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

Of FOOLS.

OF all Persons who are Objects of our Charity, none move my Compassion, like those whom it has pleas'd God to leave in a full state of Health and Strength, but depriv'd of Reason to act for themselves. And it is, in my opinion, one of the great|est Scandals upon the Understanding of others, to mock at those who want it. Upon this account I think the Ho|spital we call Bedlam, to be a Noble Foundation; a visible Instance of the sense our Ancestors had of the greatest Unhappiness which can befal Human Page  179 Kind: Since as the Soul in Man di|stinguishes him from a Brute, so where the Soul is dead (for so it is as to act|ing) no Brute so much a Beast as a Man. But since never to have it, and to have lost it, are synonimous 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 pro|perly, Naturals.

We use such in England with the last Contempt, which I think is a strange Error, since tho' they are useless to the Commonwealth, they are only so by God's direct Providence, and no pre|vious Fault.

I think 'twould 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; Page  180 like a Younger Brother, who tho' the Estate be given from him, yet his Fa|ther expected the Heir should take some care of him.

If I were to be ask'd, Who ought in particular to be charg'd with this Work? I would answer in general, Those who have a Portion of Under|standing extraordinary: Not that I would lay a Tax upon any man's Brains, or discourage Wit, by appoint|ing Wise Men to maintain Fools: But some Tribute is due to God's Good|ness 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 De|fects may not be expos'd:

Page  181It is Propos'd,

That a Fool-House be Erected, either by Publick 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 maintain'd.

For the Maintenance of this, a small stated Contribution, settl'd by the Au|thority of an Act of Parliament, with|out any Damage to the Persons pay|ing the same, might be very easily rais'd, 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 l.
Under 40 sheets, 40 s.
Every Quarto, 20 s.
Page  182Every Octavo of 10 sheets and upward, 20 s.
Every Octavo under 10 sheets, and every Bound Book in 12s. 10 s.
Every stitch'd Pamphlet, Reprinted Copies the same Rates. 2 s.

This Tax to be paid into the Cham|ber of London for the space of Twen|ty 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 rais'd 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 a|bout 1500 l. per Annum, for the term of Twenty Years, which would per|form the Work to the degree follow|ing.

The House should be Plain and Decent, (for I don't think the Ostenta|tion Page  183 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 1000 l. or if the Revenue exceed, to cost 2000 l. at most, and the Salaries mean in proportion.

In the House,

A Steward, 30 l. per Ann.
A Purveyor, 20
A Cook, 20
A Butler, 20
Six Women to assist the Cook, and clean the House, 4 l. each, 24
Six Nurses to Tend the People, 3 l. each, 18
A Chaplain, 20
  152
A Hundred Alms-People, at 8 l. per Ann. Dyet, &c. 800
  952 l. per Ann.
The Table for the Officers, and Contingences, and Cloaths for the Alms-People, and Firing, put together, 500 l. per Ann.
An Auditor of the Accounts, a Committee of the Governors, and Two Clerks.  

Page  184 Here I suppose 1500 Pounds per Ann. Revenue, to be settl'd upon the House, which 'tis very probable might be rais'd from the Tax afore|said. 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 obtain'd, while they are so much wanted for Wise Men; I would propose to raise the Money by voluntary Charity, which wou'd be a Work would leave more Honour to the Undertakers, than Feasts and great Shows, which our Publick Bodies too much diminish their Stocks with.

But to pass all suppositious ways, which are easily thought of, but hard|ly procur'd; 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 Work.

Page  185A Charity-Lottery.

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 any body; but the Fortunate to re|ceive the full Sum of One hundred thousand Pounds put in, without Discount; and yet this double Advan|tage to follow:

  • (1.) That an immediate Sum of One hundred thousand Pounds shall be rais'd and paid into the Exchequer for the Publick Use.
  • (2.) A Sum of above Twenty thousand Pounds be gain'd, to be put into the hands of known Trustees, to Page  186 be laid out in a Charity for the Main|tenance of the Poor.

That as soon as the Money shall be come in, it shall be paid into the Ex|chequer, either on some good Fund, if any suitable, or on the Credit of Ex|chequer; and that when the Lot|tery 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 'tis drawn, all payable at Four Years; and the Interest of this Money for Four Years is struck in Tal|lies proportion'd to the time, and gi|ven to the Trustees; which is the Pro|fit I propose for the Work.

Thus the Fortunate have an imme|diate Title to their Prizes, at Four Years, without Interest; and the Ho|spital will have also an immediate Title to 6000 l. per Ann. for Four Page  187 Years, which is the Interest at 6 per Cent. per Ann.

If any should object against the Time of staying for their Prizes, it should be answer'd thus, That who|ever did not like to stay the Time for the Money, upon discounting Four Years Interest at 8 per Cent. should have their Money down.

I think this Specimen will inform any body what might be done by Lot|teries, were they not hackney'd about in Private Hands, who by Fraud and Ill Management put them out of Re|pute, and so neither gain themselves, nor suffer any useful handsome Design to succeed.

'Twould be needless, I suppose, to mention, That such a Proposal as this ought to be set on foot by Publick Approbation, and by Men of known Integrity and Estates, that there may be no room left for a suspicion of private advantage.

Page  188 If this or any equivalent Proposal succeeded to raise the Money, I would have the House establish'd as aforesaid, with larger or smaller Revenues, as necessity oblig'd; then the Persons to be receiv'd should be without distincti|on or respect, but principally such as were really Poor and Friendless; and any that were kept already by any Pa|rish-Collection, the said Parish should allow Forty Shillings Yearly towards their Maintenance; which no Parish would refuse that subsisted them whol|ly before.

I make no question but that if such an Hospital was erected within a Mile or two of the City, one great Circum|stance would happen, (viz.) That the common sort of people, who are ve|ry 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 Page  189 to make what they call Sport with the Calamity of others; as is now shame|fully allow'd in Bedlam.

To prevent this, and that the con|dition of such, which deserves Pity, not Contempt, might not be the more expos'd by this Charity, it should be order'd, That the Steward of the House be in Commission of the Peace within the Precincts of the House only, and authoriz'd 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, shou'd be so impertinent as to ask, To what purpose I wou'd appoint a Chaplain in an Hospital of Fools? I could answer him very well, by say|ing, For the use of the other Persons, Officers and Attendants in the House.

Page  190 But besides that, Pray, Why not a Chaplain for Fools, as well as for Knaves, since both, tho' in a different manner, are uncapable of reaping any benefit by Religion, unless by some invisible Influence they are made do|cible; and since the same Secret Power can restore these to their Reason, as must make the other Sensible; Pray, Why not a Chaplain? Ideots indeed were denied the Communion in the Primitive Churches, but I never read they were not to be pray'd for, or were not admitted to hear.

If we allow any Religion, and a Divine Supreme Power, whose In|fluence 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-Fa|culty to an Ideot; and 'tis our part to use the proper means of supplicating Page  191 Heaven to that end, leaving the dispo|sing-part to the Issue of unalterable Providence.

The Wisdom of Providence has not left us without Examples of some of the most stupid Natural Ideots in the world, who have been restor'd to their Reason, or as one would think, had Reason infus'd after a long Life of Ideotism; Perhaps, among other wise ends, to confute that sordid Suppositi|on, That Ideots have no Souls.