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 course.
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.
THE PROPOSAL IS FOR A PENSION OFFICE.
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: