A Certain man having many sons all bred to a seafaring life, was desirous that they should live together in a just, brotherly, and social manner; and that though he wished to encourage individual industry, and improvement in abilities, by providing that every one should reap the fruits of the same, yet was he determined to form their plan of union in such a manner that none, not even their children, should be so depressed as to be excluded from the common benefits of their birth-right and of an equal token of the impartial regard of their common parent. Wherefore one day having called his sons together, he addressed them to this effect: “My dear boys, my behaviour and conduct towards you, has always been such as to convince you, I was strictly, just, and impartial. You were all equally my delight and care in your infancy, you have been equally provided with the means of Education, and with every comfort and convenience. I have 69 shewn no partiality to any, as being older or younger, I have been in all respects your common parent, and I wish you and your children to live together as my common children for ever, for I extend my parental regard to your offspring through every generation— Behold, then, this gallant ship, equipt and provided with every thing necessary for sea, her rigging and tackle all of the best materials, and admirably adapted to the ocean you have to occupy; amply provided with stores and provisions for a long voyage, and waiting only for intelligent and skilful agents to conduct her whithersoever they will. You my dear boys, are such agents, sufficiently qualified for the adventurous task. Accept, then my sons of this my precious gift, but remember, I do not give it to one, or two, or a select few, but to you all, and as many of your posterity as shall sail therein, as a COMMON PROPERTY. You shall all be EQUAL OWNERS, and shall share the profits of every voyage equally among you. You shall choose from among yourselves, one fit to be captain, another to be mate, another carpenter, &c.—These officers shall continue in office while you please, and when you please you shall change them for others, that your affairs may be conducted in the best manner possible. At the end of the voyage, or at other stated times agreed upon, you shall settle your accounts; and after paying the captain, the mate, and every other officer and man his wages, according to station and agreement, and all bills for upholding wear and tear, provisions, &c., then the remainder, which is the net profit of the voyage, and which would have been mine had I retained the property of the ship in my own hands, is now your common property, and must be shared equally among you all, without respect to any office anyone may have held. For as I make you all 70 equal owners, so shall you be equal sharers in the profits of each voyage. You are all equal to me, and you shall be all equal in this respect to each other. Let not the captain, who receives the wages of a captain, or any other officer, who receives the wages of his station, murmur that his brethren before the mast, and who receive only the wages of common men, should receive share and share alike with himself of the profits. No my dear children, let no such unjust and unbrotherly grudging ever be found among you.”
“Again my sons, as I have been just and impartial to you, be ye the same to your children. And when they shall multiply so that you cannot all sail together in the same vessel, provide another ship out of your common profits, for such of yourselves and your sons as shall choose to sail together, which shall be their common property in the same manner as this ship is yours. This do, and live like men and Brethren through all generations. And as a swarm of bees, when grown too numerous for one hive, send off colonies to people new ones, so when the crews of your ships become too numerous, let new ships be built, and manned on the Same equitable plan that I have done, and my blessing go with you.”
These injunctions were received by the young men with inexpressible joy. And having wrote them, they were called the constitution of their MARINE REPUBLIC, and swore to maintain them inviolate to the end of time. They then chose a captain, and other officers, and proceeded on a trading voyage, and being prosperous they shared very considerable dividends both at the end of this, and many future voyages.
In process of time, however, it so happened that these marine republicans were dissatisfied with 71 the government of the country, in which they resided. Wherefore taking all their families and all their effects on board, they set sail for America, where they expected to see government administered more agreeably to their notions of equality and equity. But a violent storm arising, they were driven far out of their course, and at last arrived at an uninhabited island of a luxurious soil, and an agreeable climate. Here they gladly landed after much danger, and their ship being so much damaged as to be no more fit for sea, they determined to settle on the island. The ship was now broke up, and houses built with the materials, and preparations were made to cultivate the soil, as they must now think of living by gardening and agriculture. But they foresaw that if they did not apply the Marine Constitution, given them by their father, to their landed property, they would soon experience inexpressible inconveniences. They therefore declared the property of the island to be the property of them all collectively in the same manner as the ship had been, and that they ought to share the profits thereof in the same way. The island they named Spensonia, after the name of the ship which their father had given them. They next chose officers to mark out such portions of land, as every person or family desired to occupy, for which they were to receive for the use of the public, a certain rent according to its value. This rent was applied to public uses, or divided among themselves as they thought proper. But in order to keep up the remembrance of their rights, they decreed that they should never fail to share at rent-time, an equal dividend though ever so small, and though public demands should be ever so urgent.
They now spread considerably over the country, and houses and workshops were built at the public expense. The space inhabited became too extensive for one district, wherefore they divided it into 72 many, and called them parishes. As they had determined, when seamen, that every succeeding ship they should build, and man, should, according to their father's maxim, be the property of the crew, so, in conformity therewith, they decreed, that every district or parish which they should people, should be the property of the inhabitants, and the rents and police of the same at their disposal. Thus they live in union and equality on land, as their father intended they should do on sea, and frame and people new parishes, at the public expense, as he designed they should build new ships. A national assembly or congress consisting of delegates from all the parishes, takes care of their national concerns, and defrays the expences of state, and matters of common utility, by a pound rate from each parish, without any other tax.
The continent not being far distant from the Island of Spensonia, produced several interviews between the respective inhabitants, and of 206 course frequent traffickings and dealings, which, on the part of the Spensonians, were conducted with the utmost simplicity and good faith. This uprightness gained much on the affections of the Indians, and naturally produced a yet nearer communication. Contrary to expectation, they here saw a people, much superior in the comforts of life, as independent as themselves; and though Christians, without those odious tyrants to mankind, LANDLORDS. “How,” said an Indian to a Spensonian, “How is it that you have no landlords? We never heard that men could be civilized, or be Christians, without giving up their common right to the earth, and its natural produce to tyrants, called Landlords. Among such people, according to universal report, the land is claimed by a few individuals, who dispose of it at pleasure, and parcel it out to others for tribute or rent.Many colonies of Christians have established themselves in various parts of America, and carry on here, as in their original country, the iniquitous traffick in the soil. They expel, or exterminate us, the natives, because we will not work, or pay rent to them, for living in our own country; neither have these Europeans the common honesty to share equally, among themselves, their unrighteous plunder; but levy rents of each other, as they do at home. Yes, their religion it seems will not allow of equality of rights. Their God, they tell us, has ordained that there shall be many sorts and conditions of men, and that some few shall have the lordship and disposal of the earth, whilst the far greater part must be reduced to supplicate to become their tributaries and vassals. This has always made us hate your God and your religion. Justice being impartiality, partiality must be injustice; and that God, who is so partial, cannot be just; and not being just, cannot be loved. We cannot love injustice, nor the promoters of injustice. Neither can we, free-born Indians, submit to pay homage or rent to any man for 207 the leave to dwell on the earth, though he should say that God would have it so. But you say, you are Christians, and that you, nevertheless, have no Landlords; but have an equitable way of enjoying the common benefits of this island which you inhabit, and yet preserve to each man his independence!—This is very amazing to me!”
The curiosity of this Indian was satisfied; he was made to comprehend the brotherly system, and that the God of the Christians was belied by designing priests, colleagued with overbearing knaves; and that he did not approve, but condemned and punished injustice, usurpation, and oppression
The enraptured Indian sighed for the domestic happiness of civilized life, combined with his native independence. He was adopted a citizen, and was happy. Other Indians heard, saw and followed the example. The island now became very populous and highly cultivated, and many villages increased to large towns, adorned with public edifices, and other marks of opulence and refinement. Trade flourished, ships were built, and commerce extended to distant shores its reciprocal blessings.
In this state of prosperity (says the author of this account) did I find this rising colony, when by accident, some years ago, our ship was driven upon this happy island.
I, like the aforesaid Indian, was astonished when I understood their system of government, and manner of holding landed property. For instead of anarchy, idleness, poverty, and meanness, the natural consequences, as I narrowly thought, of a ridiculous levelling scheme, I saw nothing but order, industry, wealth, and magnificence. So being anxious to know the utmost of this new-fashioned commonwealth, I took occasion to have my doubts resolved by a communicative Spensonian as follows:
Author. And so none, notwithstanding the splendid appearance the country makes, and the extensive manner 208 in which trade is carried on, have estates, nor can possess any?
Spensonian. No, nor is it likely ever will; nor does the happiness of human life, or business, require any such nefarious traffick.
Auth. Would it not tend to make the people more industrious if they could lay out their riches in possessions?
Spen. If they were more industrious in order to buy land, other people, being reduced to their tenants, would, through poverty and oppression, be deprived of the means of industry; and by despair, of the incitement to it. Being possessed of landed property, men would cease to be otherwise industrious than in watching their tenants, in order to raise their rents, and infringe their liberties. Their posterity also, would become equally useless, except in the same laudable business of oppression. The same pretence, as to objects of industry, might extend to religion, and the persons of men. Why should traffic be denied to monied men in anything capable of being an object of commerce!! But why despair of industry? You see no want of it among us: No, nor yet among the Jews, though neither they nor we can buy land; but on the contrary, you see a general industry, not one idle. But in your country, Europe (for I know your customs, we came originally from England,) what great incitement, pray, can it be to industry, to give the cream of ones endeavours, unthanked to the Landlord? For what Landlord was ever yet thankful for his rents? They think the tenants rather owe thanks to them for permission ot live on their earth forsooth!
We' glooman brow the Laird seeks in his rent
It's not to gie;
His honour maunna want, he poinds your gear;
Syne driven frae house and hald, where will ye steer?
209Curse them: I can never think of them but with detestation. I can compare them and their castles to nothing but the giants and their castles in romances. Those giants were said to be a terror and destruction to all the people around, so in reality are the dukes, lords, and barons of the present day. Therefore, the stories of enormous and tyrannical giants, dwelling in strong castles, which have been thought fabulous, may reasonably be looked upon as disguised truths, and to have been invented as just satires upon great lords. For, if those fabulous monsters were said to eat the people and their children, your real monsters, of Landlords, really eat their meat, and the savour out of every enjoyment; reducing them to such misery, that eating their bodies, as the giants did, would be much more beneficent. They toil them to death in their endless drudgery, harass and butcher them in their villainous wars, and drag them from every social connection. These are the monsters, or giants, that the world want to be rid of. The extirpation of these should employ the philanthropic giant-killers, the deliverers of mankind.
Auth. But notwithstanding all your heat against these Landlords, those monsters as you call them, I should like to know why you think they will never get crept in among you, as they have in all other civilized nations?
Spen. Why, you must know, the interest of every individual is so intimately and palpably connected with our present system, that the least innovation would immediately be felt, and of course, opposed. People are generally very much attached to their landed property, and societies in particular, are very tenacious of such, especially when they, as we do, find daily the benefit thereof. Then can we suppose any would be so hardy as attempt to touch a whole nation in so sensitive a part?
Auth. But bribery, my friend, bribery; that is the invincible Leviathan that overturns the rights of 210 mankind. That may get among you, and numbers may be hired to sell the interests of the public, both present and future, for a little present gain, and be ready either to vote or fight against them.
Spen. Well, I will let you see that though you were to bribe the whole nation you could do nothing by voting, and that you must have a very large majority, before you can have any chance by fighting. You must understand we never vote but by ballot, or in a secret manner, either in parochial or parliamentary business. Now suppose you would bribe the whole of the voters in any affair, and I were one of them, I would reason thus with myself: If I vote as I am bribed to do, I must do wrong to the public, whose interest includes also my own, and perhaps the interest likewise of posterity, If there be but one vote against my briber, he may say it is mine; and if I deny it, so may he that gave this vote, and has as good a chance to be believed, there being no witnesses; whereby I will have the mortification to have wronged my country and conscience, without being able to clear myself in your sight. So, in consequence of this reasoning, I would vote against you; and so would every one else from the same consideration. Let us see how this case will stand then? Why would you chide me privately (for you durst not do it publicly) for not voting for you, though hired. I would say, how do you know that? Because, say you, I have not one vote, (for remember, if you had but one vote, I would lay claim to it,) and therefore not yours. What, not one vote! I would exclaim. No, not one; say you. Well then, I would answer, I have the comfort to think I am no worse than others: This will teach you to come hither again to buy votes. Besides, if I had voted for you, others might have claimed, with you, the merit of the deed, while I would have had the whole of the guilt; and at best an equal share of 211 the suspicion. So there is an end to your hurting us by voting.
Auth. I am now convinced, that so long as you vote by ballot, or secretly, there does not appear a possibility of hurting you in that quarter. But is it not beneath freemen to vote thus clandestinely, as if afraid to act honestly in the face of the world? Moreover, you lose all the praise of your good deeds, which is a general incitement to worthy actions.
Spen. In your country they vote in the open manner you commend. What is the consequence? Why the Ministry tells you it is necessary to have a majority on their side for the dispatch of business, which amounts to the same thing as pleading for no parliament at all. A majority theorefore is procured, in a very honourable way no doubt. The minority not being bought (for a majority is sufficient) take every opportunity to shew their importance, by opposing all business indiscriminately, whether right or wrong. Inded they have often but too much reason to oppose, yet let their harangues be ever so violent, they can never make the majority understand in any other way than the Minsiter would have them; for they are too fast asleep in the lap of corruption, to regard either their arguments or the praises of their country. Thus you see the weak influence of fame, which you build so much on, even among senators; what strength must it then have among the poor freeholders and burghers, after so glorious an example!
This general corruption, and conflict of interests, furnish endless materials for newspapers, pamphlets, and state coblers. Thousands of abortive schemes are daily proposed for redressing grievances and mending the constitution; whereas, the shoes were so ill-made at first, are so worn, rotten, and patched already, that they are not worth further trouble or expence, but ought to be thrown to 212 the dunghill; and a new pair should be made neat, tight, and easy, as for the foot of one that loves freedom, and ease. Then would your controversies about this, and the other way of cobling, that continually agitate you, be done away: and you would walk along the rugged and dirty path of life easy and dry-shod.
And now you shall witness with your own eyes, that force is likely to succeed as ill against us as secret corruption. Therefore you must go with me tomorrow, a few miles off, it being a general review day, when the inhabitants of several parishes together are to go through their military exercise, under the eye of a general, provided by the state. Every parish, or ward of a parish, execercise themselves at their own convenience; but two or three times a year, several parishes are assembled together, as I said, to accustom themselves to act in large bodies, as you will see tomorrow.
Accordingly next morning we were roused early by the drums all over the country beating to arms. No man lagged behind that was able to march; but mu friend, luckily for me, happened to be lame, yet not so as to prevent his hobbling there to be a spectator. I was a stranger, and therefore had nothing to do with them; and so went with my friend also to look on. The morning was exceeding fine, the military ground was spacious, and kept always in pasturage for that purpose. The parishes, in different liveries, came marching in from every direction, with artillery, banners, and music. Those who had good horses, were horsemen; and formed into troops according to the colour of their horses. The very boys too were furnished with small arms, and classed according to their sizes. It was delightful to behold so many thousand citizend soldiers in arms only of defence; an army of “men who their duties know, and know their rights; and knowing, dare maintain”. In short they made 213 rather a gallant appearance, and every one was adorned with what little ornament his rank and uniform admitted of; as medals received for improvements, public services, &c. Every eye sparkled with delight, and every countenance was expressive of happiness, for this is their most agreeable sport. Emulative obedience to command, and dexterity of action, was everywhere conspicuous. What contributed much to this, was, that nothing but eminent merit can advance any to be officers, who must pass through every station to the highest, if their merti can carry them so far. They went through their several manœvres like veterans, but the boys in particular made a pleasing sight. No play whatever gives them such delight as this military exercise, which they apply to with such diligence, that before they leave school, or are fit for other employments, they are as complete therein as the oldest. For this purpose all due encouragement is given them; a particular instance of which appeared at this time: They made a mock fight with the men and drove them off the ground, which closed the review. Every party then with colours flying as they came, marched to their respective homes, to spend the remainder of the day in festivity and joy.
The merry bells now sounded from every steeple. The glad females, after feasting their manly spouses and paramours, prepared for the dance; and through the evening, revelled in pleasures known to love and innocence alone. Among other sports, there were shooting matches and cudgel playing, which are favourite diversions, and encouraged, on such days as this, by medals from the parishes. The victors are very proud of these medals, and, as observed before, wear them on extraordinary occasions and field days.
I can never enough admire the beauty of the country. It has more the air of a garden, or rather 214 a paradise, than a general country scene; and indeed, it is only a continuation of gardens and orchards. For besides the infinite number of real gardens, the very fields, meadows and pastures, are plentifully strewed with fruit trees, and the corn is cultivated in rows, and as carefully as garden herbs. The houses and everything about them are so amiably neat, and so indicative of domestic happiness, so far distant from the inflated pomp and ghastly solemnity of the palaces of the great, and the confined, miserable depression of the hovels of the wretched, that they seem the habitation of rational beings: of beings worthy of the approbation of the Deity, because, though as he designed them they be lords of all his works, they presume not be Lords of each other.
On expressing my surprise at so much private felicity and public convenience, my friend answered, “The parishes build and repair houses, make roads, plant hedges and trees, and in a word, do all the business of a Landlord. And you have seen what sort of Landlords they are. Instead of debating about mending the state, as with you, (for ours needs no mending) we employ our ingenuity nearer home, and the result of our debates are in every parish, how we shall work such a mine, make such a river navigable, drain such a fen, or improve such a waste. These things we are all immediately interested in, and have each a vote in executing; and thus we are not mere spectators in the world, but as all men ought to be, actors, and that only for our own benefit.”
The next day following we commenced again our political conversation, as follows:
Spen. Now our whole country is trained and peopled as you have seen. I therefore suppose you have 215 dropt all hopes of fighting us out of our Liberties, and if there were a possibility of voting them away, we would not nevertheless part with them. Nay, we will not suffer any law in the least impolitic, to give us uneasiness long; for we are too knowing and too powerful to be imposed upon or brow-beat; which makes our parliament very careful how they make laws.
Auth. I must indeed own that you have no great reason to be afraid of any encroachment on your constitution, whilst you continue your two guardian angels; I mean, VOTING BY BALLOT and THE UNIVERSAL USE OF ARMS. But I beg the same liberty to make observations that my countrymen will be apt to take when I inform them of your uncommon customs, that I may be the more enabled to answer them. Do not people repine that the place they occupy is not their own; that they must pay rent; that they cannot do with it what they please; and that they cannot enfeoff their posterity with the improvements they may make?
Spen. So you think that the unreasoning desires of wayward individuals should be complied with, to the detriment of a whole people? Private property in land, is either just, according to the law of nature, or it is not. That it is not, is evident from the unnatural and oppresive consequences flowing from it. If all tryanny, and abuses in government, flow only from that monopolizing system, it must, of course, be the fountain head of tyranny; search history, and see, that the government of every country ever was, and is, in the proprietors of land. If then the people wish to have the government in their own hands, they must begin first, by taking the land into their own hands.
Who is the Lord Paramount of the universe? Is he not God? He then, and he alone, or those whom he deputes, must have the rents. Now the scripture says, that he has given the earth to the 216 children of men; given it to mankind in common. Then mankind in their respective districts are his substitutes and representatives, and have a right to receive, and dispose of the revenues arising from the Domains, which he in his providence permits them severally to possess. Some will say that though God gave the earth to the children of men, in common, they may have private possessions. I answer, yes; if they live far, I mean very far asunder. But in no populous country, since the beginning of the world, was private property in land enjoyed, but to the detriment of multitides of the same community: Suppose a populous country were divided equally among the inhabitants, as was the land of Canaan among the Israelites, how long would their shares continue equal? In a few years some men's families would increase and others decrease, which would soon produce inequality of estates, even though neither the right of primogeniture nor alienation of property were allowed. Those who became heirs to those decreased families, would become richer; and those who had but a small share among many brethren, of their paternal inheritance would become poorer; and even a periodical jubilee would not prevent injustice and inequality. But, by sharing the rents, man's equal rights and dignity is preserved, in every generation, and in every state of population. If God be just he must approve of so just and impartial a system. We presume that he is so, and that he is not displeased at his revenues, being disposed of so much to the happiness of mankind.
We then admit but of ONE LORD as we do of ONE GOD; and in his name our rents are collected and disposed of as we believe, according to his will and pleasure. We do not murmur, as you suppose, at paying rent: How should we, when we consider for whose use it is? Does not the rent paid here, serve instead of taxes and rates of every 217 description? And is it not wholly at our own disposal? And when the public establishments are provided for, is not the remainder divided equally among us? If when premises become vacant by death, or otherwise, they be let to the best bidder; is not that the fairest way? It shews no partiality and prevents collusion to the prejudice of the public.
And do you think that the people, while a man lives and pays his rent, will be so ungenerous as turn him out of his house or farm? No—To prevent families indeed, from looking at their tenements as hereditary, the public may think it prudent, at the decease of a man, or his widow, to take again their property into their own hands, and dispose of it again to the best bidder. And what just reason will the sons have to complain? Are they not part of that public, whose interest every man ought to promote and be jealous of for his own sake? But to prevent all colour of injustice, on account of improvements, medals and premiums are always bestowed on those, while they live, who remarkably improve the public property. Your European landlords give no such rewards nor shew such favour, on account of improvements, that you need to surmise so many idle grievances under a system of purity sufficient for the heavens.
I could not, in my heart, teaze my friend any further with my frivolous objections; for I was fully convinced that, if ever there be a millenium or heaven upon earth, it can only exist under the benign SYSTEM OF SPENSONIA.
The wise and benificent regulations and laws emanating from this system of simplicity are beyond conception, beautiful and conducive of public happiness. Many instances might be given, which, other societies, not built on the public good, can 218 never adopt. For example, if any man publish an invention, or secret, in medicine, or other science, or art, of importance to mankind, the state does not first tax the possessor by selling him a patent, and then load his manufactures with stamps and duties, thereby counteracting as much as possible, the kind intentions of the deity, in blessing his creatures with such an invention. No: the parliament is obliged to purchase the secret, and publish it. Remember, I say, obliged: for as it is only for purposes evidently useful, that their government dare dispose of the public money, at all, so neither dare they be sparing, when public utility demands it. Thus no quacks or imposters, under pretence of secrets, are suffered to impose on mankind, to ruin their healths, or pick their pockets. Nor does any complain, that his inventions, or his labours have been unrewarded, through all the happy regions of SPENSONIA.