The Important Trial of Thomas Spence

Spence's token: A snail may put his horns out

Spence was again arrested in April 1801 and charged shortly thereafter.

The charges brought against 'Thomas Spence, Labourer', 'being a malicious, seditious, and ill-disposed person', were threefold, but all based on his publication of The Restorer of Society to its natural State, which the Indictment claimed:

But in fact, as remarked on by Spence himself the driving force behind his trial was not his own publication, but the discovery by the Committee of Secrecy of the creation of a society to propagate his ideas. This was not mentioned in the indictment, but Spence's defence put some effort into playing down his public status as that of a 'fool and madman' rather than as the founder of a movement.

The bulk of Spence's defence was the reading in full of the Restorer: by this trick Spence not only ensured a wider audience for his work but was able to republish the whole of his now forbidden book, but as a record of a court trial, and with the disclaimer that it was only for friends and supporters, not for sale.

The newspapers gave some more details about the sentence. Since Spence managed to find the £500 from supporters he may not have been as isolated as he suggested.

The first edition of the Important Trial was printed in 1803 after Spence's release in the Spensonian alphabet; the second, also in 1803, in the English alphabet.

The first edition therefore includes instructions for using the Spensonian alphabet; this section is reproduced here. The contents of the 1st and 2nd editions is identical; only capitalization, punctuation, and of course the alphabet are different. The version here is taken from the first edition, but converted to the standard alphabet.