even in the
worst. I have narrowly deserved all the considerable ways in that
unpassable county of Sussex, which (especially in some parts in the
wild, as they very properly call it, of the county) hardly admits
the country people to travel to markets in winter, and makes corn
dear at market because it cannot be brought, and cheap at the
farmer's house because he cannot carry it to market; yet even in
that county would I undertake to carry on this proposal, and that to
great advantage, if backed with the authority of an Act of

I have seen in that horrible country the road, sixty to a hundred
yards broad, lie from side to side all poached with cattle, the land
of no manner of benefit, and yet no going with a horse, but at every
step up to the shoulders, full of sloughs and holes, and covered
with standing water. It costs them incredible sums of money to
repair them; and the very places that are mended would fright a
young traveller to go over them. The Romans mastered this work, and
by a firm causeway made a highway quite through this deep country,
through Darkin in Surrey to Stansted, and thence to Okeley, and so
on to Arundel; its name tells us what it was made of (for it was
called Stone Street), and many visible parts of it remain to this

Now would any lord of a manor refuse to allow forty yards in breadth
out of that road I mentioned, to have the other twenty made into a
firm, fair, and pleasant causeway over that wilderness of a country?

Or would not any man acknowledge that putting this country into a
condition for carriages and travellers to pass would be a great
work? The gentlemen would find the benefit of it in the rent of
their land and price of their timber; the country people would find
the difference in the sale of their goods, which now they cannot
carry beyond the first market town, and hardly thither; and the
whole county would reap an advantage a hundred to one greater than
the charge of it. And since the want we feel of any convenience is
generally the first motive to contrivance for a remedy, I wonder no
man over thought of some expedient for so considerable a defect.


Assurances among merchants, I believe, may plead prescription, and
have been of use time out of mind in trade, though perhaps never so
much a trade as now.

It is a compact among merchants. Its beginning being an accident to
trade, and arose from the disease of men's tempers, who, having run
larger adventures in a single bottom than afterwards they found
convenient, grew fearful and uneasy; and discovering their
uneasiness to others, who perhaps had no effects in the same vessel,
they offer to bear part of the hazard for part of the profit:
convenience made this a custom, and custom brought it into a method,
till at last it becomes a trade.

I cannot question the lawfulness of it, since all risk in trade is
for gain, and when I am necessitated to have a greater cargo of
goods in such or such a bottom than my stock can afford to lose,
another may surely offer to go a part with me; and as it is just if
I give another part of the gain, he should run part of the risk, so
it is as just that if he runs part of my risk, he should have part
of the gain. Some object the disparity of the premium to the
hazard, when the insurer runs the risk of 100 pounds on the seas
from Jamaica to London for 40s., which, say they, is preposterous
and unequal. Though this objection is hardly worth answering to men
of business, yet it looks something fair to them that know no
better; and for the information of such, I trouble the reader with a
few heads:

First, they must consider the insurer is out no stock.

Secondly, it is but one risk the insurer runs; whereas the assured
has had a risk out, a risk of debts abroad, a risk of a market, and
a risk of his factor, and has a risk of a market to come, and
therefore ought to have an answerable profit.

Thirdly, if it has been a trading voyage, perhaps the adventurer has
paid three or four such premiums, which sometimes make the insurer
clear more by a voyage than the merchant. I myself have paid 100
pounds insurances in those small premiums on a voyage I have not
gotten 50 pounds by; and I suppose I am not the first that has done
so either.

This way of assuring has also, as other arts of trade have, suffered
some improvement (if I may be allowed that term) in our age; and the
first step upon it was an insurance office for houses, to insure
them from fire. Common fame gives the project to Dr. Barebone--a
man, I suppose, better known as a builder than a physician. Whether
it were his, or whose it was, I do not inquire; it was settled on a
fund of ground rents, to answer in case of loss, and met with very
good acceptance.

But it was soon followed by another, by way of friendly society,
where all who subscribe pay their quota to build up any man's house
who is a contributor, if it shall happen to be burnt. I won't
decide which is the best, or which succeeded best, but I believe the
latter brings in most money to the contriver.

Only one benefit I cannot omit which they reap from these two
societies who are not concerned in either; that if any fire happen,
whether in houses insured or not insured, they have each of them a
set of lusty fellows, generally watermen, who being immediately
called up, wherever they live, by watchmen appointed, are, it must
be confessed, very active and diligent in helping to put out the

As to any further improvement to be made upon assurances in trade,
no question there may; and I doubt not but on payment of a small
duty to the government the king might be made the general insurer of
all foreign trade, of which more under another head.

I am of the opinion also that an office of insurance erected to
insure the titles of lands, in an age where they are so precarious
as now, might be a project not unlikely to succeed, if established
on a good fund. But I shall say no more to that, because it seems
to be a design in hand by some persons in town, and is indeed no
thought of my own.

Insuring of life I cannot admire; I shall say nothing to it but that
in Italy, where stabbing and poisoning is so much in vogue,
something may be said for it, and on contingent annuities; and yet I
never knew the thing much approved of on any account.


Another branch of insurance is by contribution, or (to borrow the
term from that before mentioned) friendly societies; which is, in
short, a number of people entering into a mutual compact to help one
another in case any disaster or distress fall upon them.

If mankind could agree, as these might be regulated, all things
which have casualty in them might be secured. But one thing is
particularly required in this way of assurances: none can be
admitted but such whose circumstances are (at least, in some degree)
alike, and so mankind must be sorted into classes; and as their
contingencies differ, every different sort may be a society upon
even terms; for the circumstances of people, as to life, differ
extremely by the age and constitution of their bodies and difference
of employment--as he that lives on shore against him that goes to
sea, or a young man against an old man, or a shopkeeper against a
soldier, are unequal. I do not pretend to determine the
controverted point of predestination, the foreknowledge and decrees
of Providence. Perhaps, if a man be decreed to be killed in the
trenches, the same foreknowledge ordered him to list himself a
soldier, that it might come to pass, and the like of a seaman. But
this I am sure, speaking of second causes, a seaman or a soldier are
subject to more contingent hazards than other men, and therefore are
not upon equal terms to form such a society; nor is an annuity on
the life of such a man worth so much as it is upon other men:
therefore if a society should agree together to pay the executor of
every member so much after the decease of the said member, the
seamen's executors would most certainly have an advantage, and
receive more than they pay. So that it is necessary to sort the
world into parcels--seamen with seamen, soldiers with soldiers, and
the like.

Nor is this a new thing; the friendly society must not pretend to
assume to themselves the contrivance of the method, or think us
guilty of borrowing from them, when we draw this into other
branches; for I know nothing is taken from them but the bare words,
"friendly society," which they cannot pretend to be any considerable
piece of invention either.

I can refer them to the very individual practice in other things,
which claims prescription beyond the beginning of the last age, and
that is in our marshes and fens in Essex, Kent, and the Isle of Ely;
where great quantities of land being with much pains and a vast
charge recovered out of the seas and rivers, and maintained with
banks (which they call walls), the owners of those lands agree to
contribute to the keeping up those walls and keeping out the sea,
which is all one with a friendly society; and if I have a piece of
land in any level or marsh, though it bounds nowhere on the sea or
river, yet I pay my proportion to the maintenance of the said wall
or bank; and if at any time the sea breaks in, the damage is not
laid upon the man in whose land the breach happened, unless it was
by his neglect, but it lies on the whole land, and is called a
"level lot."

Again, I have known it practised in troops of horse, especially when
it was so ordered that the troopers mounted themselves; where every
private trooper has agreed to pay, perhaps, 2d. per diem out of his
pay into a public stock, which stock was employed to remount any of
the troop who by accident should lose his horse.

Again, the sailors' contribution to the Chest at Chatham is another
friendly society, and more might be named.

To argue against the lawfulness of this would be to cry down common
equity as well as charity: for as it is kind that my neighbour
should relieve me if I fall into distress or decay, so it is but
equal he should do so if I agreed to have done the same for him; and
if God Almighty has commanded us to relieve and help one another in
distress, surely it must be commendable to bind ourselves by
agreement to obey that command; nay, it seems to be a project that
we are led to by the divine rule, and has such a latitude in it that
for aught I know, as I said, all the disasters in the world might be
prevented by it, and mankind be secured from all the miseries,
indigences, and distresses that happen in the world. In which I
crave leave to be a little particular.

First general peace might be secured all over the world by it, if
all the powers agreed to suppress him that usurped or encroached
upon his neighbour. All the contingencies of life might be fenced
against by this method (as fire is already), as thieves, floods by
land, storms by sea, losses of all sorts, and death itself, in a
manner, by making it up to the survivor.

I shall begin with the seamen; for as their lives are subject to
more hazards than others, they seem to come first in view.


Sailors are les enfants perdus, "the forlorn hope of the world;"
they are fellows that bid defiance to terror, and maintain a
constant war with the elements; who, by the magic of their art,
trade in the very confines of death, and are always posted within
shot, as I may say, of the grave. It is true, their familiarity
with danger makes them despise it (for which, I hope, nobody will
say they are the wiser); and custom has so hardened them that we
find them the worst of men, though always in view of their last

I have observed one great error in the custom of England relating to
these sort of people, and which this way of friendly society would
be a remedy for:

If a seaman who enters himself, or is pressed into, the king's
service be by any accident wounded or disabled, to recompense him
for the loss, he receives a pension during life, which the sailors
call "smart-money," and is proportioned to their hurt, as for the
loss of an eye, arm, leg, or finger, and the like: and as it is a
very honourable thing, so it is but reasonable that a poor man who
loses his limbs (which are his estate) in the service of the
Government, and is thereby disabled from his labour to get his
bread, should be provided for, and not suffer to beg or starve for
want of those limbs he lost in the service of his country.

But if you come to the seamen in the merchants' service, not the
least provision is made: which has been the loss of many a good
ship, with many a rich cargo, which would otherwise have been saved.

And the sailors are in the right of it, too. For instance, a
merchant ship coming home from the Indies, perhaps very rich, meets
with a privateer (not so strong but that she might fight him and
perhaps get off); the captain calls up his crew, tells them,
"Gentlemen, you see how it is; I don't question but we may clear
ourselves of this caper, if you will stand by me." One of the crew,
as willing to fight as the rest, and as far from a coward as the
captain, but endowed with a little more wit than his fellows,
replies, "Noble captain, we are all willing to fight, and don't
question but to beat him off; but here is the case: if we are
taken, we shall be set on shore and then sent home, and lose perhaps
our clothes and a little pay; but if we fight and beat the
privateer, perhaps half a score of us may be wounded and lose our
limbs, and then we are undone and our families. If you will sign an
obligation to us that the owners or merchants shall allow a pension
to such as are maimed, that we may not fight for the ship, and go a-
begging ourselves, we will bring off the ship or sink by her side;
otherwise I am not willing to fight, for my part." The captain
cannot do this; so they strike, and the ship and cargo are lost.

If I should turn this supposed example into a real history, and name
the ship and the captain that did so, it would be too plain to be

Wherefore, for the encouragement of sailors in the service of the
merchant, I would have a friendly society erected for seamen;
wherein all sailors or seafaring men, entering their names, places
of abode, and the voyages they go upon at an office of insurance for
seamen, and paying there a certain small quarterage of 1s. per
quarter, should have a sealed certificate from the governors of the
said office for the articles hereafter mentioned:


If any such seaman, either in fight or by any other accident at sea,
come to be disabled, he should receive from the said office the
following sums of money, either in pension for life, or ready money,
as he pleased:

Pounds Pounds
An eye 25 2
Both eyes 100 8
One leg 50 4
Both legs 80 6
For the Right hand 80 6
loss of Left hand 50 or 4 per annum for life
Right arm 100 8
Left arm 80 6
Both hands 160 12
Both arms 200 16

Any broken arm, or leg, or thigh, towards the cure 10 pounds
If taken by the Turks, 50 pounds towards his ransom.
If he become infirm and unable to go to sea or maintain himself by
age or sickness 6 pounds per annum.
To their wives if they are killed or drowned 50 pounds

In consideration of this, every seaman subscribing to the society
shall agree to pay to the receipt of the said office his quota of
the sum to be paid whenever, and as often as, such claims are made,
the claims to be entered into the office and upon sufficient proof
made, the governors to regulate the division and publish it in

For example, suppose 4,000 seamen subscribe to this society, and
after six months--for no man should claim sooner than six months--a
merchant's ship having engaged a privateer, there comes several
claims together, as thus -

A was wounded and lost one leg . . . . . . . . . 50
B blown up with powder, and has lost an eye . . . . 25
C had a great shot took off his arm . . . . . . . . 100
D with a splinter had an eye struck out . . . . . . 25
E was killed with a great shot; to be paid to his wife 50

The governors hereupon settle the claims of these persons, and make
publication "that whereas such and such seamen, members of the
society, have in an engagement with a French privateer been so and
so hurt, their claims upon the office, by the rules and agreement of
the said office, being adjusted by the governors, amounts to 250
pounds, which, being equally divided among the subscribers, comes to
1s. 3d. each, which all persons that are subscribers to the said
office are desired to pay in for their respective subscriptions,
that the said wounded persons may be relieved accordingly, as they
expect to be relieved if the same or the like casualty should befall

It is but a small matter for a man to contribute, if he gave 1s. 3d.
out of his wages to relieve five wounded men of his own fraternity;
but at the same time to be assured that if he is hurt or maimed he
shall have the same relief, is a thing so rational that hardly
anything but a hare-brained follow, that thinks of nothing, would
omit entering himself into such an office.

I shall not enter further into this affair, because perhaps I may
give the proposal to some persons who may set it on foot, and then
the world may see the benefit of it by the execution.


The same method of friendly society, I conceive, would be a very
proper proposal for widows.

We have abundance of women, who have been bred well and lived well,
ruined in a few years, and perhaps left young with a houseful of
children and nothing to support them, which falls generally upon the
wives of the inferior clergy, or of shopkeepers and artificers.

They marry wives with perhaps 300 pounds to 1,000 pounds portion,
and can settle no jointure upon them. Either they are extravagant
and idle, and waste it; or trade decays; or losses or a thousand
contingencies happen to bring a tradesman to poverty, and he breaks.
The poor young woman, it may be, has three or four children, and is
driven to a thousand shifts, while he lies in the Mint or Friars
under the dilemma of a statute of bankruptcy; but if he dies, then
she is absolutely undone, unless she has friends to go to.

Suppose an office to be erected, to be called an office of insurance
for widows, upon the following conditions:

Two thousand women, or their husbands for them, enter their names
into a register to be kept for that purpose, with the names, age,
and trade of their husbands, with the place of their abode, paying
at the time of their entering 5s. down with 1s. 4d. per quarter,
which is to the setting up and support of an office with clerks and
all proper officers for the same; for there is no maintaining such
without charge. They receive every one of them a certificate sealed
by the secretary of the office, and signed by the governors, for the
articles hereafter mentioned:

If any one of the women become a widow at any time after six months
from the date of her subscription, upon due notice given, and claim
made at the office in form as shall be directed, she shall receive
within six mouths after such claim made the sum of 500 pounds in
money without any deductions, saving some small fees to the
officers, which the trustees must settle, that they may be known.

In consideration of this, every woman so subscribing obliges herself
to pay, as often as any member of the society becomes a widow, the
due proportion or share, allotted to her to pay towards the 500
pounds for the said widow, provided her share does not exceed the
sum of 5s.

No seamen's or soldiers' wives to be accepted into such a proposal
as this, on the account before mentioned, because the contingencies
of their lives are not equal to others--unless they will admit this
general exception, supposing they do not die out of the kingdom.

It might also be an exception that if the widow that claimed had
really, bona fide, left her by her husband to her own use, clear of
all debts and legacies, 2,000 pounds, she should have no claim, the
intent being to aid the poor, not add to the rich. But there lie a
great many objections against such an article, as -

1. It may tempt some to forswear themselves.

2. People will order their wills so as to defraud the exception.

One exception must be made, and that is, either very unequal matches
(as when a woman of nineteen marries an old man of seventy), or
women who have infirm husbands--I mean, known and publicly so; to
remedy which two things are to be done:

1. The office must have moving officers without doors, who shall
inform themselves of such matters, and if any such circumstances
appear, the office should have fourteen days' time to return their
money and declare their subscriptions void.

2. No woman whose husband had any visible distemper should claim
under a year after her subscription.

One grand objection against this proposal is, how you will oblige
people to pay either their subscription or their quarterage.

To this I answer, by no compulsion (though that might be performed
too), but altogether voluntary; only with this argument to move it,
that if they do not continue their payments, they lose the benefit
of their past contributions.

I know it lies as a fair objection against such a project as this,
that the number of claims are so uncertain that nobody knows what
they engage in when they subscribe, for so many may die annually out
of two thousand as may make my payment 20 pounds or 25 pounds per
annum; and if a woman happen to pay that for twenty years, though
she receives the 500 pounds at last, she is a great loser; but if
she dies before her husband, she has lessened his estate
considerably, and brought a great loss upon him.

First, I say to this that I would have such a proposal as this be so
fair and so easy, that if any person who had subscribed found the
payments too high and the claims fall too often, it should be at
their liberty at any time, upon notice given, to be released, and
stand obliged no longer; and, if so, volenti non fit injuria. Every
one knows best what their own circumstances will bear.

In the next place, because death is a contingency no man can
directly calculate, and all that subscribe must take the hazard; yet
that a prejudice against this notion may not be built on wrong
grounds, let us examine a little the probable hazard, and see how
many shall die annually out of 2,000 subscribers, accounting by the
common proportion of burials to the number of the living.

Sir William Petty, in his political arithmetic, by a very ingenious
calculation, brings the account of burials in London to be one in
forty annually, and proves it by all the proper rules of
proportioned computation; and I will take my scheme from thence.

If, then, one in forty of all the people in England die, that
supposes fifty to die every year out of our two thousand
subscribers; and for a woman to contribute 5s. to every one, would
certainly be to agree to pay 12 pounds 10s. per annum. upon her
husband's life, to receive 500 pounds when he died, and lose it if
she died first; and yet this would not be a hazard beyond reason too
great for the gain.

But I shall offer some reasons to prove this to be impossible in our
case: first, Sir William Petty allows the city of London to contain
about a million of people, and our yearly bill of mortality never
yet amounted to 25,000 in the most sickly years we have had (plague
years excepted); sometimes but to 20,000, which is but one in fifty.
Now it is to be considered here that children and ancient people
make up, one time with another, at least one-third of our bills of
mortality, and our assurances lie upon none but the middling age of
the people, which is the only age wherein life is anything steady;
and if that be allowed, there cannot die by his computation above
one in eighty of such people every year; but because I would be sure
to leave room for casualty, I will allow one in fifty shall die out
of our number subscribed.

Secondly, it must be allowed that our payments falling due only on
the death of husbands, this one in fifty must not be reckoned upon
the two thousand, for it is to be supposed at least as many women
shall die as men, and then there is nothing to pay; so that one in
fifty upon one thousand is the most that I can suppose shall claim
the contribution in a year, which is twenty claims a year at 5s.
each, and is 5 pounds per annum. And if a woman pays this for
twenty years, and claims at last, she is gainer enough, and no
extraordinary loser if she never claims at all. And I verily
believe any office might undertake to demand at all adventures not
above 6 pounds per annum, and secure the subscriber 500 pounds in
case she come to claim as a widow.

I forbear being more particular on this thought, having occasion to
be larger in other prints, the experiment being resolved upon by
some friends who are pleased to think this too useful a project not
to be put in execution, and therefore I refer the reader to the
public practice of it.

I have named these two cases as special experiments of what might be
done by assurances in way of friendly society; and I believe I
might, without arrogance, affirm that the same thought might be
improved into methods that should prevent the general misery and
poverty of mankind, and at once secure us against beggars, parish
poor, almshouses, and hospitals; and by which not a creature so
miserable or so poor but should claim subsistence as their due, and
not ask it of charity.

I cannot believe any creature so wretchedly base as to beg of mere
choice, but either it must proceed from want or sordid prodigious
covetousness; and thence I affirm there can be no beggar but he
ought to be either relieved or punished, or both. If a man begs for
more covetousness without want, it is a baseness of soul so
extremely sordid as ought to be used with the utmost contempt, and
punished with the correction due to a dog. If he begs for want,
that want is procured by slothfulness and idleness, or by accident;
if the latter, he ought to be relieved; if the former, he ought to
be punished for the cause, but at the same time relieved also, for
no man ought to starve, let his crime be what it will.

I shall proceed, therefore, to a scheme by which all mankind, be he
never so mean, so poor, so unable, shall gain for himself a just
claim to a comfortable subsistence whosoever age or casualty shall
reduce him to a necessity of making use of it. There is a poverty
so far from being despicable that it is honourable, when a man by
direct casualty, sudden Providence, and without any procuring of his
own, is reduced to want relief from others, as by fire, shipwreck,
loss of limbs, and the like.

These are sometimes so apparent that they command the charity of
others; but there are also many families reduced to decay whose
conditions are not so public, and yet their necessities as great.
Innumerable circumstances reduce men to want; and pressing poverty
obliges some people to make their cases public, or starve; and from
thence came the custom of begging, which sloth and idleness has
improved into a trade. But the method I propose, thoroughly put in
practice, would remove the cause, and the effect would cease of

Want of consideration is the great reason why people do not provide
in their youth and strength for old age and sickness; and the
ensuing proposal is, in short, only this--that all persons in the
time of their health and youth, while they are able to work and
spare it, should lay up some small inconsiderable part of their
gettings as a deposit in safe hands, to lie as a store in bank to
relieve them, if by age or accident they come to be disabled, or
incapable to provide for themselves; and that if God so bless them
that they nor theirs never come to need it, the overplus may be
employed to relieve such as shall.

If an office in the same nature with this were appointed in every
county in England, I doubt not but poverty might easily be
prevented, and begging wholly suppressed.


That an office be erected in some convenient place, where shall be a
secretary, a clerk, and a searcher, always attending.

That all sorts of people who are labouring people and of honest
repute, of what calling or condition soever, men or women (beggars
and soldiers excepted), who, being sound of their limbs and under
fifty years of age, shall come to the said office and enter their
names, trades, and places of abode into a register to be kept for
that purpose, and shall pay down at the time of the said entering
the sum of sixpence, and from thence one shilling per quarter, shall
every one have an assurance under the seal of the said office for
these following conditions:

1. Every such subscriber, if by any casualty (drunkenness and
quarrels excepted) they break their limbs, dislocate joints, or are
dangerously maimed or bruised, able surgeons appointed for that
purpose shall take them into their care, and endeavour their cure

2. If they are at any time dangerously sick, on notice given to the
said office able physicians shall be appointed to visit them, and
give their prescriptions gratis.

3. If by sickness or accident, as aforesaid, they lose their limbs
or eyes, so as to be visibly disabled to work, and are otherwise
poor and unable to provide for themselves, they shall either be
cured at the charge of the office, or be allowed a pension for
subsistence during life.

4. If they become lame, aged, bedrid, or by real infirmity of body
are unable to work, and otherwise incapable to provide for
themselves, on proof made that it is really and honestly so they
shall be taken into a college or hospital provided for that purpose,
and be decently maintained during life.

5. If they are seamen, and die abroad on board the merchants' ships
they were employed in, or are cast away and drowned, or taken and
die in slavery, their widows shall receive a pension during their

6. If they were tradesmen and paid the parish rates, if by decay
and failure of trade they break and are put in prison for debt, they
shall receive a pension for subsistence during close imprisonment.

7. If by sickness or accidents they are reduced to extremities of
poverty for a season, on a true representation to the office they
shall be relieved as the governors shall see cause.

It is to be noted that in the fourth article such as by sickness and
age are disabled from work, and poor, shall be taken into the house
and provided for; whereas in the third article they who are blind or
have lost limbs, &c., shall have pensions allowed them.

The reason of this difference is this:

A poor man or woman that has lost his hand, or leg, or sight, is
visibly disabled, and we cannot be deceived; whereas other
infirmities are not so easily judged of, and everybody would be
claiming a pension, when but few will demand being taken into a
hospital but such as are really in want.

And that this might be managed with such care and candour as a
design which carries so good a face ought to be, I propose the
following method for putting it into practice:

I suppose every undertaking of such a magnitude must have some
principal agent to push it forward, who must manage and direct
everything, always with direction of the governors.

And first I will suppose one general office erected for the great
parishes of Stepney and Whitechapel; and as I shall lay down
afterwards some methods to oblige all people to come in and
subscribe, so I may be allowed to suppose here that all the
inhabitants of those two large parishes (the meaner labouring sort,
I mean) should enter their names, and that the number of them should
be 100,000, as I believe they would be at least.

First, there should be named fifty of the principal inhabitants of
the said parishes (of which the church-wardens for the time being,
and all the justices of the peace dwelling in the bounds of the said
parish, and the ministers resident for the time being, to be part)
to be governors of the said office.

The said fifty to be first nominated by the Lord Mayor of London for
the time being, and every vacancy to be supplied in ten days at
farthest by the majority of voices of the rest.

The fifty to choose a committee of eleven, to sit twice a week, of
whom three to be a quorum; with a chief governor, a deputy-governor,
and a treasurer.

In the office, a secretary with clerks of his own, a registrar and
two clerks, four searchers, a messenger (one in daily attendance
under salary), a physician, a surgeon, and four visitors.

In the hospital, more or less (according to the number of people
entertained), a housekeeper, a steward, nurses, a porter, and a

For the support of this office, and that the deposit money might go
to none but the persons and uses for whom it is paid, and that it
might not be said officers and salaries was the chief end of the
undertaking (as in many a project it has been), I propose that the
manager or undertaker, whom I mentioned before, be the secretary,
who shall have a clerk allowed him, whose business it shall be to
keep the register, take the entries, and give out the tickets
(sealed by the governors and signed by himself), and to enter always
the payment of quarterage of every subscriber. And that there may
be no fraud or connivance, and too great trust be not reposed in the
said secretary, every subscriber who brings his quarterage is to put
it into a great chest, locked up with eleven locks, every member of
the committee to keep a key, so that it cannot be opened but in the
presence of them all; and every time a subscriber pays his
quarterage, the secretary shall give him a sealed ticket thus
[Christmas 96] which shall be allowed as the receipt of quarterage
for that quarter.

Note.--The reason why every subscriber shall take a receipt or
ticket for his quarterage is because this must be the standing law
of the office--that if any subscribers fail to pay their quarterage,
they shall never claim after it until double so much be paid, nor
not at all that quarter, whatever befalls them.

The secretary should be allowed to have 2d. for every ticket of
entry he gives out, and ld. for every receipt he gives for
quarterage, to be accounted for as follows:

One-third to himself in lieu of salary, he being to pay three clerks
out of it.

One-third to the clerks and other officers among them.

And one-third to defray the incident charge of the office.

Thus calculated. Per annum.
100,000 subscribers paying 1d.
each every quarter Pounds s. d.
1,666 3 4
One-third To the secretary
per annum and
three clerks 555 7 9
Pounds per annum.
{ To a registrar 100 }
{ To a clerk 50 }
{ To four searchers 100 } 550 0 0
One-third { To a physician 100 }
{ To a surgeon 100 }
{ To four visitors 100 }

{ To ten committee-men, }
{ 5s. each sitting, }
{ twice per week }
One-third { is 260 }
to incident{ To a clerk of }
charges, { committees 50 }
such as { To a messenger 40 } 560 15 7
{ A house for the office 40 }
{ A house for the }
{ hospital 100 }
{ Contingencies 70 }
15s. 7d. ==============
1,666 3 4

All the charge being thus paid out of such a trifle as ld. per
quarter, the next consideration is to examine what the incomes of
this subscription may be, and in time what may be the demands upon

Pounds s. d.
If 100,000 persons subscribe, they
pay down at their entering each
6d., which is 2,500 0 0
And the first year's payment is in
stock at 1s. per quarter 20,000 0 0
It must be allowed that under three
months the subscriptions will not
be well complete; so the payment
of quarterage shall not begin but
from the day after the books are
full, or shut up; and from thence
one year is to pass before any
claim can be made; and the money
coming in at separate times, I
suppose no improvement upon it for
the first year, except of the
2,500 pounds, which, lent to the king
on some good fund at 7 pounds per cent.
interest, advances the first year 175 0 0
The quarterage of the second year,
abating for 1,000 claims 19,800 0 0
And the interest of the first year's
money at the end of the second year,
lent to the king, as aforesaid, at
7 per cent. interest, is 1,774 10 0
The quarterage of the third year, abating
for claims 19,400 0 0
The interest of former cash to the end of
the third year 3,284 8 0
Income of three years 66,933 18 0

Note.--Any persons may pay 2s. up to 5s. quarterly, if they please,
and upon a claim will be allowed in proportion.

To assign what shall be the charge upon this, where contingency has
so great a share, is not to be done; but by way of political
arithmetic a probable guess may be made.

It is to be noted that the pensions I propose to be paid to persons
claiming by the third, fifth, and sixth articles are thus: every
person who paid 1s. quarterly shall receive 12d. weekly, and so in
proportion every 12d. paid quarterly by any one person to receive so
many shillings weekly, if they come to claim a pension.

The first year no claim is allowed; so the bank has in stock
completely 22,500 pounds. From thence we are to consider the number
of claims.

Sir William Petty, in his "Political Arithmetic," supposes not above
one in forty to die per annum out of the whole number of people; and
I can by no means allow that the circumstances of our claims will be
as frequent as death, for these reasons:

1. Our subscriptions respect all persons grown and in the prime of
their age; past the first, and providing against the last, part of
danger (Sir William's account including children and old people,
which always make up one-third of the bills of mortality).

2. Our claims will fall thin at first for several years; and let
but the money increase for ten years, as it does in the account for
three years, it would be almost sufficient to maintain the whole

3. Allow that casualty and poverty are our debtor side; health,
prosperity, and death are the creditor side of the account; and in
all probable accounts those three articles will carry off three
fourth-parts of the number, as follows: If one in forty shall die
annually (as no doubt they shall, and more), that is 2,500 a year,
which in twenty years is 50,000 of the number; I hope I may be
allowed one-third to be out of condition to claim, apparently living
without the help of charity, and one third in health and body, and
able to work; which, put together, make 83,332; so it leaves 16,668
to make claims of charity and pensions in the first twenty years,
and one-half of them must, according to Sir William Petty, die on
our hands in twenty years; so there remains but 8,334.

But to put it out of doubt, beyond the proportion to be guessed at,
I will allow they shall fall thus:

The first year, we are to note, none can claim; and the second year
the number must be very few, but increasing: wherefore I suppose

One in every 500 shall claim the second year, Pounds
which is 200; the charge whereof is 500
One in every 100 the third year is 1,000; the charge 2,500
Together with the former 200 500

To carry on the calculation.

Pounds s. d.
We find the stock at the end of the third year 66,933 18 0
The quarterage of the fourth year, abating as
before 19,000 0 0
Interest of the stock 4,882 17 6
The quarterage of the fifth year 18,600 0 0
Interest of the stock 6,473 0 0
115,889 15 6

The charge 3,000 0 0
2,000 to fall the fourth year 5,000 0 0
And the old continued 3,500 0 0
2,000 the fifth year 5,000 0 0
The old continued 11,000 0 0
27,500 0 0

By this computation the stock is increased above the charge in five
years 89,379 pounds 15s. 6d.; and yet here are sundry articles to be
considered on both sides of the account that will necessarily
increase the stock and diminish the charge:

First, in the five years' time 6,200 having
claimed charity, the number being abated
for in the reckoning above for stock, it
may be allowed new subscriptions will be
taken in to keep the number full, which
in five years amounts to 3,400 0 0
Their sixpences is 115 0 0
3,555 0 0
Which added to 115,889 pounds 15s. 6d. augments
be stock to 119,444 15 6
Six thousand two hundred persons claiming
help, which falls, to be sure, on the aged
and infirm, I think, at a modest computation,
in five years' time 500 of them may be dead,
which, without allowing annually, we take
at an abatement of 4,000 pounds out of the
charge 4,000 0 0
Which reduces the charge to 23,500 0 0

Besides this, the interest of the quarterage, which is supposed in
the former account to lie dead till the year is out, which cast up
from quarter to quarter, allowing it to be put out quarterly, as it
may well be, amounts to, by computation for five years, 5,250

From the fifth year, as near as can be computed, the number of
pensioners being so great, I make no doubt but they shall die off
the hands of the undertaker as fast as they shall fall in,
excepting, so much difference as the payment of every year, which
the interest of the stock shall supply.

For example: Pounds s. d.
At the end of the fifth year the stock in hand 94,629 15 6
The payment of the sixth year 20,000 0 0
Interest of the stock 5,408 4 0
120,037 19 6
Allow an overplus charge for keeping in the house,
which will be dearer than pensions, 10,000
pounds per annum 10,000 0 0
Charge of the sixth year 22,500 0 0
Balance in cash 87,537 19 6
120,037 19 6

This also is to be allowed--that all those persons who are kept by
the office in the house shall have employment provided for them,
whereby no persons shall be kept idle, the works to be suited to
every one's capacity without rigour, only some distinction to those
who are most willing to work; the profits of the said work to the
stock of the house.

Besides this, there may great and very profitable methods be found
out to improve the stock beyond the settled interest of 7 per cent.,
which perhaps may not always be to be had, for the Exchequer is not
always borrowing money; but a bank of 80,000 pounds, employed by
faithful hands, need not want opportunities of great, and very
considerable improvement.

Also it would be a very good object for persons who die rich to
leave legacies to, which in time might be very well supposed to
raise a standing revenue to it.

I will not say but various contingencies may alter the charge of
this undertaking, and swell the claims beyond proportion further
than I extend it; but all that, and much more, is sufficiently
answered in the calculations by above 80,000 pounds in stock to
provide for it.

As to the calculation being made on a vast number of subscribers,
and more than, perhaps, will be allowed likely to subscribe, I think
the proportion may hold good in a few as well as in a great many;
and perhaps if 20,000 subscribed, it might be as effectual. I am
indeed willing to think all men should have sense enough to see the
usefulness of such a design, and be persuaded by their interest to
engage in it; but some men have less prudence than brutes, and will
make no provision against age till it comes; and to deal with such,
two ways might be used by authority to compel them.

1. The churchwardens and justices of peace should send the beadle
of the parish, with an officer belonging to this office, about to
the poorer parishioners to tell them that, since such honourable
provision is made for them to secure themselves in old age from
poverty and distress, they should expect no relief from the parish
if they refused to enter themselves, and by sparing so small a part
of their earnings to prevent future misery.

2. The churchwardens of every parish might refuse the removal of
persons and families into their parish but upon their having entered
into this office.

3. All persons should be publicly desired to forbear giving
anything to beggars, and all common beggars suppressed after a
certain time; for this would effectually suppress beggary at last.

And, to oblige the parishes to do this on behalf of such a project,
the governor of the house should secure the parish against all
charges coming upon them from any person who did subscribe and pay
the quarterage, and that would most certainly oblige any parish to
endeavour that all the labouring meaner people in the parish should
enter their names; for in time it would most certainly take all the
poor in the parish off of their hands.

I know that by law no parish can refuse to relieve any person or
family fallen into distress; and therefore to send them word they
must expect no relief, would seem a vain threatening. But thus far
the parish may do: they shall be esteemed as persons who deserve no
relief, and shall be used accordingly; for who indeed would ever
pity that man in his distress who at the expense of two pots of beer
a month might have prevented it, and would not spare it?

As to my calculations, on which I do not depend either, I say this:
if they are probable, and that in five years' time a subscription of
a hundred thousand persons would have 87,537 pounds 19s. 6d. in
cash, all charges paid, I desire any one but to reflect what will
not such a sum do. For instance, were it laid out in the Million
Lottery tickets, which are now sold at 6 pounds each, and bring in 1
pound per annum for fifteen years, every 1,000 pounds so laid out
pays back in time 2,500 pounds, and that time would be as fast as it
would be wanted, and therefore be as good as money; or if laid out
in improving rents, as ground-rents with buildings to devolve in
time, there is no question but a revenue would be raised in time to
maintain one-third part of the number of subscribers, if they should
come to claim charity.

And I desire any man to consider the present state of this kingdom,
and tell me, if all the people of England, old and young, rich and
poor, were to pay into one common bank 4s. per annum a head, and
that 4s. duly and honestly managed, whether the overplus paid by
those who die off, and by those who never come to want, would not in
all probability maintain all that should be poor, and for ever
banish beggary and poverty out of the kingdom.


Wagering, as now practised by politics and contracts, is become a
branch of assurances; it was before more properly a part of gaming,
and as it deserved, had but a very low esteem; but shifting sides,
and the war providing proper subjects, as the contingencies of
sieges, battles, treaties, and campaigns, it increased to an
extraordinary reputation, and offices were erected on purpose which
managed it to a strange degree and with great advantage, especially
to the office-keepers; so that, as has been computed, there was not
less gaged on one side and other, upon the second siege of Limerick,
than two hundred thousand pounds.

How it is managed, and by what trick and artifice it became a trade,
and how insensibly men were drawn into it, an easy account may be

I believe novelty was the first wheel that set it on work, and I
need make no reflection upon the power of that charm: it was wholly
a new thing, at least upon the Exchange of London; and the first
occasion that gave it a room among public discourse, was some
persons forming wagers on the return and success of King James, for
which the Government took occasion to use them as they deserved.

I have heard a bookseller in King James's time say, "That if he
would have a book sell, he would have it burnt by the hand of the
common hangman;" the man, no doubt, valued his profit above his
reputation; but people are so addicted to prosecute a thing that
seems forbid, that this very practice seemed to be encouraged by its
being contraband.

The trade increased, and first on the Exchange and then in coffee-
houses it got life, till the brokers, those vermin of trade, got
hold of it, and then particular offices were set apart for it, and
an incredible resort thither was to be seen every day.

These offices had not been long in being, but they were thronged
with sharpers and setters as much as the groom-porters, or any
gaming-ordinary in town, where a man had nothing to do but to make a
good figure and prepare the keeper of the office to give him a
credit as a good man, and though he had not a groat to pay, he
should take guineas and sign polities, till he had received,
perhaps, 300 pounds or 400 pounds in money, on condition to pay
great odds, and then success tries the man; if he wins his fortune
is made; if not, he's a better man than he was before by just so
much money, for as to the debt, he is your humble servant in the
Temple or Whitehall.

But besides those who are but the thieves of the trade, there is a
method as effectual to get money as possible, managed with more
appearing honesty, but no less art, by which the wagerer, in
confederacy with the office-keeper, shall lay vast sums, great odds,
and yet be always sure to win.

For example: A town in Flanders, or elsewhere, during the war is
besieged; perhaps at the beginning of the siege the defence is
vigorous, and relief probable, and it is the opinion of most people
the town will hold out so long, or perhaps not be taken at all: the
wagerer has two or three more of his sort in conjunction, of which
always the office-keeper is one; and they run down all discourse of
the taking the town, and offer great odds it shall not be taken by
such a day. Perhaps this goes on a week, and then the scale turns;
and though they seem to hold the same opinion still, yet underhand
the office-keeper has orders to take all the odds which by their
example was before given against the taking the town; and so all
their first-given odds are easily secured, and yet the people
brought into a vein of betting against the siege of the town too.
Then they order all the odds to be taken as long as they will run,
while they themselves openly give odds, and sign polities, and
oftentimes take their own money, till they have received perhaps
double what they at first laid. Then they turn the scale at once,
and cry down the town, and lay that it shall be taken, till the
length of the first odds is fully run; and by this manage, if the
town be taken they win perhaps two or three thousand pounds, and if
it be not taken, they are no losers neither.

It is visible by experience, not one town in ten is besieged but it
is taken. The art of war is so improved, and our generals are so
wary, that an army seldom attempts a siege, but when they are almost
sure to go on with it; and no town can hold out if a relief cannot
be had from abroad.

Now, if I can by first laying 500 pounds to 200 pounds with A, that
the town shall not be taken, wheedle in B to lay me 5,000 pounds to
2,000 pounds of the same; and after that, by bringing down the vogue
of the siege, reduce the wagers to even-hand, and lay 2,000 pounds
with C that the town shall not be taken; by this method, it is plain

If the town be not taken, I win 2,200 pounds and lose 2,000 pounds.
If the town be taken, I win 5,000 pounds and lose 2,500 pounds.

This is gaming by rule, and in such a knot it is impossible to lose;
for if it is in any man's or company of men's power, by any artifice
to alter the odds, it is in their power to command the money out of
every man's pocket, who has no more wit than to venture.


Of all persons who are objects of our charity, none move my
compassion like those whom it has pleased God to leave in a full
state health and strength, but deprived of reason to act for
themselves. And it is, in my opinion, one of the greatest scandals
upon the understanding of others to mock at those who want it. Upon
this account I think the hospital we call Bedlam to be a noble
foundation, a visible instance of the sense our ancestors had of the
greatest unhappiness which can befall humankind; since as the soul
in man distinguishes him from a brute, so where the soul is dead
(for so it is as to acting) no brute so much a beast as a man. But
since never to have it, and to have lost it, are synonymous in the
effect, I wonder how it came to pass that in the settlement of that
hospital they made no provision for persons born without the use of
their reason, such as we call fools, or, more properly, naturals.

We use such in England with the last contempt, which I think is a
strange error, since though they are useless to the commonwealth,
they are only so by God's direct providence, and no previous fault.

I think it would very well become this wise age to take care of
such; and perhaps they are a particular rent-charge on the great
family of mankind, left by the Maker of us all, like a younger
brother, who though the estate be given from him, yet his father
expected the heir should take some care of him.

If I were to be asked, Who ought in particular to be charged with
this work? I would answer in general those who have a portion of
understanding extraordinary. Not that I would lay a tax upon any
man's brains, or discourage wit by appointing wise men to maintain
fools; but, some tribute is due to God's goodness for bestowing
extraordinary gifts; and who can it be better paid to than such as
suffer for want of the same bounty?

For the providing, therefore, some subsistence for such that natural
defects may not be exposed:

It is proposed that a fool-house be erected, either by public
authority, or by the city, or by an Act of Parliament, into which
all that are naturals or born fools, without respect or distinction,
should be admitted and maintained.

For the maintenance of this, a small stated contribution, settled by
the authority of an Act of Parliament, without any damage to the
persons paying the same, might be very easily raised by a tax upon
learning, to be paid by the authors of books:

Every book that shall be printed in folio,
from 40 sheets and upwards, to pay
at the licensing (for the whole impression) 5 pounds
Under 40 sheets 40s
Every quarto 20s
Every octavo of 10 sheets and upward 20s
Every octavo under 10 sheets, and every bound
book in 12mo 10s
Every stitched pamphlet 2s
Reprinted copies the same rates.

This tax to be paid into the Chamber of London for the space of
twenty years, would, without question, raise a fund sufficient to
build and purchase a settlement for this house.

I suppose this little tax being to be raised at so few places as the
printing-presses, or the licensers of books, and consequently the
charge but very small in gathering, might bring in about 1,500
pounds per annum for the term of twenty years, which would perform
the work to the degree following:

The house should be plain and decent (for I don't think the
ostentation of buildings necessary or suitable to works of charity),
and be built somewhere out of town for the sake of the air.

The building to cost about 1,000 pounds, or, if the revenue exceed,
to cost 2,000 pounds at most, and the salaries mean in proportion.

In the House. Per annum.
A steward 30 pounds
A purveyor 20
A cook 20
A butler 20
Six women to assist the cook and clean the
house, 4 pounds each 24
Six nurses to tend the people, 3 pounds each 18
A chaplain 20
A hundred alms-people at 8 pounds per annum, diet, &c. 800
The table for the officers, and contingencies, and
clothes for the alms-people, and firing,
put together 500
An auditor of the accounts, a committee of the
governors, and two clerks.

Here I suppose 1,500 pounds per annum revenue, to be settled upon
the house, which, it is very probable might be raised from the tax
aforesaid. But since an Act of Parliament is necessary to be had
for the collecting this duty, and that taxes for keeping of fools
would be difficultly obtained, while they are so much wanted for
wise men, I would propose to raise the money by voluntary charity,
which would be a work that would leave more honour to the
undertakers than feasts and great shows, which our public bodies too
much diminish their stocks with.

But to pass all suppositious ways, which are easily thought of, but
hardly procured, I propose to maintain fools out of our own folly.
And whereas a great deal of money has been thrown about in
lotteries, the following proposal would very easily perfect our


That a lottery be set up by the authority of the Lord Mayor and
Court of Aldermen, for a hundred thousand tickets, at twenty
shillings each, to be drawn by the known way and method of drawing
lotteries, as the million-lottery was drawn, in which no allowance
to be made to anybody, but the fortunate to receive the full sum of
one hundred thousand pounds put in, without discount, and yet this
double advantage to follow:

1. That an immediate sum of one hundred thousand pounds shall be
raised and paid into the Exchequer for the public use.

2. A sum of above twenty thousand pounds be gained, to be put into
the hands of known trustees, to be laid out in a charity for the
maintenance of the poor.

That as soon as the money shall be come in, it shall be paid into
the Exchequer, either on some good fund, if any suitable, or on the
credit of the Exchequer; and that when the lottery is drawn, the
fortunate to receive tallies or bills from the Exchequer for their
money, payable at four years.

The Exchequer receives this money, and gives out tallies according
to the prizes, when it is drawn, all payable at four years; and the
interest of this money for four years is struck in tallies
proportioned to the maintenance; which no parish would refuse that
subsisted them wholly before.

I make no question but that if such a hospital was erected within a
mile or two of the city, one great circumstance would happen, viz.,
that the common sort of people, who are very much addicted to
rambling in the fields, would make this house the customary walk, to
divert themselves with the objects to be seen there, and to make
what they call sport with the calamity of others, as is now
shamefully allowed in Bedlam.

To prevent this, and that the condition of such, which deserves
pity, not contempt, might not be the more exposed by this charity,
it should be ordered: that the steward of the house be in
commission of the peace within the precincts of the house only, and
authorised to punish by limited fines or otherwise any person that
shall offer any abuse to the poor alms-people, or shall offer to
make sport at their condition.

If any person at reading of this should be so impertinent as to ask
to what purpose I would appoint a chaplain in a hospital of fools, I
could answer him very well by saying, for the use of the other
persons, officers, and attendants in the house. But besides that,
pray, why not a chaplain for fools, as well as for knaves, since
both, though in a different manner, are incapable of reaping any
benefit by religion, unless by some invisible influence they are
made docile; and since the same secret power can restore these to
their reason, as must make the other sensible, pray why not a
chaplain? Idiots indeed were denied the communion in the primitive
churches, but I never read they were not to be prayed for, or were
not admitted to hear.

If we allow any religion, and a Divine Supreme Power, whose
influence works invisibly on the hearts of men (as he must be worse
than the people we talk of, who denies it), we must allow at the
same time that Power can restore the reasoning faculty to an idiot,
and it is our part to use the proper means of supplicating Heaven to
that end, leaving the disposing part to the issue of unalterable

The wisdom of Providence has not left us without examples of some of
the most stupid natural idiots in the world who have been restored
to their reason, or, as one would think, had reason infused after a
long life of idiotism; perhaps, among other wise ends, to confute
that sordid supposition that idiots have no souls.


This chapter has some right to stand next to that of fools, for
besides the common acceptation of late, which makes every
unfortunate man a fool, I think no man so much made a fool of as a

If I may be allowed so much liberty with our laws, which are
generally good, and above all things are tempered with mercy,
lenity, and freedom, this has something in it of barbarity; it gives
a loose to the malice and revenge of the creditor, as well as a
power to right himself, while it leaves the debtor no way to show
himself honest. It contrives all the ways possible to drive the
debtor to despair, and encourages no new industry, for it makes him
perfectly incapable of anything but starving.

This law, especially as it is now frequently executed, tends wholly
to the destruction of the debtor, and yet very little to the
advantage of the creditor.

1. The severities to the debtor are unreasonable, and, if I may so
say, a little inhuman, for it not only strips him of all in a
moment, but renders him for ever incapable of helping himself, or
relieving his family by future industry. If he escapes from prison,
which is hardly done too, if he has nothing left, he must starve or
live on charity; if he goes to work no man dare pay him his wages,
but he shall pay it again to the creditors; if he has any private
stock left for a subsistence he can put it nowhere; every man is
bound to be a thief and take it from him; if he trusts it in the
hands of a friend he must receive it again as a great courtesy, for
that friend is liable to account for it. I have known a poor man
prosecuted by a statute to that degree that all he had left was a
little money which he knew not where to hide; at last, that he might
not starve, he gives it to his brother who had entertained him; the
brother, after he had his money quarrels with him to get him out of
his house, and when he desires him to let him have the money lent
him, gives him this for answer, I cannot pay you safely, for there
is a statute against you; which run the poor man to such extremities
that he destroyed himself. Nothing is more frequent than for men
who are reduced by miscarriage in trade to compound and set up again
and get good estates; but a statute, as we call it, for ever shuts
up all doors to the debtor's recovery, as if breaking were a crime
so capital that he ought to be cast out of human society and exposed
to extremities worse than death. And, which will further expose the
fruitless severity of this law, it is easy to make it appear that
all this cruelty to the debtor is so far, generally speaking, from
advantaging the creditors, that it destroys the estate, consumes it
in extravagant charges, and unless the debtor be consenting, seldom
makes any considerable dividends. And I am bold to say there is no
advantage made by the prosecuting of a statute with severity, but
what might be doubly made by methods more merciful. And though I am
not to prescribe to the legislators of the nation, yet by way of
essay I take leave to give my opinion and my experience in the
methods, consequences, and remedies of this law.

All people know, who remember anything of the times when that law
was made, that the evil it was pointed at was grown very rank, and
breaking to defraud creditors so much a trade, that the parliament
had good reason to set up a fury to deal with it; and I am far from
reflecting on the makers of that law, who, no question, saw it was
necessary at that time. But as laws, though in themselves good, are
more or less so, as they are more or less seasonable, squared, and
adapted to the circumstances and time of the evil they are made
against; so it were worth while (with submission) for the same
authority to examine:

1. Whether the length of time since that act was made has not given
opportunity to debtors,

(1) To evade the force of the act by ways and shifts to avoid the
power of it, and secure their estates out of the reach of it.

(2) To turn the point of it against those whom it was made to
relieve. Since we see frequently now that bankrupts desire
statutes, and procure them to be taken out against themselves.

2. Whether the extremities of this law are not often carried on
beyond the true intent and meaning of the act itself by persons who,
besides being creditors, are also malicious, and gratify their
private revenge by prosecuting the offender, to the ruin of his

If these two points are to be proved, then I am sure it will follow
that this act is now a public grievance to the nation, and I doubt
not but will be one time or other repealed by the same wise
authority which made it.

1. Time and experience has furnished the debtors with ways and
means to evade the force of this statute, and to secure their estate
against the reach of it, which renders it often insignificant, and
consequently, the knave against whom the law was particularly bent
gets off, while he only who fails of mere necessity, and whose
honest principle will not permit him to practise those methods, is
exposed to the fury of this act. And as things are now ordered,
nothing is more easy than for a man to order his estate so that a
statute shall have no power over it, or at least but a little.

If the bankrupt be a merchant, no statute can reach his effects
beyond the seas; so that he has nothing to secure but his books, and
away he goes into the Friars. If a Shopkeeper, he has more
difficulty: but that is made easy, for there are men and carts to
be had whose trade it is, and who in one night shall remove the
greatest warehouse of goods or cellar of wines in the town and carry
them off into those nurseries of rogues, the Mint and Friars; and
our constables and watch, who are the allowed magistrates of the
night, and who shall stop a poor little lurking thief, that it may
be has stole a bundle of old clothes, worth five shilling, shall let
them all pass without any disturbance, and hundred honest men robbed
of their estates before their faces, to the eternal infamy of the
justice of the nation.

And were a man but to hear the discourse among the inhabitants of
those dens of thieves, when they first swarm about a new-comer to
comfort him, for they are not all hardened to a like degree at once.
"Well," says the first, "come, don't be concerned, you have got a
good parcel of goods away I promise you, you need not value all the
world." "All! would I had done so," says another, "I'd a laughed at
all my creditors." "Ay," says the young proficient in the hardened
trade, "but my creditors!" "Hang the creditors!" says a third;
"why, there's such a one, and such a one, they have creditors too,
and they won't agree with them, and here they live like gentlemen,
and care not a farthing for them. Offer your creditors half a crown
in the pound, and pay it them in old debts, and if they won't take
it let them alone; they'll come after you, never fear it." "Oh! but
a statute," says he again. "Oh! but the devil," cries the Minter.
"Why, 'tis the statutes we live by," say they; "why, if it were not
for statutes, creditors would comply, and debtors would compound,
and we honest fellows here of the Mint would be starved. Prithee,
what need you care for a statute? A thousand statutes can't reach
you here." This is the language of the country, and the new-comer
soon learns to speak it; for I think I may say, without wronging any
man, I have known many a man go in among them honest, that is,
without ill design, but I never knew one come away so again. Then
comes a graver sort among this black crew (for here, as in hell, are
fiends of degrees and different magnitude), and he falls into
discourse with the new-comer, and gives him more solid advice.
"Look you, sir, I am concerned to see you melancholy; I am in your
circumstance too, and if you'll accept of it, I'll give you the best
advice I can," and so begins the grave discourse.

The man is in too much trouble not to want counsel, so he thanks
him, and he goes on:- "Send a summons to your creditors, and offer
them what you can propose in the pound (always reserving a good
stock to begin the world again), which if they will take, you are a
free man, and better than you were before; if they won't take it,
you know the worst of it, you are on the better side of the hedge
with them: if they will not take it, but will proceed to a statute,
you have nothing to do but to oppose force with force; for the laws
of nature tell you, you must not starve; and a statute is so
barbarous, so unjust, so malicious a way of proceeding against a
man, that I do not think any debtor obliged to consider anything but
his own preservation, when once they go on with that." "For why,"
says the old studied wretch, "should the creditors spend your estate
in the commission, and then demand the debt of you too? Do you owe
anything to the commission of the statute?" "No," says he. "Why,
then," says he, "I warrant their charges will come to 200 pounds out
of your estate, and they must have 10s. a day for starving you and
your family. I cannot see why any man should think I am bound in
conscience to pay the extravagance of other men. If my creditors
spend 500 pounds in getting in my estate by a statute, which I
offered to surrender without it, I'll reckon that 500 pounds paid
them, let them take it among them, for equity is due to a bankrupt
as well as to any man, and if the laws do not give it us, we must
take it."

This is too rational discourse not to please him, and he proceeds by
this advice; the creditors cannot agree, but take out a statute; and
the man that offered at first it may be 10s. in the pound, is kept
in that cursed place till he has spent it all and can offer nothing,
and then gets away beyond sea, or after a long consumption gets off
by an act of relief to poor debtors, and all the charges of the
statute fall among the creditors. Thus I knew a statute taken out
against a shopkeeper in the country, and a considerable parcel of
goods too seized, and yet the creditors, what with charges and two
or three suits at law, lost their whole debts and 8s. per pound
contribution money for charges, and the poor debtor, like a man
under the surgeon's hand, died in the operation.

2. Another evil that time and experience has brought to light from
this act is, when the debtor himself shall confederate with some
particular creditor to take out a statute, and this is a masterpiece
of plot and intrigue. For perhaps some creditor honestly received
in the way of trade a large sum of money of the debtor for goods
sold him when he was sui juris, and he by consent shall own himself
a bankrupt before that time, and the statute shall reach back to
bring in an honest man's estate, to help pay a rogue's debt. Or a
man shall go and borrow a sum of money upon a parcel of goods, and
lay them to pledge; he keeps the money, and the statute shall fetch
away the goods to help forward the composition. These are tricks I
can give too good an account of, having more than once suffered by
the experiment. I could give a scheme, of more ways, but I think it
is needless to prove the necessity of laying aside that law, which
is pernicious to both debtor and creditor, and chiefly hurtful to
the honest man whom it was made to preserve.

The next inquiry is, whether the extremities of this law are not
often carried on beyond the true intent and meaning of the act
itself, for malicious and private ends to gratify passion and

I remember the answer a person gave me, who had taken out statutes
against several persons, and some his near relations, who had failed
in his debt; and when I was one time dissuading him from prosecuting
a man who owed me money as well as him, I used this argument with
him:- "You know the man has nothing left to pay." "That's true,"
says he; "I know that well enough." "To what purpose, then," said
I, "will you prosecute him?" "Why, revenge is sweet," said he. Now
a man that will prosecute a debtor, not as a debtor, but by way of
revenge, such a man is, I think, not intentionally within the
benefit of our law.

In order to state the case right, there are four sorts of people to
be considered in this discourse; and the true case is how to
distinguish them,

1. There is the honest debtor, who fails by visible necessity,
losses, sickness, decay of trade, or the like.

2. The knavish, designing, or idle, extravagant debtor, who fails
because either he has run out his estate in excesses, or on purpose
to cheat and abuse his creditors.

3. There is the moderate creditor, who seeks but his own, but will
omit no lawful means to gain it, and yet will hear reasonable and
just arguments and proposals.

4. There is the rigorous severe creditor, that values not whether
the debtor be honest man or knave, able or unable, but will have his
debt, whether it be to be had or no, without mercy, without
compassion, full of ill language, passion, and revenge.

How to make a law to suit to all these is the case. That a
necessary favour might be shown to the first, in pity and compassion
to the unfortunate, in commiseration of casualty and poverty, which
no man is exempt from the danger of. That a due rigour and
restraint be laid upon the second, that villainy and knavery might
not be encouraged by a law. That a due care be taken of the third,
that men's estates may as far as can be secured to them. And due
limits set to the last, that no man may have an unlimited power over
his fellow-subjects, to the ruin of both life and estate.

All which I humbly conceive might be brought to pass by the
following method, to which I give the title of


This court should consist of a select number of persons, to be
chosen yearly out of the several wards of the City by the Lord Mayor
and Court of Aldermen, and out of the several Inns of Court by the
Lord Chancellor, or Lord Keeper, for the time being, and to consist

A President, } To be chosen by the rest, and
A Secretary, } named every year also.
A Treasurer, }
A judge of causes for the proof of debts.
Fifty-two citizens, out of every ward two;
of which number to be twelve merchants.
Two lawyers (barristers at least) out of each
of the Inns of Court.

That a Commission of Inquiry into bankrupts' estates be given to
these, confirmed and settled by Act of Parliament, with power to
hear, try, and determine causes as to proof of debts, and disputes
in accounts between debtor and creditor, without appeal.

The office for this court to be at Guildhall, where clerks should be
always attending, and a quorum of the commissioners to sit de die in
diem, from three to six o'clock in the afternoon.

To this court every man who finds himself pressed by his affairs, so
that he cannot carry on his business, shall apply himself as

He shall go to the secretary's office, and give in his name, with
this short petition:-

To the Honourable the President and Commissioners of His Majesty's
Court of Inquiries. The humble petition of A. B., of the Parish of
--- in the Haberdasher.


That your petitioner being unable to carry on his business, by
reason of great losses and decay of trade, and being ready and
willing to make a full and entire discovery of his whole estate, and
to deliver up the same to your honours upon oath, as the law directs
for the satisfaction of his creditors, and having to that purpose
entered his name into the books of your office on the --- of this

Your petitioner humbly prays the protection of this Honourable

And shall ever pray, &c.

The secretary is to lay this petition before the commissioners, who
shall sign it of course; and the petitioner shall have an officer
sent home with him immediately, who shall take possession of his
house and goods, and an exact inventory of everything therein shall
be taken at his entrance by other officers also, appointed by the
court; according to which inventory the first officer and the
bankrupt also shall be accountable.

This officer shall supersede even the Sheriff in possession,
excepting by an extent for the king; only with this provision:-

That if the Sheriff be in possession by warrant on judgment obtained
by due course of law, and without fraud or deceit, and, bona fide,
in possession before the debtor entered his name in the office, in
such case the plaintiff to have a double dividend allotted to his
debt; for it was the fault of the debtor to let execution come upon
his goods before he sought for protection; but this not to be
allowed upon judgment confessed.

If the Sheriff be in possession by fieri facias for debt immediately
due to the king, the officer, however, shall quit his possession to
the commissioners, and they shall see the king's debt fully
satisfied before any division be made to the creditors.

The officers in this case to take no fee from the bankrupt, nor to
use any indecent or uncivil behaviour to the family (which is a most
notorious abuse now permitted to the sheriff's officers), whose fees
I have known, on small executions, on pretence of civility, amount
to as much as the debt, and yet behave themselves with unsufferable
insolence all the while.

This officer being in possession, the goods may be removed, or not
removed; the shop shut up or not shut up; as the bankrupt upon his
reasons given to the commissioners may desire.

The inventory being taken, the bankrupt shall have fourteen days'
time, and more if desired, upon showing good reasons to the
commissioners, to settle his books and draw up his accounts; and
then shall deliver up all his books, together with a full and true
account of his whole estate, real and personal, to which account he
shall make oath, and afterwards to any particular of it, if the
commissioners require.

After this account given in, the commissioners shall have power to
examine upon oath all his servants, or any other person; and if it
appears that he has concealed anything, in breach of his oath, to
punish him, as is hereafter specified.

Upon a fair and just surrender of all his estate and effects, bona
fide, according to the true intent and meaning of the act, the
commissioners shall return to him in money, or such of his goods as
he shall choose, at a value by a just appraisement, 5 pounds per
cent. of all the estate he surrendered, together with a full and
free discharge from all his creditors.

The remainder of the estate of the debtor to be fairly and equally
divided among the creditors, who are to apply themselves to the
commissioners. The commissioners to make a necessary inquiry into
the nature and circumstances of the debts demanded, that no
pretended debt be claimed for the private account of the debtor; in
order to which inquiry they shall administer the following oath to
the creditor, for the proof of the debt.

I, A. B., do solemnly swear and attest that the account hereto
annexed is true and right, and every article therein rightly and
truly stated and charged in the names of the persons to whom they
belong; and that there is no person or name named, concealed, or
altered in the said account by me, or by my knowledge, order, or
consent. And that the said does really and bona fide owe and stand
indebted to me for my own proper account the full sum of mentioned
in the said account, and that for a fair and just value made good to
him, as by the said account expressed; and also that I have not made
or known of any private contract, promise, or agreement between him
the said (or any body for him) and me, or any person whatsoever.

So help me God.

Upon this oath, and no circumstances to render the person suspected,
the creditor shall have an unquestioned right to his dividend, which
shall be made without the delays and charges that attend the
commissions of bankrupts. For,

1. The goods of the debtor shall upon the first meeting of the
creditors be either sold in parcels, as they shall agree, or divided
among them in due proportion to their debts.

2. What debts are standing out, the debtors shall receive summonses
from the commissioners, to pay by a certain time limited; and in the
meantime the secretary is to transmit accounts to the persons owing
it, appointing them a reasonable time to consent or disprove the

And every six months a just dividend shall be made among the
creditors of the money received; and so, if the effects lie abroad,
authentic procurations shall be signed by the bankrupt to the
commissioners, who thereupon correspond with the persons abroad, in
whose hands such effects are, who are to remit the same as the
commissioners order; the dividend to be made, as before, every six
months, or oftener, if the court see cause.

If any man thinks the bankrupt has so much favour by these articles,
that those who can dispense with an oath have an opportunity to
cheat their creditors, and that hereby too much encouragement is
given to men to turn bankrupt; let them consider the easiness of the
discovery, the difficulty of a concealment, and the penalty on the

1. I would have a reward of 30 per cent. be provided to be paid to
any person who should make discovery of any part of the bankrupt's
estate concealed by him, which would make discoveries easy and

2. Any person who should claim any debt among the creditors, for
the account of the bankrupt, or his wife or children, or with design
to relieve them out of it, other or more than is, bona fide, due to
him for value received, and to be made out; or any person who shall
receive in trust, or by deed of gift, any part of the goods or other
estate of the bankrupt, with design to preserve them for the use of
the said bankrupt, or his wife or children, or with design to
conceal them from the creditors, shall forfeit for every such act
500 pounds, and have his name published as a cheat, and a person not
fit to be credited by any man. This would make it very difficult
for the bankrupt to conceal anything.

3. The bankrupt having given his name, and put the officer into
possession, shall not remove out of the house any of his books; but
during the fourteen days' time which he shall have to settle the
accounts shall every night deliver the books into the hands of the
officer; and the commissioners shall have liberty, if they please,
to take the books the first day, and cause duplicates to be made,
and then to give them back to the bankrupt to settle the accounts.

4. If it shall appear that the bankrupt has given in a false
account, has concealed any part of his goods or debts, in breach of
his oath, he shall be set in the pillory at his own door, and be
imprisoned during life without bail.

5. To prevent the bankrupt concealing any debts abroad, it should
be enacted that the name of the bankrupt being entered at the
office, where every man might search gratis, should be publication
enough; and that after such entry, no discharge from the bankrupt
should be allowed in account to any man, but whoever would adventure
to pay any money to the said bankrupt or his order should be still
debtor to the estate, and pay it again to the commissioners.

And whereas wiser heads than mine must be employed to compose this
law, if ever it be made, they will have time to consider of more
ways to secure the estate for the creditors, and, if possible, to
tie the hands of the bankrupt yet faster.

This law, if ever such a happiness should arise to this kingdom,
would be a present remedy for a multitude of evils which now we
feel, and which are a sensible detriment to the trade of this

1. With submission, I question not but it would prevent a great
number of bankrupts, which now fall by divers causes. For,

(1.) It would effectually remove all crafty designed breakings, by
which many honest men are ruined. And

(2.) Of course 'twould prevent the fall of those tradesmen who are
forced to break by the knavery of such.

2. It would effectually suppress all those sanctuaries and refuges
of thieves, the Mint, Friars, Savoy, Rules, and the like; and that
these two ways:-

(1.) Honest men would have no need of it, here being a more safe,
easy, and more honourable way to get out of trouble.

(2.) Knaves should have no protection from those places, and the
Act be fortified against those places by the following clauses,
which I have on purpose reserved to this head.

Since the provision this court of inquiries makes for the ease and
deliverance of every debtor who is honest is so considerable, 'tis
most certain that no man but he who has a design to cheat his
creditors will refuse to accept of the favour; and therefore it
should be enacted,

That if any man who is a tradesman or merchant shall break or fail,
or shut up shop, or leave off trade, and shall not either pay or
secure to his creditors their full and whole debts, twenty shillings
in the pound, without abatement or deduction; or shall convey away
their books or goods, in order to bring their creditors to any
composition; or shall not apply to this office as aforesaid, shall
be guilty of felony, and upon conviction of the same shall suffer as
a felon, without benefit of clergy.

And if any such person shall take sanctuary either in the Mint,
Friars, or other pretended privilege place, or shall convey thither
any of their goods as aforesaid, to secure them from their
creditors, upon complaint thereof made to any of His Majesty's
Justices of the Peace, they shall immediately grant warrants to the
constable, &c., to search for the said persons and goods, who shall
be aided and assisted by the trained bands, if need be, without any
charge to the creditors, to search for, and discover the said
persons and goods; and whoever were aiding in the carrying in the
said goods, or whoever knowingly received either the goods or the
person, should be also guilty of felony.

For as the indigent debtor is a branch of the commonwealth which
deserves its care, so the wilful bankrupt is one of the worst sort
of thieves. And it seems a little unequal that a poor fellow who
for mere want steals from his neighbour some trifle shall be sent
out of the kingdom, and sometimes out of the world, while a sort of
people who defy justice, and violently resist the law, shall be
suffered to carry men's estates away before their faces, and no
officers to be found who dare execute the law upon them.

Any man would be concerned to hear with what scandal and reproach
foreigners do speak of the impotence of our constitution in this
point; that in a civilised Government, as ours is, the strangest
contempt of authority is shown that can be instanced in the world.

I may be a little the warmer on this head, on account that I have
been a larger sufferer by such means than ordinary. But I appeal to
all the world as to the equity of the case. What the difference is
between having my house broken up in the night to be robbed, and a
man coming in good credit, and with a proffer of ready money in the
middle of the day, and buying 500 pounds of goods, and carrying them
directly from my warehouse into the Mint, and the next day laugh at
me, and bid me defiance; yet this I have seen done. I think 'tis
the justest thing in the world that the last should be esteemed the
greater thief, and deserves most to be hanged.

I have seen a creditor come with his wife and children, and beg of
the debtor only to let him have part of his own goods again, which
he had bought, knowing and designing to break. I have seen him with
tears and entreaties petition for his own, or but some of it, and be
taunted and sworn at, and denied by a saucy insolent bankrupt. That
the poor man has been wholly ruined by the cheat. It is by the
villainy of such many an honest man is undone, families starved and
sent a begging, and yet no punishment prescribed by our laws for it.

By the aforesaid commission of inquiry all this might be most
effectually prevented, an honest, indigent tradesman preserved,
knavery detected and punished; Mints, Friars, and privilege-places
suppressed, and without doubt a great number of insolencies avoided
and prevented; of which many more particulars might be insisted
upon, but I think these may be sufficient to lead anybody into the
thought; and for the method, I leave it to the wise heads of the
nation, who know better than I how to state the law to the
circumstances of the crime.


We have in England fewer of these than in any part of the world, at
least where learning is in so much esteem. But to make amends, the
two great seminaries we have are, without comparison, the greatest,
I won't say the best, in the world; and though much might be said
here concerning universities in general, and foreign academies in
particular, I content myself with noting that part in which we seem
defective. The French, who justly value themselves upon erecting
the most celebrated academy of Europe, owe the lustre of it very
much to the great encouragement the kings of France have given to
it. And one of the members making a speech at his entrance tells
you that it is not the least of the glories of their invincible
monarch to have engrossed all the learning of the world in that
sublime body.

The peculiar study of the academy of Paris has been to refine and
correct their own language, which they have done to that happy
degree that we see it now spoken in all the courts of Christendom,
as the language allowed to be most universal.

I had the honour once to be a member of a small society, who seemed
to offer at this noble design in England. But the greatness of the
work, and the modesty of the gentlemen concerned, prevailed with
them to desist an enterprise which appeared too great for private
hands to undertake. We want, indeed, a Richelieu to commence such a
work. For I am persuaded were there such a genius in our kingdom to
lead the way, there would not want capacities who could carry on the
work to a glory equal to all that has gone before them. The English
tongue is a subject not at all less worthy the labour of such a
society than the French, and capable of a much greater perfection.
The learned among the French will own that the comprehensiveness of
expression is a glory in which the English tongue not only equals
but excels its neighbours; Rapin, St. Evremont, and the most eminent
French authors have acknowledged it. And my lord Roscommon, who is
allowed to be a good judge of English, because he wrote it as
exactly as any ever did, expresses what I mean in these lines:-

"For who did ever in French authors see
The comprehensive English energy?
The weighty bullion of one sterling line,
Drawn to French wire would through whole pages shine."

"And if our neighbours will yield us, as their greatest critic has
done, the preference for sublimity and nobleness of style, we will
willingly quit all pretensions to their insignificant gaiety."

It is great pity that a subject so noble should not have some as
noble to attempt it. And for a method, what greater can be set
before us than the academy of Paris? Which, to give the French
their due, stands foremost among all the great attempts in the
learned part of the world.

The present King of England, of whom we have seen the whole world
writing panegyrics and encomiums, and whom his enemies, when their
interest does not silence them, are apt to say more of than
ourselves; as in the war he has given surprising instances of a
greatness of spirit more than common: so in peace, I daresay, with
submission, he shall never have an opportunity to illustrate his
memory more than by such a foundation. By which he shall have
opportunity to darken the glory of the French king in peace, as he
has by his daring attempts in the war.

Nothing but pride loves to be flattered, and that only as it is a
vice which blinds us to our own imperfections. I think princes as
particularly unhappy in having their good actions magnified as their
evil actions covered. But King William, who has already won praise
by the steps of dangerous virtue, seems reserved for some actions
which are above the touch of flattery, whose praise is in

And such would this be. And because I am speaking of a work which
seems to be proper only for the hand of the king himself, I shall
not presume to carry on this chapter to the model, as I have done in
other subjects. Only thus far:

That a society be erected by the king himself, if his Majesty
thought fit, and composed of none but persons of the first figure in
learning; and it were to be wished our gentry were so much lovers of
learning that birth might always be joined with capacity.

The work of this society should be to encourage polite learning, to
polish and refine the English tongue, and advance the so much
neglected faculty of correct language, to establish purity and
propriety of style, and to purge it from all the irregular additions
that ignorance and affectation have introduced; and all those
innovations in speech, if I may call them such, which some dogmatic
writers have the confidence to foster upon their native language, as
if their authority were sufficient to make their own fancy

By such a society I daresay the true glory of our English style
would appear; and among all the learned part of the world be
esteemed, as it really is, the noblest and most comprehensive of all
the vulgar languages in the world.

Into this society should be admitted none but persons eminent for
learning, and yet none, or but very few, whose business or trade was
learning. For I may be allowed, I suppose, to say we have seen many
great scholars mere learned men, and graduates in the last degree of
study, whose English has been far from polite, full of stiffness and
affectation, hard words, and long unusual coupling of syllables and
sentences, which sound harsh and untuneable to the ear, and shock
the reader both in expression and understanding.

In short, there should be room in this society for neither
clergyman, physician, nor lawyer. Not that I would put an affront
upon the learning of any of those honourable employments, much less
upon their persons. But if I do think that their several
professions do naturally and severally prescribe habits of speech to
them peculiar to their practice, and prejudicial to the study I
speak of, I believe I do them no wrong. Nor do I deny but there may
be, and now are, among some of all those professions men of style
and language, great masters of English, whom few men will undertake
to correct; and where such do at any time appear, their
extraordinary merit should find them a place in this society; but it
should be rare, and upon very extraordinary occasions that such be

I would therefore have this society wholly composed of gentlemen;
whereof twelve to be of the nobility, if possible, and twelve
private gentlemen, and a class of twelve to be left open for mere
merit, let it be found in who or what sort it would, which should
lie as the crown of their study, who have done something eminent to
deserve it. The voice of this society should be sufficient
authority for the usage of words, and sufficient also to expose the
innovations of other men's fancies; they should preside with a sort
of judicature over the learning of the age, and have liberty to
correct and censure the exorbitance of writers, especially of
translators. The reputation of this society would be enough to make
them the allowed judges of style and language, and no author would
have the impudence to coin without their authority. Custom, which
is now our best authority for words, would always have its original
here, and not be allowed without it. There should be no more
occasion to search for derivations and constructions, and 'twould be
as criminal then to coin words as money.

The exercises of this society would be lectures on the English
tongue, essays on the nature, original, usage, authorities, and
differences of words, or the propriety, parity, and cadence of
style, and of the politeness and manner in writing; reflections upon
irregular usages, and corrections of erroneous customs in words;
and, in short, everything that would appear necessary to the
bringing our English tongue to a due perfection, and our gentlemen
to a capacity of writing like themselves; to banish pride and
pedantry, and silence the impudence and impertinence of young
authors, whose ambition is to be known, though it be by their folly.

I ask leave here for a thought or two about that inundation custom

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