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Silence Dogood essay 10
"Sir, Discoursing lately with an intimate Friend of mine of the lamentable Condition of Widows ..."

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Optime societas hominum servabitur. Cic.

To the Author of the New-England Courant.

["[No X" appears along right side of column. This number signifies this is the tenth Silence Dogood letter.]

SIR,

DISCOURSING lately
with an intimate Friend
of mine of the lamenta-
ble Condition of Wi-
dows, he put into my
Hands a Book, wherein
the ingenious Author
proposes (I think) a
certain Method for their
Relief. I have often
thought of some such
Project for their Benefit
my self, and intended
to communicate my Thoughts to the Publick; but
to prefer my own Proposals to what follows, would
be rather an Argument of Vanity in me than Good
Will to the many Hundreds of my Fellow-Sufferers
now in New-England.

" We have (says he) abundance of Women, who
" have been Bred well, and Liv'd well, Ruin'd in a
" few Years, and perhaps, left Young, with a House
" full 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 l. to 1000 l.
" Portion, and can settle no Jointure upon them; ei-
" ther they are Extravagant and Idle, and Waste it, or
" Trade decays, or Losses, or a Thousand Contingen-
" ces 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 thou-
" sand shifts, while he lies in the Mint or Fryars under
" the Dilemma of a Statute of Bankrupt; but if he
" Dies, then she is absolutely Undone, unless she has
" Friends to go to.

" Suppose an Office to be Erected, to be call'd An
" Office of Ensurance 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 Entring 5 s. down with
" 1 s. 4 d. per Quarter, which is to the setting up and
" support of an Office with Clerks, and all proper
" Officers for the same; for their is no maintaining
" such without Charge; they receive every one of them
" a Certificate, Seal'd by the Secretary of the Office,
" and Sign'd by the Governors, for the Articles here-
" after mentioned.

" If any one of the Women becomes a Widow, at a-
" ny 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 Months after such Claim
" made, the Sum of 500 l. 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 Subscri-
" bing, Obliges her self to Pay as often as any Mem-
" ber of the Society becomes a Widow, the due Pro-
" portion or Share allotted to her to Pay, towards the
"

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500 l. for the said Widow, provided her Share does
" not exceed the Sum of 5 s.

" No Seamen or Soldiers Wives to be accepted into
" such a Proposal as this, on the Account before men-
" tion'd, because the Contingences of their Lives are
" not equal to others, unless they will admit this ge-
" neral Exception, supposing they do not Die out of
" the Kingdom.

" It might also be an Exception, That if the Wi-
" dow, that Claim'd, had really, bona fide, left her by
" her Husband to her own use, clear of all Debts and
" Legacies, 2000 l. she shou'd have no Claim; the In-
" tent being to Aid the Poor, not add to the Rich.
" But there lies 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 Nine-
" teen Marries an old Man of Seventy; or Women
" who have infirm Husbands, I mean known and pub-
" lickly so. To remedy which, Two things are to be
" done.

" 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 14 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 Sub-
" scription.

" One grand Objection against this Proposal, is,
" How you will oblige People to pay either their Sub-
" scription, or their Quarteridge.

" To this I answer, By no Compulsion (tho' that
" might be perform'd 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 no Body knows what they engage
" in, when they Subscribe, for so many may die Annu-
" ally out of Two Thousand, as may perhaps make my
" Payment 20 or 25 l. per Ann, and if a Woman hap-
" pen to Pay that for Twenty Years, though she re-
" ceives the 500 l. at last she is a great Loser; but if
" she dies before her Husband, she has lessened his E-
" state considerably, and brought a great Loss upon
" him.

"First, I say to this, That I wou'd have such a
" Proposal as this be so fair and easy, that if any Per-
" son who had Subscrib'd found the Payments too
" high, and the Claims fall too often, it shou'd be at
" their Liberty at any Time, upon Notice given, to be
" released and stand Oblig'd no longer; and if so, Vo-
" lenti non fit Injuria; every one knows best what
" their own Circumstances will bear.

"In the next Place, because Death is a Contingen-
" cy, no Man can directly Calculate, and all that Sub-
" scribe must take the Hazard; yet that a Prejudice
" against this Notion may not be built on wrong
" Grounds, let's examine a little the Probable
" hazard, and see how many shall die Annually out of
" 2000 Subscribers, accounting by the common pro-
" portion of Burials, to the number of the Living.


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" Sir William Petty in his Political Arithmetick, by a
" very Ingenious Calculation, brings the Account of
" Burials in London, to be 1 in 40 Annually, and
" and proves it by all the proper Rules of proportion'd
" Computation; and I'le take my Scheme from
" thence. If then One in Forty of all the People in
" England should Die, that supposes Fifty to Die
" every Year out of our Two Thousand Subscribers;
" and for a Woman to Contribute 5 s. to every one,
" would certainly be to agree to Pay 12 l. 10 s. per
" Ann. upon her Husband's Life, to receive 500 l.
" when he Di'd, and lose it if she Di'd first; and yet
" this wou'd 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 al-
" lows the City of London to contain about a Million
" of People, and our Yearly Bill of Mortality never
" yet amounted to 25000 in the most Sickly Years we
" have had, Plague Years excepted, sometimes but to
" 20000, which is but One in Fifty: Now it is to be
" consider'd here, that Children and Ancient People
" make up, one time with another, at least one third
" of our Bills of Mortality; and our Assurances lies
" upon none but the Midling Age of the People, which
" is the only age wherein Life is any thing steady;
" and if that be allow'd, there cannot Die by his Com-
" putation, above One in Eighty of such People,
" every Year; but because I would be sure to leave
" Room for Casualty, I'le allow one in Fifty shall
" Die out of our Number Subscrib'd.

" Secondly, It must be allow'd, that our Payments
" falling due only on the Death of Husbands, this
" One in Fifty must not be reckoned upon the Two
" thousand; for 'tis to be suppos'd at least as many
" Women shall die as Men, and then there is no-
" thing to Pay; so that One in Fifty upon One Thou-
" sand, is the most that I can suppose shall claim the
" Contribution in a Year, which is Twenty Claims a
" Year at 5 s. each, and is 5 l. per Ann. and if a Wo-
" man pays this for Twenty Year, 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 l. per Ann. and secure the Subscriber
" 500 l. in case she come to claim as a Widow."

I would leave this to the Consideration of all who
are concern'd for their own or their Neighbour's Tem-
poral Happiness; and I am humbly of Opinion, that
the Country is ripe for many such Friendly Societies,
whereby every Man might help another, without
any Disservice to himself. We have many charitable
Gentlemen who Yearly give liberally to the Poor, and
where can they better bestow their Charity than on
those who become so by Providence, and for ought
they know on themselves. But above all, the Clergy
have the most need of coming into some such Pro-
ject as this. They as well as poor Men (according to
the Proverb) generally abound in Children; and how
many Clergymen in the Country are forc'd to labour
in their Fields, to keep themselves in a Condition
above Want? How then shall they be able to leave
any thing to their forsaken, dejected, & almost forgot-
ten Wives and Children. For my own Part, I have
nothing left to live on, but Contentment and a few
Cows; and tho' I cannot expect to be reliev'd by
this Project, yet it would be no small Satisfaction to
me to see it put in Practice for the Benefit of others.

I am, SIR, &c.
SILENCE DOGOOD.

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