Article information

THE

Address

AND

REGULATIONS

OF THE

SOCIETY

OF

Spencean Philanthropists;

With an Abstract of

Spence's Plan


London:

PUBLISHED BY ORDER OF THE SOCIETY

1815


Printed at Seale and Bates's Office, 160, Tottenham Court Road.

3

Address


THE Association of SPENCEAN PHILANTHROPISTS entertain the hope, that the time is arriving when men will feel it their interest to be just, and when enquiry by enlightening their understandings, will induce them to adopt for their practice, the standard of justice; “do unto others as you would they should do unto you,” to this end, the attention of the public is directed to the following plan, as the only means to calm the discords—combine the interests—and promote the happiness of the world.

Convinced that it is not in political expedients or forms of government, but in justice, and the security of public property, that the happiness of mankind can be established; this association is of opinion, that it can in no case be so secure as in public partnership; this having been pointed out in all ages, by philosophy—by divinity— and by all those social relations which acknowledge the natural equality of men. Till an effectual check be put on individual selfishness in monopolizing the gifts of nature, in vain will philosophy moralise—in vain will divinity instruct that "cursed is he that removes his neighbour's landmark—" in vain will it be commanded "thou shalt not covet they neightbour's house, nor his ox, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's." Things will continue as at present under any form of government, if whole parishes and towns— nay, whole counties are monopolized by individuals, while the great mass of the people are dispossessed. Landlords, and landlords only, are the oppressors of the people; the drones of the 4 hive, they do nothing for what they receive, they are the real sinecurists. From whence do they derive the right and title to claim the Land, tbe Waters, the Houses, the Corn, the Cattle, nay, every thing upon the face of the earth as their property, but the persons of men, and in many instances even these In defiance of all rights human or divine? God and nature give to all an increase in proportion to their industry? But these harpies sieze it—they store it up, hedge it round with edicts, make what waste they please, or convey it to distant regions in exchange for whatever their souls lust after—thus the national property, the People’s farm, for the management of which they must toil, must build, must till, must plant, must defend for the feudal lord, the Landlord while he has the power to exclaim to his fellowmen “the land is mine, bow down to me you vassal slaves, know ye not that if 1 choose to let my wide domains lay uncultivated you must die! yes! die miserably! perish with hunger, am I not your Lord; by my will you live, move, and have your being." Thus they supersede the power of the divinity—his laws—his commands. And do they not deny the Majesty of the throne, any part of their inheritance with them if they make the King and his Family their Pensioners at so much a year, as though they were only their agents for the execution of their abominable mandates&and for the needy, the widow, and the fatherless, they build prisons, call them Workhouses, by which to dispose of the victims of misery and oppression. But the sacred records declare that such establishments shall not endure in peace, and the awful visitations arising therefrom in our own days are evidence, that the abominations of desolation will continue, till men perceiving their true interest, shall establish a 5 just system of administration, for that which is the natural property of all.

The cause of wars amongst kings is the acquisition of territory—while law suits, contentions, and ruin among communities and families arise about inheritance. This plan for a parochial partnership in land, would lay the foundation of peace, happiness, and security, would establish all that the scriptures command—all that religion enjoins—all that the established Christian church practice and enjoy. With christian professions, institute christian policy, and all the happiness society is capable of will ensue.

If William the Norman established his pagan tyranny of feudal lords and vassals by conquest, which have lasted eight centuries, is it not time it should be wholly abolished—the more so as these proprietors and lords of the soil, have mortgaged all they possess by a national debt&mdash(borrowed by themselves,) and of which they cannot much longer pay the interest? May it not be recommended that this debt should be cancelled, and the national estate restored to the people, that the dignified and titled stewards of the public, should like the Crown receive pensions in proportion to their rank, out of the rental as payment for their agency, as well as the defenders of the country, the officers of the Army and Navy? Then might we abolish all taxation, all pauperism would cease, our manufactories, commerce, and agriculture unshackled would flourish, and we should exhibit to the astonished world, that like a phoenix rising from our ashes, in conjunction with the best principles of government, we possessed a country capable of yielding the utmost possible freedom, comfort, and happiness; 5 no more should we fear rebellions—no more see the discharged soldier and sailor wandering in distress, they would have a home to go to, and their dividends accumulating during their absence, would supply them with the means of beginning some little establishment for their future support. There is no case in which justice, humanity, religious benevolence, brotherly-love, charity, or goodness of any kind is now individually practised, that the adoption of this plan would not render universal, as it combines the essence of all that is divinely good, or deservingly immortal.

For how many ages from the elevated temple of justice have we viewed with delight, on shining pedestals of immortality, the images of Moses, Lycurgus, the founders of the Christian church, and the greatest of monarchs—Alfred. If then these characters in the practice of justice but imperfectly understood, have gained such immortality, how happy, great and glorious must be the Nation that shall adopt this plan, of pure and unalloyed justice for their practice—how immortal that King, or Legislature, under whose auspices it shall be established.

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REGULATIONS,

OF THE

SOCIETY

OF

Spencean Philanthropists.


SECTION 1st.—Of the Admittance and State of Members.


CANDIDATES desirous of admittance into this society, must be proposed, seconded and elected by the members present, after answering in the affirmative the following Questions.

  • ARE you of opinion, that the land or territory of a nation is by nature the people’s farm, in which all persons as equal partners, might receive their just share of the rents?
  • ARE you of opinion, that this principle is founded in divine justice, and that its adoption would tend to extinguish war, poverty, oppressio, and misery, and restore peace, liberty, security, and happiness to society?
  • ARE you then willing to become a true Spencean Philosopher, by endeavouring to extend a knowledge of these natural rights of mankind?

Each member of this society pays to the treasurer on his admission, 1s. and is furnished with a copy of these regulations. He likewise pays 1s. per quarter, towards the funds of this society.

8If any one neglect to continue his payments more than two quarters, he is considered to have withdrawn himself.

SECTION 2nd.—Of the Meetings of the Society.

THE Society holds a meeting once a week at least, for Lectures, Readings, Free-Debate, or Conviviality, free of admission to all persons of decent demeanour, which is presided at by every member in succession, (the president using a bell to keep order.)

Lectures and Questions may be proposed on any subject, and if agreed to by the majority of members present, must be signed by the proposer with his name only, if a member; but if a stranger with his name and address, and he shall deposit with the treasurer or secretary, 1s. to insure his attendance to elucidate the same. Any member who does not attend personally or by proxy, to deliver the lecture of open the debate, (which he shall have proposed,) and who has eccived due notice from the secretary, shall be fined 6d. if a stranger, he shall forfeit his deposit. Also any member who does not attend personally or by proxy, to take the chair in his due order of succession, after notice as before mentioned, shall be fined 6d.

The Lecture, Debate, or Readngs commence at farthest, by a quarter after eight in the evening, and conclude by eleven. If a debate, the opener is called upon at half past ten to close the question, except a motion he made for adjourning the debate, which shall be promptly decided, that the business of the lodge may never extend beyond eleven. Speakers are allowed fifteen minutes each to deliver their opinions.

SECTION 3rd.—Of the internal administration.

FOR the managment of the internal concerns of the society, there are a conservative committee, a treasurer, a secretary, and a librarian, who are each elected quarterly by ballot, the last weekly meeting in March, June, 9 September, and December: they are however removable at all times by vote of the society.

The conservative committee consists of five members, its duties are to superintend and enforce the execution of these regulations, to audit all the accounts, to inspect the library and recommend purchases therein, to select and provide the lectures and readings, to receive and answer communications on the behalf of the society, and to perform any other function imposed by the society. It regulates its own time and place of meeting, and reports its proceedings to the society as it shall judge convenient.

The treasurer receives and disburses the society's money, by order from the secretary only; he also keeps a cash book, of the balance lodged in his possession, entered by the secretary.

The secretary takes minutes of all proceedings of the society, enters all questions for debate, lectures, &c. gives due notice to every person of the period, at which his subject will come under consideration. He keeps a list of the member’s names and places of abode, and a regular account of the entrance and quarterly monies, subscriptions, fines, &c. paid to the treasurer; he also attends the weekly meetings of the conservative committee, and reports to it all defaulters, and attends the weekly meetings of the society, personally or by proxy, or is fined 3d.

The librarian keeps a catalogue of the titles of books entrusted to his care, distinguishing such as are purchased, and such as are the donations of individuals, strangers or members; also a check book, in which he enters the titles of books lent, and when returned: He is allowed to lend any book for a fortnight, free of expence to members only; but if detained beyond that time he fines the member 2d. per week, for such further detention. He reports the loss, detention, delapidations, or damages done to the books, to the committe who may fine the offender in justice according to the loss or damage, and the librarian shall with-hold from him further use of such books, till the fine is discharged. He provides a safe and proper place, by approbation of the society for the library, makes purchases by its order, and receives in the name of the society, all books proferred as donations. He attends the meetings of the society, personally or by proxy with his catalogue, or is fined 3d.

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SECTION 4th.—Of the appropriation of the Funds.

THE Funds of this society are applied, in providing a library of useful books for the instruction of the members, in remunerating the officers for their expences, or to any other purpose which the majority shall determine to be requisite. And as every member is equally a proprietor of the aforesaid joint stock, and as this will gradually increase, the society shall from time to time regulate the price of admittance, proportionally to its value. Any person who voluntarily quits the society, and whose arrears are duly paid, may transfer his interest in it to another, if approved by the society.

SECTION 5th.—Of the external relations.

THIS society corresponds with all similar societies in all parts of the world, aids to the utmost of its ability the formation of new lodges, and affiliates them as soon as formed. When there shall be three, and not more than five of these societies, there shall be elected two members from each quarterly, as a committee of correspondence and communication, to extend the Philanthropic views of the Institution, and when there shall be more than five lodges instituted, one member only from each shall form such committee, who after making choice of a member to act as secretary, shall receive and answer all communications on behalf of the society, and report their proceedings to the different lodges.

SECTION 6th. —Of Alterations in these Regulations.

EVERY Resolution of the weekly members of this society, which shall be any wise contrary either to thie letter or spirit of these Regulations, shall be void and of no effect. Nor shall any alterations proposed amendments in these Regulations or Publications, in the name or behalf of this society take place, but with the consent of the members actually present, after consideration by a special committee, and one week after their report has been delivered.

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AN ABSTRACT OF

SPENCE’S PLAN.

THIS plan of Thomas Spence, for restoring to Society the real blessings of the social compact, by parochial partnerships in Land, truly declares, that all persons are by nature born equal, and to exist must partake of the air to breathe, the light and the heat of the sun, and the productions of the earth and water; it is clear, that nature intended these elements equally for the use of all, and that naturally the land or territory of a nation, is the people’s Farm; which they might hold as a joint-stock Company in partnership.

And further, as all countries are divided and subdivided into provinces, counties, hundreds, townships and parishes, that the inhabitants of the parishes, or smallest companies of proprietors, might elect or appoint a committee to let this estate; consisting of the lands, waters, mines, houses etc within their boundary; to receive the rents; and after paying out of it, by a pound rate, in lieu of all taxes, their share of the expenses of government, and paying all parish charges of building and repairing houses, bridges, roads, etc, to divide the remainder of such rent, equally by poll to every man, woman and child belonging to the parish.

This plan is founded on divine and immutable justice, and according to the laws of Moses, which direct the land to be possessed by families; not to be parted with otherwise than by mortgage, nor to be sold, given away, or alienated, but to the year of Jubilee*, as no one had other than a life interest therein: Witness — Naboth’s Vineyard**.

And further, the fulfilment of this law in the establishment of the Christian Church, is strikingly apparent: it has been the usage of the Church in all countries and times; from its beginning to the present day, to hold their property, as a joint-stock company, in partnership, their lands, colleges, convents, churches, houses, etc, are the property of the church, and the individuals have but a life interest in therein: their revenues are divided to all the members and though not equally, yet all are thereby kept from misery. None can buy, sell, give, devise, or 12 leave to their children, any part of this property, of which all are landlords; no! not so much as a nail or a brick; and this mode of holding property relieves the members of the Church from all expenses of lawsuits, about inheritances, titles and the like; from causes of war, civil or external, the burthen of tax collectors, &c.

This plan, then, if rendered general and applied to all nations, would remedy all the evils, of which society has to complain, by establishing natural and divine Justice, and producing all that happiness expected from the Millennium.

And further, the social bias of the human mind, is directed to produce this kind of association; witness; the public Funds; the East India Company; all corporations; mining, shipping, canal and other companies, all of which are joint-stock associations; the undisturbed regularity, and beneficial effect, to the partners are so apparent, that the practicability of this plan of Spence, cannot be doubted for a moment; it may be adopted at all times under all forms of government, without convulsing society, and if all persons were landlords (as they might be) in their own country, they would not be very willing to leave it, and go to war to distress themselves, and others, for precarious acquirements. And again be it remembered, that all lands, houses, and properties (in all countries) do now pay very large public rents, under the name of land, house and income taxes; poor’s rates; and other dues; and this sort of rent is demanded and distrained for, with more authority than any other rent; and therefore if the present possessors of land and houses, were to change their situations from proprietors, to tenants of the public, and all taxes were abolished, their condition would, in most cases, be greatly improved; so true is it, that to establish Justice, which produces honesty, is the best policy.

Query — If Locke’s assertion be true that what can be taken away is not a person’s own; what person can say that they do not hold their possessions as tenants of the public, as they are at all times obliged to surrender Land and Houses, if the public use or convenience require it.

* 25th Chap. of Leviticus.

** Chap. 1st Book of Kings.

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