An essay upon projects, by Daniel Defoe

Of Fools.

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
                                                          ====
                                                           152
    A hundred alms-people at 8 pounds per annum, diet, &c. 800
                                                          ====
                                                           952
    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 work.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/d/defoe/daniel/d31es/chapter10.html

Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37