Having left the Manuscript of the following Letter with a certain Bookseller
for his perusal, he left them with a Friend, who wrote some remarks on them;
and though they are sufficiently anticipated, and rendered nugatory, by what
has been advanced both in the said Letters and the other tracts on the same
subject, which I have before published; yet as the same doubts are frequently
expressed by other superficial and malignant examiners; it may not be
amiss to take some notice of them.
Objection, 1. “A fine system to establish Civil Wars. If but a few
Kings at great distance from each other are ever and anon at War what may we
expect when every Parish proclaims itself Monarch of its Soil but every
trivial trespass imagined or real to involve them and their Neighbours in
horrid broils which like a stone thrown into a pond will undulate the whole
mass to its utmost verge.”"
Answer. This gentleman might have reflected that Parishes are too
small communities to wage War on each other, and that in case of disputes they
would be more inclined to submit to the decision of the Law than the Sword. It
is to prevent too powerful Associations of Citizens so intimately connected
that I propose the Land rather to be parochial Property than provincial.
Therefore we have nothing to dread from the disputes of such small bodies.
Besides, the bounds of Parishes have been fixed for so many ages that I cannot
perceive how any difference can arise. Moreover, there would be the National
Courts and Legislative Body, as well as the Provincial Administrations
continually presiding, assisted by all the wisdom and precedents of the present
and past ages, to direct them in every affair.
Objection 2. "What must those Parishes do who have no Land?"
I answer they must be content with their lot in that respect, as they are
forced to be at present. And as nobody would be bound against their will to
always in one Parish, any more then than now, those who wished to
change their residence or calling would be at liberty so to do, and might take
either Farms in the Country or Buildings in Towns as suited their inclinations
and business. Such liberty being granted, there could be no cause of complaint
concerning the local advantages of one Parish above another. Besides, all
public burdens being defrayed by an equal Land-tax or Poundage to the State and
the County, the richest Parishes in Revenue would have to pay most. Wherefore
the poorest Parishes might rejoice as well as the richest at having a Public
Estate to stand between them, and all such heavy Taxes and enthralments as they
now groan under. Thus there would be no cause for murmuring and envying. The
The People's good sense, the happiness they would feel, and the wisdom of the
Government for the time being would always be sufficient to prevent every
reason of complaint.
Objection 3. “Can it be consistent with justice to
plunder any individual, who having perhaps in the decline of life, expended the
whole Produce of his life in the purchase of Land for his subsistence; while
those who have no property, nor ever worked for it, are to have an equal share
with himself. And those who have fortunately vested their earnings in Goods,
Merchandize, or Cattle, are to suffer no diminution, yet be equal partakers of
the first Man's Land? This would be most horrid robbery, and most brutally
cruel, by reducing a man infirm to all the misery of the most indigent without
that health, strength, or ability to endure hardness which the laborious class
There's a feeling Advocate for the Rich! But let us try if we can plead as feelingly for the Poor.
Pray how many have we among the poor, that though they have laboured hard
all their lives, and contributed as much as they could to enrich and embellish
the World with their useful works, are now in the decline of life without
health, strength, or ability to endure “hardness”, and have neither
Money nor Land, and by no fault of their own too, and yet nobody pities them?
But as none ever expend all their money in Land, but reserve sufficient to
spacious and lordly Mansions with abundance of rich Furniture, Cloathes, Jewels,
Plate, etc. So those lamented people after their Lands are sequestered will
still be the richest, therefore why is all this ado about them? Besides we
seldom see people that work hard or get their earnings laudable buy Land, but
rather Monopolizers and Forestallers, Plundering Nabobs, Slave-traders, corrupt
Statesmen, Traitors, and all sorts of griping Miscreants, who like Judas, come
with the reward of iniquity in their hand, to buy a field of blood.
But all the Landed people are not fresh purchasers but rather old Possessors
by inheritance, and have had time sufficient to fatten on our Property,
and therefore have no reason to complain when we take our own again.
As to saying we are all partial to those who have vested their earnings in
Goods, Merchandise or Cattle, it is a mistake; for we have nothing to do with
any thing but the Land, and that is ours by Justice and Policy. It is ours in
Justice, even though we were brutes, because it is our common pasture and
And it is ours by right of policy, because, by the aid of it, and the
revenues it produces, the Owners are enabled to rule over us, starve us, or do
with us what they please, therefore, necessity, which is above all Law, gives
us a right to take so dangerous a weapon from our enemies.
Let the delicate advocates of the rich read the proceedings of Moses,
Lycurgus, and other ancient lawgivers and see whether they were so tender of
what stood in their way. There were establishments to overturn in their days as
well as the present, yet they did not regard them. And there is no establishing
a regular system, without making clear ground to build on, and overcoming all
But I may desire the great to look only a little to their own
proceedings and see whether they regard us or our interest, when
they wish to make Laws or Regulations to suit themselves. We must give way even
before such as their Game Laws that have neither justice nor necessity for
their plea. But what signifies attempting to specify the numberless modes,
in which they treat us with injury and contempt. It is impossible. For on our
part it is all suffering, and on theirs all insult and
Objection 4. “What crime has any Man committed by barely vesting his property in Lands or in the Funds?”
I answer it was never supposed a crime while the present system continues,
but it certainly would be a crime in such a Man, or any Men, to oppose the
extinction of such nefarious traffic. For like the Slave Trade it is fraught
with every mischief and evil to the Human Race, and the same arguments will
serve to defend the one kind of Traffic as the other. Good God! Is there to be
no end or stop to this traffic? Must nothing be held sacred from commerce? No:
It seems not. But in order to give free scope to the speculations of these
people of Property all bounds must be thrown down, and every thing must be
vendable even to a Porter's place in the Stamp Office. For this very day, that
I am writing this, there is an Advertizement in the public Papers, offering
fifty pounds to any lady or gentleman, that will procure the Advertizer
a Porter's Place in the said Office.
In this manner venality, and the cursed spirit of traffic pervades
everything. For a Monied Man may even buy himself into Church or State, or the
Legislature. So it is no wonder they so earnestly plead for open and unlimited
traffic in our Lands, Provisions, and like great Babylon even in Slaves and the
Souls of Men.
But I contend that many things are too sacred, and of too great importance
to the Happiness and Dignity of the Human race to be trafficked in, and in
order to put a stop to all illicit trade, I begin with prohibiting all commerce
in Land, for that is the root of all the other branches of injurious
What does it signify whether the form of a Government be Monarchial or
Republican, while Estates can be acquired? Will the Officers of any Government
rest content to be the Guardians of other People's Estates, without wishing to
acquire such desirable settlements to themselves, and Posterity? Believe it not.
Therefore, while estates can be either purchased or acquired in any manner all
Governors will be rapacious and traitorous, and all Men
Look over to France and see what their Bonapartes, their Consuls,
their Generals, and all their Public Functionaries are doing. Why, they are
making fortunes and acquiring Estates as fast as they can. And do you think
small Estates will serve them? No, truly. Estates like Kingdoms were never yet
large enough for their possessors. Therefore it is absolutely necessary in
order to establish Honesty in the Earth, to abolish private property in
Objection 5. “The lower orders now would certainly become the drones then.”
How strangely these great people and their advocates treat us poor Devils! I
wonder why we are to become drones then more than now? Does he
think the Rents will support us all in idleness? If nobody work, I am afraid
there will be little Rent paid. Perhaps he thinks the higher classes will work
and pay the Rents, and the lower Classes will spend them. This in the
simplicity of my heart I had no apprehension of, seeing the great aversion they
have to support idle people, even though they be blind. But to be serious. He
should first consider that though the people would have public Estates they
would also have public Charges to defray. There would be first the National
Government to provide for, next the Provincial and lastly the Parochial, before
anything could be divided; so in some Parishes, perhaps, there would be no
great deal coming to each one's share. For it is only what remains of the
Public Money after the public expenses are paid that will be shared among the
People to spend or live idly upon.
But where would be the great harm if some men should but perform half their
ordinary work if they be content with half wages or half gains? It would only
make employment for more hands. And in a state where every person must do
something, or else starve, there would be enough of work done,though men should
not be always toiling like Slaves.
It is foolish to take notice of such silly objections, but there is no end to
the stumbling blocks
which these Aristocrats throw in our way. They cannot bear to see us
endeavouring to act for ourselves. They would make us believe that the more
they rob us, the better we thrive! That we would rather work for any body than
ourselves; and that like stumbling Horses we must have Riders on our backs to
keep our heads up.
How provoking it is to have to answer such villainous suggestions! But their
cry and their object is the same with the old taskmaster Pharaoh: ye are idle!
ye are idle! says he: when the people began to talk of keeping holiday and
going into the wilderness to worship. So instead of allowing them holidays he
increased their tasks and ordered them to make Bricks without Straw. Thus too
our taskmasters because we talk of Liberty take care to manage matters so that
we should be closely employed and instead of working only six days a Week we
are obliged to work at the rate of eight or nine, and yet can hardly subsist.
And still the cry is work! work! ye are idle! ye are idle!
To behold the houses of Industry for the blind and the lame, the old and the
young, you would think this must indeed be an industrious nation and that there
were no drones.
But when you view swarms of idle Quality and people of Condition sporting and
rioting in all the dissipation and Luxury imaginable you may then guess the
cause why all this outcry is about Work, for well they know that some people
must labour to uphold such a shameful mass of Extravagance and Idleness.
0 Moses! what a generous plan didst thou form! Thou wast not afraid of thy
lower Classes turning drones by good usage. Thou indulgingly ordainedst
Holidays and times of Rejoicing out of number. New Moons and Sabbaths, and
Jubilees; Feasts of Trumpets, Feasts of Tabernacles, etc., and liberal
Sacrifices which were Feasts of Hospitality and Love, where the Priest, and the
Stranger, and the Proprietor all sat down to eat and regale together. Neither
was thou churlishly afraid of thy People tasting chearing beverage; for thou
generously ordered them it at a distance from the place of Workship, to turn
the usual offerings in kind, into Money, and take it up with them and there
it in strong Drink,
or whatsoever their Soul lusted after. Even the Popes ordained Holidays in
abundance and times of Feastings, and giving Gifts and making merry; nay, their
Monasteries with all their faults were often blessings and Assylums for the
distrest both in body and mind.
But we, God help us! have fallen under the power of the XXXXXXXXXX set of XXXXXXX
that ever existed. After swallowing up every species of common property and
what belonged to Religious Societies and Townships, they now begrudge us every
Comfort of Life. Everything almost, is reckoned an unbecoming Luxury to such
Scum of the earth, to such a Swinish Multitude! They are always preaching up
Temperance, Labour, Patience and Submission, and that Education only tends to
render us unhappy, by refining our feelings, exhalting our ideas, and spoiling
us for our low avocations. And as to Marriage, they tell us such Beggars should
not multiply their kind.
But to return to the Rich Man's advocate. There is not the least reason to
suppose that the system I offer would produce idleness but rather the contrary,
for there would then be no such examples of worthless drones, as we behold now
in our Gentry, their Dependants, and their armies. Would not the people then
have Wives, Children, Relations, and Magistrates to spur them on to industry?
And surely there would be some vanity to gratify, and wants both natural and
artificial to provide for, as well as now. And though they be exempt from all
Taxes and have some little help arising from their shares of what remains of
the public Money, yet still will they be obliged to do something towards their
Subsistence or else live very poorly indeed,for I do not suppose the
industrious would chuse to support sturdy Beggars then more than
now. The very Women and Children would cry out against what would affect
them so much. But I rather think the uncommon Freedom, and Security of
Property, in such a happy state, would operate as a stimulus rather than a
check to Industry. Though indeed there would not exist that dire necessity for
incessant Labour as in these deplorable times.
LONDON, Feb. 5th, 1801. T. Spence
*Gentlemen if the Rich according to
their own Confession be so debilitated by faring sumptuously and living
indolently every Day as to be deprived of “that Health, Strength, or
Ability to endure Hardness which the laborious Class enoy,” it must be a
charitable Attempt to deliver them as well as the Indigent from their
respective Miseries by abolishing the Causes.