Family Group Sheet
Family Group Sheet
NameJohn BELLERS
Birth1654
Death1725
FatherFrancis BELLERS (1616-1679)
MotherMary READ
SpouseFrances FETTIPLACE
MotherMary
Children
Birth1687
Death1742
Notes for John BELLERS
Lord of the Manor of Coln St Alnwyn’s

John Bellers (1654 – 8 February 1725) was an English educational theorist and Quaker, author of Proposals for Raising a College of Industry of All Useful Trades and Husbandry (1695).

Life

Bellers was born in London, the son of the Quaker Francis Bellers and Mary Read. Unable to attend University or join a profession as a result of his religion, John was undoubtedly educated as an apprentice cloth merchant.[1] He rapidly became active in Meetings and in the Quaker community as a whole, purchasing 10,000 acres (40 km2) of land in Pennsylvania in 1685 for Hugenot refugees for example. William Penn was a close friend. He married a fellow Quaker, Frances Fettiplace, in 1686, and they had six children between 1687 and 1695, although one died shortly after birth.[2] From 1695 to his death in 1725, he was continually involved in writing innovative tracts on social issues, including education, health provision, care for the poor, support for refugees, a plan for a European State, and an argument for the abolition of capital punishment, making him "the first European advocate of the abolition of capital punishment".[3] He became a Fellow of the Royal Society in February, 1719. [4]

On his death in London in 1725 he was buried in the Quaker cemetery at Bunhill Fields. His son Fettiplace Bellers (1687-1750) was a dramatist and philosophical writer.

Proposals for Raising a College of Industry of All Useful Trades and Husbandry (1695)[edit]
Bellers' essay is a proposal for a "College of Industry", a sort of colony for the poor - those who depend on their work or on charity for their living. Bellers argued that it was in the interest of the rich "to take care of the poor and their education".

Bellers dedicated the first edition to his fellow Quakers, although the College was to be a "Civil Fellowship rather than a religious one." The first edition of the pamphlet ends with an appeal for funding - An Epistle to Friends Concerning the education of Children - in favour of the College, signed by about forty-five leading Quakers. They included William Penn, Robert Barclay, Thomas Ellwood, John Hodgskin, Leonard Fell and Charles Marshall. The second edition (1696) was dedicated to Parliament. The Quaker Workhouse at Clerkenwell was established in 1702 as a result of his efforts.[5][6]

The combination of agriculture and manufacture would enable self-sufficiency and even profit. Bellers argued that if all "the present idle hands of the poor of this nation" were put to work, it would bring England "as much treasure as the mines do Spain".[7]

The plans for the education of children at the College were ahead of their time. Practice and experience were to be valued over rote-learning. Bellers advocated the combination of learning and work as a way of preventing idleness. Karl Marx mentions Bellers in Chapter 25 of Das Kapital, quoting Bellers' argument that "the labour of the poor [is] the mines [sic] of the rich". Bellers is also quoted in a footnote in Chapter 23 of Das Kapital; "Labour [is] as proper for the body’s health as eating is for its living [...] Labour adds Oyl to the Lamp of Life when thinking Inflames it".[8]


Robert Owen read the proposals in 1817, and in a letter to The Times acknowledged their resemblance to the community he himself had created at New Lanark. He had 1,000 copies reprinted that year.[3] Eduard Bernstein saw Bellers as a precursor of socialism, if not communism, highlighting his argument for valuing goods according to labour, not money.[8]

About the Improvement of Physick (1714)[edit]
Bellers advocated a national system of hospitals, which were to treat the poor and act as training schools for new doctors. Bernstein saw in this essay an anticipation of a national health service.[8]


From http://www.quakersintheworld.org/quakers-in-action/172


John was born in London to Quakers Mary Read and Francis Bellers, a wealthy merchant and trader originally from Warwickshire. He was apprenticed as a cloth merchant.

He soon became very involved in Quaker work with the poor and disadvantaged. In 1680 he was appointed treasurer of the Box Fund, an employment fund established by Six Weeks Meeting (the most important of the regular London Quaker committee meetings). He served as correspondent for Yorkshire under the auspices of the Meeting for Sufferings.

In 1685 Bellers contributed to the purchase of 10,000 acres of land in Pennsylvania for the resettlement of French Huguenots displaced by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. A year later he married Frances Fettiplace.

In 1695 he published 'Proposals for Raising a Colledge of Industry of All Usefull Trades and Husbandry'. In this pamphlet he described the college as a mixed agricultural and manufacturing settlement where about three hundred people who depended on their work or charity for their livliehood could live and work. Children would be educated and the elderly and ill cared for. Bellers described it as an "Epitome of the World" and put forward the argument that it was in the interest of the rich to take care of the poor and their education. This work influenced Karl Marx who refers to it in 'Das Kapital'. The first edition of the Proposals was addressed to the Society of Friends, but the second edition published in 1696 was addressed to parliament. In 1698 the yearly meeting in London recommended Bellers' scheme to monthly and quarterly meetings around the country. Following an unsuccessful attempt to obtain a private act of parliament, Six Weeks Meeting raised £1888 and a lease was taken on a building in Clerkenwell, which became the Quaker workhouse in 1702. Although the workhouse was not as radical as Bellers' scheme, it did house, clothe and employ poor Quaker children and adults for the rest of the 18th Century. It also provided for elderly fee-paying Quakers and educated the children of wealthier Quakers, thus serving the entire Quaker community and undoubtedly had a significant practical impact on the development of social policy. The Quaker workhouse at Clerkenwell gradually evolved into the Friends School at Saffron Walden. Throughout his life Bellers was active in the administration of the house.

Many of Bellers' other writings were significant. He considered education, employment, trade and the treatment of criminals in his 'Essays about the Poor, Manufactures, Trade, Plantations, & Immorality' published in 1699. In this pamphlet he set out an argument for the absolute abolition of capital punishment and was the first in Europe to do this. He also advocated the establishment of an annual "Congress, Senate, Dyet or Parliament" to settle disputes and the creation of a "General Council or Convocation of all the different Religious Perswasions in Christiondom, (not to dispute what they differ about, but) to settle the general principles they agree in". In some ways this was an extension of the ideas of his friend William Penn.

In his work 'An Essay towards the Improvement of Physick' published in 1714 Bellers suggests the creation of a comprehensive national health service. Doctors were to be appointed and a series of specialist and regional hospitals set up to care for the health of the poor. He also suggests a thorough reform of medicine itself. His hospitals were to provide education and a natural laboratory for the furthering of medical science. Administration was to be centralized in order to facilitate the dissemination of knowledge that would flow from the new institutions. In 1718 he became a member of the Royal Society.

He also became involved in visiting prisons and championed the improvement of prison conditions. He distributed a broadside entitled 'To the Criminals in Prison' to inmates during his visits as well as writing 'An Epistle to Friends of the Yearly, Quarterly, and Monthly Meeting, concerning the Prisons, and Sick, in the Prisons and Hospitals of Great Britain'. He also produced pamphlets on education and the conduct of elections.

John Bellers was a radical and innovative thinker and was well respected in a community concerned with the social problems of an increasingly urban and industrial society. He died in London in 1728 and is buried at Bunhill Fields.

From Oxford DNB

Bellers, John (1654–1725), political economist and cloth merchant, was probably born in Philpot Lane, near Gracechurch Street, London, the eldest of three children of Francis Bellers (1616–1679), merchant and Quaker, and his wife, Mary Read. His father was from Alcester, Warwickshire, and, besides accumulating substantial wealth as a merchant and trader after his migration to London in 1650, was an early and active member of the Society of Friends (or Quakers). John Bellers was raised a Quaker and remained an active member of the Society of Friends throughout his life.
Early life
Apprenticed as a cloth merchant, and regularly referred to as such in early records, John Bellers began his public life and his lifelong involvement with social policy in 1680, when he was appointed treasurer of the Box Fund—an employment fund established by the six weeks meeting (the most important of the regular London Quaker committee meetings established as part of the reorganization of the sect in the 1670s). During the next fifteen years Bellers served as correspondent for Yorkshire under the auspices of the meeting for sufferings, and on the weekly second day's morning meeting, which had responsibility for the publication of Quaker writings and for collecting anti-Quaker material. His active participation in the society is also evidenced by Bellers's prosecution for riotous assembly in 1684 and again in 1685.

John Bellers married a fellow Quaker, Frances Fettiplace (d. 1717), at Cirencester meeting-house in 1686. Frances was the daughter of Giles and Mary Fettiplace, and it was through her that John became lord of the manor of Coln St Aldwyns, in Gloucestershire. John and Frances had six children, the first two while they lived in London—Fettiplace Bellers (1687) and Mary (1689)—and the next four while they lived at The Grange, Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire—Elizabeth (1690–1717), Theophila (1692), who died soon after birth, Francis (1693–1717), and Theophila (1695).

Proposals for a college of industry

By 1685 Bellers's involvement with social policy had become more substantial. In that year he contributed to the purchase of 10,000 acres of land in Pennsylvania for the resettlement of French Huguenots displaced by the revocation of the edict of Nantes. But his most significant contributions came in the 1690s, and were as a result of his writing rather than his direct involvement with philanthropic enterprises. In 1695 he published his Proposals for Raising a Colledge of Industry of All Usefull Trades and Husbandry. And while many of his later writings are equally innovative, it is for this first piece that Bellers is best remembered. In it, he advocates the establishment of free-standing, co-operative communities in which no money would be needed and all middlemen eliminated. The pamphlet describes the college as a mixed agricultural and manufacturing settlement wherein 300 people, 200 of them labourers and craftspeople, would live and work. It would be, in Bellers's words, an ‘Epitome of the World’, with the addition that children would be educated and the elderly and ill looked after. Such colleges would be run in a rather paternalistic manner by people able to contribute at least £100 to the original foundation; but both in their organization and the expectation that each college should be free-standing and self-sustaining they prefigure many nineteenth-century experiments in co-operation. More than this, contained within the description of the colleges is a substantial critique of the nature of value, which had a profound impact on both Robert Owen (who had 1000 copies of the pamphlet reprinted in 1817, ensuring its continued importance for nineteenth-century writers) and Karl Marx, who refers to Bellers at least four times in Das Kapital and describes him as a ‘veritable phenomenon in the history of political economy’ (K. Marx, Capital, trans. B. Fowkes and D. Fernbach, 3 vols., 1976–81, 1.619). What Bellers advocated and what Marx adopted was a pure form of a labour theory of value. In Bellers's words, the college ‘will make labour and not money, the standard to value all necessaries by’. More than this, in his Proposals he asked ‘if one had a hundred thousand acres of land, and as many pounds in money, and as many cattle, without a labourer, what would the rich man be, but a labourer?’ (Clarke, 54).

In part, Bellers derived his ideas from the broader English tradition of radical social criticism. The influence of mid-seventeenth-century figures such as Samuel Hartlib can be clearly discerned. But more importantly, what Bellers achieved in his Proposals was a dynamic fusion between a Quaker emphasis on hard work and self-reliance, and the contemporary preoccupation with the establishment of workhouses and similar institutions for the employment and housing of the poor. The intellectual context out of which Bellers's college evolved must include the work of John Cary, the Bristol merchant and political economist, whose Essay on the State of England (1695) contained proposals for establishing large regional workhouses, and who helped to establish the Corporation of the Poor at Bristol in 1696. It must also include the London philanthropist Thomas Firmin, whose employment scheme was such a significant feature of social policy thinking in the 1680s and 1690s, and the slightly earlier Sir Matthew Hale (1609–1676), whom Bellers quotes at length in the introduction to the second edition of the Proposals. More than this, the wider European context had a significant impact on Bellers's views. He looked to the German pietist school and college at Halle, Germany, established by August Herman Francke, as one model for his own institutions.
Wider influence
The 1690s witnessed a wide range of social policy experiments and a series of attempts to reform the old poor law (spearheaded by the Board of Trade). It also saw the development of the societies for the reformation of manners and the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (all concerned with reforming society). Bellers was both a part of this set of initiatives and an active contributor to contemporary thinking. The first edition of the Proposals was addressed to the Society of Friends, but the second edition (1696) was addressed to parliament. He also served as an assistant in the London Corporation of the Poor, re-established in 1698. And over the next thirty years Bellers regularly used his publications to popularize his ideas, and more particularly his plan for a college of industry, to a broad, non-Quaker audience.

In this, Bellers had only limited success. But he did manage to interest the Quaker community in his scheme. The original pamphlet had been scrutinized by the second day meeting prior to publication, but it was not until 1698 that the yearly meeting in London recommended the scheme to the monthly and quarterly meetings around the country. There is some evidence to suggest that the Quaker workhouse at Bristol, established in 1696, owed its origin to Bellers's pamphlet, although the Bristol experiment also shared personnel, in the character of Thomas Callowhill, with the contemporaneous Bristol Corporation of the Poor. In 1698 the six weeks meeting in London commissioned a report on poverty among London Quakers which concluded that there were ‘184 aged people most of them capable of some work and 47 children’, and that the establishment of a college of industry was practical (Hitchcock, xv). After an unsuccessful attempt to obtain a private act of parliament, the six weeks meeting raised £1888, a lease was taken on half of a building in Clerkenwell, and necessary repairs were undertaken.

This initiative resulted in the establishment of the Quaker workhouse at Clerkenwell in 1702. The Quaker workhouse was never as radical as Bellers's vision, but it did house, clothe, and employ poor Quaker children and adults for the rest of the eighteenth century. More importantly, and much more radically for an eighteenth-century workhouse, the institution at Clerkenwell also educated the children of wealthier Quakers, and provided houseroom to elderly fee-paying residents. To the extent that the workhouse population reflected and served the whole of the Quaker community, it did go some way towards realizing Bellers's ambitions. More than this, it was recognized as a radical departure by other eighteenth-century commentators. John Wesley, for instance, used the opportunity of a visit to the Quaker workhouse in 1744 to sound out the early Moravian activist Richard Viney's views on the practicality of establishing a ‘community of goods’ (Viney's diary, fol. 29).

The Quaker workhouse at Clerkenwell gradually evolved into the Friends' school at Saffron Walden, in which form it still survives. But Bellers was an active participant in the administration of the house throughout his life, and while it was never the free-standing co-operative envisaged in the 1695 Proposals, it did have a significant practical impact on the development of eighteenth-century social policy.
Other writings and death
The Proposals for a Colledge of Industry has received the greatest attention from historians, but Bellers's other writings are equally striking. He expanded his views to consider more general issues of education, employment, and trade, as well as the treatment of criminals, in his Essays about the Poor, Manufactures, Trade, Plantations, & Immorality (1699). In this pamphlet he returns to the proposal for colleges of industry, but sets them in a more substantive intellectual context, and includes an argument for the absolute abolition of the death penalty. Prior to this, Quaker commentators had continued to allow the death penalty as an appropriate punishment for murder. Bellers creates a more consistent pacifist argument, and in the process became the first European advocate of the abolition of capital punishment, predating Cesare Beccaria (1738–1794) by some six decades.

Ten years later Bellers also published Some Reasons for an European State, Proposed to the Powers of Europe (1710), in which he advocates the establishment of an annual ‘Congress, Senate, Dyet or Parliament’ to settle disputes, and the creation of a ‘General Council or Convocation of all the different Religious Perswasions in Christiondom, (not to dispute what they differ about, but) to settle the general principles they agree in’. In part, this was simply a reflection of a broader advocacy of Quaker pacifism, and can be seen as an extension of the ideas of writers such as William Penn, a lifelong friend and co-religionist of Bellers, whose own pamphlet Towards the Present and Future Peace of Europe (1693) is similarly concerned with avoiding international conflict. But what sets Bellers's work apart is the direct and practical nature of his proposals, and, as with his ideas for a college of industry, his ability to put contemporary institutions, in this case convocations and parliaments, to new and radical uses.

The breadth of Bellers's ambitions is also evident in An Essay towards the Improvement of Physick (1714), in which Bellers advocates the creation of what can only be described as a comprehensive national health service. Local doctors were to be appointed and a series of specialist and regional hospitals created to care for the health of the poor. In itself this is not overwhelmingly radical, and in many ways simply prefigures the infirmary movement of the mid-eighteenth century. But Bellers adds to this the advocacy of a thorough reform of medicine itself, and a justification for his plans which appeals to the infirmities of the rich. Each of his hospitals was intended to provide both education and a natural laboratory for furthering of medical ‘science’. Thorough autopsies, the creation of new specialisms, and the scouring of the globe for new and effective medicines were to characterize Bellers's system, while the administration was to be centralized in order to facilitate the dissemination of the discoveries which Bellers felt would flow from his new institutions.

Beyond these major proposals, Bellers also wrote a series of lesser pamphlets and broadsheets, each of which expressed a broad and impassioned concern for the poor and for the maintenance of peace. Besides writing several more pamphlets specifically about poverty, including An Essay for Imploying the Poor to Profit (1723) and An Abstract of George Fox's Advice and Warning to the Magistrates of London in the Year 1657 concerning the Poor (1724), he also wrote on education and on the conduct of elections. In his Essay towards the Ease of Election of Members of Parliament (1712) he proposed that alcohol and bribery be eliminated from polling for parliament. In what he would have seen as a similar vein, he also wrote extensively on religious matters, addressing both the Society of Friends and the established church.

And finally, towards the end of his life, Bellers became involved in visiting prisons and agitating for the improvement of prison conditions. One of his last published works was An Epistle to Friends of the Yearly, Quarterly, and Monthly Meetings, concerning the Prisons, and Sick, in the Prisons and Hospitals of Great Britain (1724). This was followed by a broadside entitled To the Criminals in Prison (n.d.), which he apparently distributed to inmates on his round of visits to the prisons of London.

Bellers had become a member of the Royal Society in 1718, and was a correspondent and friend of Sir Hans Sloane and William Penn. In many respects he was at the heart of a broad intellectual community which reached to the highest levels in British society, and which spanned the Atlantic. It was a community desperately concerned with the social problems of an increasingly urban and industrial society. But John Bellers was by far the most radical and innovative thinker among this group of reformers. And while historians, and to some extent his contemporaries, have tended to ignore his contributions and insights, there can be little doubt that he represents an important facet in early eighteenth-century thinking.

John Bellers died in London on 28 April 1725 as a result of a persistent internal disorder. He was buried in the Quaker burial-ground, Bunhill Fields, London.

Tim Hitchcock
Last Modified 5 Apr 2014Created 28 Jan 2018 using Reunion for Macintosh