The Constitution of a Perfect Commonwealth

Spence's token 'Let Tyrants Tremble at the Crow of Liberty'

The Constitution of a Perfect Commonwealth is in two parts.

The Preface contains a numerical working through of Spence's plan showing the expected income of different parts of the population at a given level of rent, using input values from a real, though small, village in Leicestershire. The rent levels are assumed to represent real underlying values, though Spence does suggest that the total revenue of the parish might be increased by exploiting commonly owned natural resources such as mines or fisheries. The source of the money needed to pay the rents is never mentioned, and so must be assumed to be the same as before the Plan, whether labouring for wages, manufacturing, or trading.

The main body of the text is Spence's first attempt at combining his economic plan with a fully worked out political system, the radical but abandoned French constitution of 1793. Like the contemporary French Conspiracy of the Equals Spence thought the constitution of 1793 was a basis for a political equality which had little meaning without economic and social equality; like the Equals, he believed there should be 'No more individual property in land: the land belongs to no one. We demand, we want, the common enjoyment of the fruits of the land: the fruits belong to all'. Unlike the Equals Spence also wanted to resist centralization: the land would be shared at parish level, there would be no central direction of labour, and safeguards would be added to the constitution to block dictatorship. Spence also made it clear that his revised Constitution would be universal, and not specific to Britain or France: the name of the Republic is replaced throughout with asterisks.

The main changes Spence made to the 1793 constitution were: