« PreviousContinue »
of the former are so well provided for, that they are not publicly seen, like the
wants of others.
The Quakers of the present day, consider their poor in the same light as their venerable elder, namely, as members of the same family, whose wants it is their duty to relieve, and they provide for them nearly in the same manner. They entrust this important concern to the monthly meetings, which are the executive branches of the Quaker-constitution. The monthly meetings appoint four overseers, two men and two women, over each particular meeting within their own jurisdiction, if their number will admit of it. It is the duty of these to visit such of the poor as are in membership; of the men to visit the men, but of the women sometimes to visit both. The reason why this double burthen is laid upon the women-overseers is, that women know more of domestic concerns, more of the wants of families, more of the manner of providing for them, and are better advisers
and better nurses in sickness, than the men. Whatever these overseers find wanting in the course of their visits, whether money, clothes, medicines, or medical advice and attention, they order them, and the treasurer of the monthly meetings, settles the different I may observe here, that it is not easy for overseers to neglect their duty; for an inquiry is made three times in the year, of the monthly meetings by the quarterly, whether the necessities of the poor are properly inspected and relieved. I may observe, also, that the poor, who may stand in need of relief, are always relieved privately, I mean at their respective homes.
It is, however, possible, that there may be persons, who, from a variety of unlooked for causes, may be brought into distress, and whose case, never having been suspected, may be passed over. But persons in this situation, are desired to apply for assistance.'
*In London a committee is appointed for each poor person. Thus, for example, two women are appointed to attend to the wants and comforts of one poor old woman.
It is also a rule in the Society, that even persons whose conduct is disorderly, are to be relieved, if such conduct has not been objected to by their own monthly meeting. "The want of due care," says the Book of Extracts," in watching diligently over the flock, and in dealing in due time, with such as walk disorderly, hath brought great difficulties on some meetings; for we think it both unseasonable and dishonourable, when persons apply to monthly meetings for relief, in cases of necessity, then to object to them, such offences as the meeting, through the neglect of its own duty, hath suffered long to pass by, unreproved and unnoticed."
The poor are supported by charitable collections from the body at large; or, in other words, every monthly meeting supports its own poor. The collections for them are usually made once a month, but in some places once a quarter, and in others at no stated times, but when the treasurer declares them necessary, and the monthly
meeting approves. Members are expected to contribute in proportion to their circumstances; but persons in a low situation, and servants, are generally excused upon these occasions.
It happens in the district of some monthly meetings, that there are found, only few persons of property, but a numerous poor, so that the former are unable to do justice in their provision for the latter. The Society have therefore resolved, when the poor are too numerous to be supported by their own monthly meetings, that the collections for them shall be made up out of the quarterly meeting, to which the said monthly meeting belongs. This is the same thing as if any particular parish were unable to pay the rates for the poor, and as if all the other parishes in the county were made to contribute towards the same. On this subject I may observe, that the Quaker-poor are attached to their monthly meetings, as the common poor of the kingdom are attached to their parishes, and that they gain settle
tlements in these, nearly in the same
As the Quakers are particularly attentive to the wants of the poor, so they are no less attentive to the education of their offspring. These are all of them to receive their education at the public expense. The same overseers, as in the former case, are to take care of it, and the same funds to support it. An inquiry is therefore made three times in the year, into this subject. "The children of the poor," says the Book of Extracts, “ are to have due help of education, instruction, and necessary learning." The families also of the poor are to be provided with Bibles, and books of the Society, at the expense of the monthly meetings. And as some members may be straitened in their circumstances, and may refuse out of delicacy to apply for aid towards the education of their children, it is earnestly recommended to friends in every monthly meeting, to look out for persons who may be thus straitened, and to take care that their children shall