Essays upon several projects: or, effectual ways for advancing the interest of the nation.:
Defoe, Daniel, 1661?-1731.

Of Seamen.

Sailors are Les Enfans Perdue, 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 Magick of their Art, Trade in the very confines of Death, and are always posted within shot, as I may say, of the Grave: 'Tis true, their familiarity with Danger makes them despise it, for which, I hope, no body will say they are the wiser; and Custom has so harden'd them, that we find them the worst of Men, tho' always in view of their last Mo|ment.

I have observ'd one great Error in the Custom of England, relating Page  125 to these sort of People, and which this way of Friendly-Society wou'd be a Remedy for.

If a Seaman who Enters himself, or is Press'd into the King's Ser|vice, be by any Accident Wound|ed or Disabled, to Recompence him for the Loss, he receives a Pension during Life, which the Sail|ors call Smart-Money, and is pro|portioned to their Hurt, as for the Loss of an Eye, Arm, Leg, or Finger, and the like; and as 'tis a very Honourable thing, so 'tis but reasonable, That a Poor Man who Loses his Limbs (which are his Estate) in the Service of the Government, and is thereby disa|bled from his Labour to get his Bread, shou'd be provided for, and not suffer'd to Beg or Starve for want of those Limbs he lost in the Service of his Country.

Page  126 But if you come to the Sea|men 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 wou'd otherwise have been Sav'd.

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 'tis, I don't question but we may Clear our selves 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 endow'd with a little more Wit than his Fellows, Replies, Noble Captain, We are all willing to Fight, and don't question but to Beat himPage  127off; but here is the Case, If we are Taken, we shall be set on Shore, and then sent Home, and Lose, perhaps, our Cloaths, 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 al|low a Pension to such as are Maim'd, that we may not Fight for the Ship, and go a Begging our selves, 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 is Lost.

If I shou'd turn this suppos'd Ex|ample into a real History, and Name the Ship and the Captain that did so, it wou'd be too plain to be contradicted.

Page  128 Wherefore, for the Encouragement of Sailors in the Service of the Merchant, I wou'd have a Friendly-Society Erected for Seamen; where|in all Sailors, or Seafaring-men, Entring their Names, Places of Abode, and the Voyages they go upon, at an Office of Ensurance for Seamen, and Paying there a cer|tain small Quarteridge, of 1 s. per Quarter, shou'd have a Seal'd Cer|tificate from the Governors of the said Office, for the Articles hereafter mentioned.

(1.) If any such Seaman, either in Fight, or by any other Accident at Sea, come to be disabled, he shou'd receive from the said Office the fol|lowing Sums of Money, either in Pension for Life, or Ready Money, as he pleas'd.

Page  129
    l.   l.  
For the Loss of An Eye 25 or 2 Per Ann. for Life.
Both Eyes 100 8
One Leg 50 4
Both Legs 80 6
Right Hand 80 6
Left Hand 50 4
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 l.
If taken by the Turks, 50 l. towards his Ransom.
If he become Infirm and Unable to go to Sea, or Maintain himself, by Age or Sickness, 6 l. per Ann.
To their Wives if they are Kill'd or Drown'd, 50 l.

In Consideration of this, every Sea|man 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 Enter'd into the Office, and upon sufficient Proof made, the Go|vernors Page  130 to Regulate the Division, and Publish it in Print.

For Example:

Suppose 4000 Seamen Subscribe to this Society, and after Six Months, for no Man shou'd Claim sooner than Six Months, a Merchant's Ship having Engag'd a Privateer, there comes se|veral Claims together: As thus;

  l.
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
  200
E Was Kill'd with a Great Shot, to be paid to his Wife 50
  250

The Governors hereupon settle the Claim of these Persons, and make Publication, That whereas such and suchPage  131Seamen, Members of the Society, have in an Engagement with a French Priva|teer, been so and so Hurt, their Claims upon the Office, by the Rules and Agree|ments of the said Office, being adjusted by the Governors, amounts to 250 l. which being equally divided among the Sub|scribers, comes to 1 s. 3 d. each; which all Persons that are Subscribers to the said Office are desired to Pay in, for their re|spective Subscriptions, that the said Wounded Persons may be Reliev'd ac|cordingly, as they expect to be Reliev'd, if the same, or the like Casualty shou'd be|fall them.

'Tis but a small matter for a Man to Contribute, if he gave 1 s. 3 d. out of his Wages to Relieve Five Wounded Men of his own Fraternity, but at the same time to be assur'd that if he is Hurt or Maim'd he shall have the same Relief, it is a thing so ratio|nal, that hardly any thing but a Hare|brain'd Page  132 Fellow that thinks of nothing, wou'd omit Entring 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 Exe|cution.