Published in The Political Works of Thomas Spence, edited by H. T. Dickinson, 1982.
The Constitution of Spensonia
by Thomas Spence
The Spensonian People convinced that forgetfulness and contempt for the natural Rights of Man, are the only cause of the Crimes and Misfortunes of the World, have resolved to expose in a declaration their sacred and inalienable rights, in order that all citizens being always able to compare the Acts of the Government, with the ends of every social Institution, may never suffer themselves to be oppressed and degraded by Tyranny; and that the people may always have before their eyes the basis of their liberty and happiness; the magistrates, the rule of their conduct and duty; and legislators, the object of their mission.
They acknowledge therefore and proclaim in the presence of the Supreme Being, the following declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens:
1. The end of Society is common happiness. Government is instituted to secure to man the enjoyment of his natural and impresceptible rights.
2. These rights are Equality, Liberty, Safety, and Property, natural and acquired.
3. All human beings are equal by nature and before the law, and have a continual and inalienable property in the Earth, and its natural productions.
4. The law is the free and solemn expression of the general will. It ought to be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. It cannot order but what is just and useful to Society. It cannot forbid but what is hurtful.
5. Social laws, therefore, can never proscribe natural rights.
6. Thus, after a Parish, out of its Rents, has remitted to the State and County, its legal quota towards their expenses, and provided for defraying its own proper contingencies, the remainder of the Rents is the indisputable joint property of all the Men, Women, and Children having settlement in the parish, and ought to be equally divided among them.
7. All male Citizens are equally admissible to public employments. Free people know no other motives of preference in their Elections than virtue and Talents.
8. Liberty is that power which belongs to a Man of doing everything that does not hurt the right of another. Its principle is nature: Its rule justice: Its protection, the law, and its moral limits are defined by this maxim: "Do not to another what you would not wish done unto yourself.
9. The right of manifesting one's thoughts and opinions either by the press or in any other manner: the right of assembling peaceably, and the free exercise of religious worship cannot be forbidden. The necessity of announcing these rights supposes either the presence or the recent remembrance of despotism.
10. Whatever is not forbidden by the law, cannot be prevented. No one can be forced to do that which the law does not order.
11. Safety consists in the protection granted by Society to each Citizen for the preservation of his person, his rights and his property.
12. The law avenges public and individual liberty of the abuses committed against them by power.
13. No person can be accused, arrested, or confined but in cases determined by the law, and according to the form which it prescribes. Every Citizen summoned or seized by the authority of the law ought immediately to obey, he renders himself culpable by resistance.
14. Every act exercised against a Man to which the cases in the law do not apply, and in which its forms are not observed, is arbitrary and tyrannical. Respect for the laws forbid him to submit to such acts; and if attempts are made to execute them by violence he has a right to repel force by force.
15. Those who shall solicit, dispatch, sign, execute, or cause to be executed arbitrary acts are culpable and ought to be punished.
16. Every Man being supposed innocent until he has been declared guilty, if it is judged indispensable to arrest him all severity not necessary to secure his person ought to be strictly repressed by the law.
17. No one ought to be tried and punished until he has been legally summoned, and in virtue of a law published previous to the commission of the crime. A law which should punish crimes committed before it existed would be tyrannical. The retroactive effect given to a law would be a crime.
18. The law ought not to decree any punishments but such as are strictly and evidently necessary. Punishments ought to be proportioned to the crime, and useful to Society.
19. The right of property is that which belongs to every Citizen to enjoy and dispose of according to his pleasure, his property, revenues, labour, and industry. Here his property in land is excepted, which being inseparably incorporated with that of his fellow Parishioners is inalienable.
20. No kind of labour, culture, or commerce can be forbidden to the industrious citizen.
21. Every man may engage his services and his time, but he cannot sell himself; his person is not alienable property. The law does not acknowledge servitude, there can exist only an engagement of care and gratitude between the man who labours and the man who employs him.
22. No one can be deprived of the smallest portion of his property without his consent, except when the public necessity, legally ascertained, evidently require it, and on condition of a just and previous indemnification.
23. No public revenue can be established but for general ability, and to relieve the public wants. Every Citizen has a right to concur in the establishment of such revenue; to watch over the use made of it, and to call for a statement of expenditure.
24. Public aids are a sacred debt. The Society is obliged to provide for the subsistence of the unfortunate, either by procuring them work, or by securing the means of existence to those who are unable to labour.
25. Instruction is the want of all, and the Society ought to favour with all its power the progress of the public reason; and to place Instruction, within the reach of every Citizen.
26. The social guarantee consists in the actions of all to secure to each the enjoyment and preservation of his Rights. This guarantee rests on the national Sovereignty.
27. The Social Guarantee cannot exist if the limits of public functions are not clearly determined by the law, and if the responsibility of all public functionaries is not secured.
28. The Sovereignty resides in the people; it is one and indivisible, imprescriptable and inalienable.
29. No proportion of the people can exercise the power of the whole; but each section of the sovereign assembled ought to enjoy the right of expressing its will in perfect liberty. Every individual who arrogates to himself the Sovereignty, or who usurps the exercise of it, ought to be put to death by freemen.
30. A people have always the right of revising, amending, and changing their constitution. One Generation cannot subject to its law future generations.
31. Every Citizen has an equal right of concurring in the formation of the law and in the nomination of his mandatores or agents.
32. Public Functions cannot be considered as distinctions or rewards, but as duties.
33. Crimes committed by the mandatores of the people and their agents ought never to remain unpunished. No one has a right to pretend to be more inviolable than other Citizens.
34. The right of presenting petitions to the depositories of Public Authority belongs to every individual. The exercise of this right cannot in any case be forbidden, suspended, or limited.
35. Resistance to oppression is the consequence of the other rights of man.
36. Oppression is exercised against the social body, when even one of its members is oppressed. Oppression is exercised against each member when the social body is oppressed.
37. When the Government violates the rights of the people, Insurrection becomes to the people, and to every portion of the people, the most sacred and the most indispensible of duties.
1. The Spensonian Commonwealth is one and indivisible.
2. The Spensonian people are distributed for the exercise of its sovereignty and for the management of its landed property into parishes.
3. It is distributed for administration and for justice into counties and parishes.
4. Every Man or Woman born, or otherwise having acquired a settlement in a parish of Spensonia and of the age of twenty-one years complete; is admitted to the exercise of the rights of a Spensonian Citizen, as far as their sex will allow.
5. Female Citizens have the same right of suffrage in their respective parishes as the Men: because they have equal property in the country, and are equally subject to the laws, and, indeed, they are in every respect, as well on their own account as on account of their children, as deeply interested in every public transaction. But in consideration of the delicacy of their sex, they are exempted from, and are ineligible to, all public employments.
6. Every Man, Woman, and Child, whether born in wedlock or not (for nature and justice know nothing of illegitimacy), is entitled quarterly to an equal share of the rents of the parish where they have settlement. But the public aids to the State, and the County, must first be deducted, and the expenses of the parish provided for.
7. The settlement of every man whether native or foreigner is in that parish wherein he last dwelt a full year.
8. The Settlement of every Woman when married and living with her husband is in her husband's parish.
9. The settlement of every Widow or unmarried Woman, or Woman separated from her husband is in the parish wherein she last dwelt a full year.
10. The settlement of Children while living with their Father, is in his parish â€" while living with their Mother only, in hers: and if Orphans or deserted their settlement is in the parish where they became so.
11. No person can receive dividends, or have a vote in two Parishes at the same time.
12. A child, though born in the last hour of the quarter, and a person dying in the first hour of the quarter, shall nevertheless each of them be entitled to their quarterly dividends. Because such occasions are expensive, and the parish must lean to the generous side.
13. The exercise of the rights of a citizen with respect to voting, or public employments, is suspended by the state of accusation, and by condemnation to punishments infamous or afflictive, till recapitation; but his right to a share of the parish revenues, as a human being, can never be annulled but by death or banishment.
14. The Sovereign people is the universality of Spensonian citizens.
15. It nominates directly its deputies.
16. It deligates to Electors, the choice of administrators, of public arbitrators, or Criminal Judges, and Judges of appeal.
17. It deliberates on the Laws.
18. The land with its natural appurtenances, (according to the law of nature) is the common estate of the inhabitants, a parish is therefore a compact portion of the Country, designedly not too large that it may the more easily be managed by the inhabitants with respect to its revenues and police.
19. A parish can levy no tolls or assessments, but the rents of its territory.
20. Its police appertains to it.
21. It nominates its own officers.
22. It supports a public school.
23. Farmers and such as are able to build and repair their own houses, must have leases of twenty-one years, but no longer, that the most desirable situations may not be always engrossed in the same hands, and that Farms and other Tenements may now and then find their value in order that the Parish Revenue receive no damage, by places being let for less than they will bring.
24. For the more effectual preservation of justice in this business, all considerable Farms and Tenements, must at the Expiration Lease be let by public auction, after due Advertisement in the Public Prints.
25. Every Lease-holder must build according to the regulations laid down by the Parish for the sake of order and duration.
26. They must also leave their Buildings, Fixtures, Fences, etc., at the end of their Leases in good tenantable repair and condition, and their lands in good tilth becoming the public spirit of Spensonia.
27. No deputy Landlords are allowed. Therefore no leaseholder can parcel out his houses or lands to sub-tenants. All unfurnished lodgings or parcels of land can only be let by the parish.
28. Nevertheless an innkeeper or private person may occasionally accommodate strangers or others, with lodging in their own furnished apartments, and their cattle with pasturage, etc.
29. And a settlement may be gained by thus residing a great part, or even the whole of the year in the parish in such furnished lodgings.
30. Strangers from abroad, or Spensonians from other parishes, who may become necessitous through sickness or otherwise before they have gained a settlement, must be supported by the parish in which they then sojourn. But such poor being accounted the poor of the nation at large the parishes before they send off their quarterly poundage to the state, shall deduct therefrom the expenses they have been at in supporting such poor strangers.
31. Parishes in Towns, must always keep a sufficiency of small and convenient apartments in good repair for the accommodation of Labourers, Journeymen Mechanics, Widows and others who desire and require but little room. These shall be let by the quarter at equitable rents.
32. Country Parishes shall have a sufficiency of cottages or small and convenient dwellings with little parcels of land adjoining for gardens, etc., to accommodate Labourers in Husbandry, Smiths, Cartwrights and other Tradesmen and people wishing to live in the Country. These to be let by the year at equitable rents.
33. If a Competition arise about one of these small Tenements in Town or Country on account of its more than common desirable situation, etc., it shall be let by auction, and a lease granted. This will prevent murmuring, and also the Tenements from being let under value to the detriment of the parish.
34. If any parish in town or country should become so full of inhabitants as to have all its small tenements occupied, and yet more should be wanted, then it shall divide the first large sort of tenement that becomes vacant by the expiration of its lease into such small tenements, that the free course of population be not impeded.
35. It shall not be deemed unconstitutional to hold more tenements or leases than one, and even in sundry parishes â€" because a person's health or business may require him to occupy Tenements in different situations at the same time; as, for instance, in both town and country: â€" or he may wish to secure the possession of some desirable tenement, that is to let before the lease of the place he holds at present expires.
36. In such cases as this where settlements in more parishes than one are acquired, such pluralist shall yet vote and receive dividends but in one parish, which parish shall be that which he makes choice of. This restriction is necessary to check the natural ambition and rapacity of the rich.
37. A lease-holder may give up his lease when he pleases to the parish, or sell it for the remainder of the term it has to run to another person.
38. The parishes shall receive rent quarterly from the state, and the county, for the ground which they may have occasion respectively to occupy by their buildings, at a fair valuation: - as State Palaces, Castles, Fortifications, Magazines, Dockyards, etc., County Halls, Hospitals, Jails, etc.
39. Every parish shall constantly have a quantity of corn laid up in store, in proportion to its population, as a reserve against famine or scarcity from bad seasons: and by selling off yearly the oldest, and replacing the quantity with new corn, have it always in the best state.
40. To prevent the parishes from imbibing hereby a spirit of speculation in corn, to the detriment of the country at large, the law will properly regulate this business.
41. The parishes shall take care, that all the hedges do consist only of standard and low spreading grafted Fruit Trees, Shrubs valued for their Fruits and Flowers, and Trees indispensably necessary for their wood, instead of Thorns, Briars, and Brambles. The Spensonians, being the Landlords, are so much interested in the welfare of the Husbandman, and so public-spirited from their childhood that they will never break his fences or trespass on his grounds, and therefore he may safely cultivate the most inviting vegetables close to the highway side. He has only cattle to guard against.
42. Hunting is forbidden, being inadmissible in a country so highly cultivated, because of the unavoidable destruction it must make. The game, therefore, is considered as going with the ground, and as the sole property of the occupier, who alone may kill all he finds on his premises.
43. All rents shall be brought to the parish counting-house by Twelve o'clock on quarter-day that the books may then be closed. On quarter-day the rents shall be paid to the Parish Officers at their Counting House.
44. During the ensuing week, the parish accounts shall be made up, and after setting aside the poundages due to the state and the county, and settling all internal parochial business, and finding how much of the rent remains to be returned to the people, the accounts shall be minutely printed, including the names of all the Men, Women, and Children, who are entitled to dividends as parishioners, distinguishing those of age to vote by an asterisk.
45. The Eighth day after quarter-day, and the two following (which are always days of festivity) the people come for their dividends, which together with copies of the parish accounts is given to the heads of families, according to the number of their respective households, and to single claimants.
46. The parishes are the sole basis of the national representation.
47. There is one deputy for each parish if the number of parishes in the nation do not exceed one thousand.
48. If above one thousand, then the parishes in each county shall be classed in pairs of adjacent parishes, after first, if there be an odd parish, determining by lot which shall be it, for it will have the privilege of sending a deputy of itself, as if it were a pair.
49. If the parishes in the nation exceed two thousand, the parishes in each county are divided into classes consisting each of three adjacent parishes, after first deciding by lot as above, if there be one or two odd, which they are, and erecting it or them into a class, observing if there be two that they be adjacent. And so in like manner with any number of parishes that the national representation may never exceed one thousand.
50. The election proceeds in every parish of a class on the same day, and after casting up the votes, send a Commissioner for the general casting up, to the place pointed out by the parish.
51. The nomination is made by the absolute majority of individual suffrages.
52. If the casting up does not give an absolute majority, a second vote is proceeded to, and the votes are taken for the two Citizens who had the most voices.
53. In case of equality of voices, the eldest has the preference, either to be on the ballot or elected. In case of equality of age, lot decides.
54. Every male Citizen exercising the rights of Citizens, is eligible through the extent of the Commonwealth.
55. Each deputy belongs to the whole nation.
56. In case of non-acceptance, resignation, forfeiture, or death of a deputy, he is replaced by the parish or parishes, which nominated him.
57. A deputy who has given in his resignation cannot quit his past, but after the admission of his successor.
58. The Spensonian people assemble every year in their parishes on the first of May, for the elections.
59. They proceed whatever be the number of Citizens present, having a right to vote.
60. The Citizens meet in their parishes, nominate two Electors for the County.
61. The electoral assembles proceed in their elections as the parishes.
62. The Legislative Body is one and indivisible and permanent.
63. Its Session is for a year.
64. It meets the first of July.
65. The National Assembly cannot be constituted if it does not consist of one more than the half the deputies.
66. The Deputies cannot be examined, accused or tried at any time for the opinions they have delivered in the legislative body.
67. They may for a criminal act be seized, but a warrant of arrest, or a warrant summoning to appear, cannot be granted against them, unless authorised by the Legislative Body.
68. The Sittings of the National Assembly are public.
69. The Minutes of the Sittings are printed.
70. It cannot deliberate if it be not composed of â€" Members at least.
71. It cannot refuse to hear its members speak in the order which they have demanded to be heard.
72. It deliberates by a majority of the members present.
73. Fifty members have a right to require the appeal nominal.
74. It has the right of censure on the conduct of its members in its bosom.
75. The police appertains to it in the place of its sittings, and in the external circuit which it has determined.
76. The Legislative Body, proposes laws and passes decrees.
77. Under the general name of laws are comprehended the acts of the Legislative Body concerning the legislation, civil and criminal; the general administration of the National Revenues, and the ordinary expenses of the Commonwealth; the title, the weight and impression, and the denomination of money; the declaration of war; the public instruction; the public honours to the memory of great men.
78. Under the particular name of Decrees are included the acts of the Legislative Body concerning the annual establishment of the Land and Sea Forces; the permission or the prohibition of the passage of foreign Troops, through the Spensonian Territory; the introduction of Foreign Naval Forces into the ports of the Commonwealth; the measures of general safety and tranquility; the annual and momentary distribution of public succours and works; the orders for the fabrication of money of every kind; the unforeseen and extraordinary expenses; the measures local and particular to an administration, or any kind of public works; the defence of the territory; the ratification of Treaties; the nomination and the removal of Commanders in Chief of Armies; the prosecution of the responsibility of members of the Council, and the public functionaries; the accusation of persons charged with plots against the general safety of the Commonwealth all changed in the partial distribution of the Spensonian Territory; national recompenses.
79. The plans of laws are preceded by reports.
80. The Discussion cannot be opened, and the law cannot be provisionally resolved upon till fifteen days after the report.
81. The plan is printed and sent to all the parishes of the Commonwealth, under this title "Law Proposed".
82. Forty days after the sending of the Law proposed, if in more than one half of the Counties, the tenth of the Parishes have not objected to it, the plan is accepted and becomes Law.
83. If there be an objection the Legislative Body convokes the parishes.
84. Laws, Decrees, Judgments, and all Public Acts are entitled: "In the Name of the Spensonian People, the year of the Spensonian Commonwealth".
85. There is one Executive Council composed of Twenty-four Members.
86. The Electoral Assembly of each county nominates One Candidate, if the number of Counties in the nation exceeds Twenty: Four, but if under then each County nominates Two. The Legislative Body chooses the members of the Council from the general list.
87. One half of it is renewed by each Legislature in the last month of the Session.
88. The Council is charged with the direction and superintendence of the General Administration. It cannot act but in Execution of the Laws, and Decrees of the Legislative Body.
89. It nominates not of its own body, the agents in chief of the general administration of the Commonwealth.
90. The Legislative Body determines the number and functions of these Agents.
91. These Agents do not form a Council. They are separated without any intermediate correspondence between them; they exercise no personal authority.
92. The Council nominates not of its own body, the external agents of the Commonwealth.
93. It negotiates Treaties.
94. The members of the Council in case of malversation are accused by the Legislative Body.
95. The Council is responsible for the non-execution of laws, and decrees, and for abuses which it does not denounce.
96. It recalls and replaces the Agents in its nomination.
97. It is bound to denounce them if there be occasion before the Judicial Authorities.
98. The Executive Council resides near the Legislative Body. It has admittance and a separate seat in the place
99. It is heard as often as it has an account to give.
100. The Legislative Body calls it into the place of its Sittings in whole or in part when it thinks fit.
101. There is a central administration in each County.
102. The Officers arid Administrators are nominated by the electoral assemblies of the County.
103. The administrations are renewed one half every year.
104. The Administrators and County Officers have no character of representation; they cannot in any case modify the Acts of the Legislative Body, or suspend the execution of them.
105. The Legislative Body determines the functions of the County Officers and Administrators, the rules of their subordination, and the penalties they may incur.
106. The Sittings of Administrations are public.
107. The Electoral Assemblies assess their parishes by a pound rate, quarterly, towards defraying the public expenses of the County, as in building and repairing the County Edifices, such as Halls, Hospitals, Jails, Bridges, and in making and repairing Harbours, Roads, etc.
108. The accounts of the County are settled annually, and, being as minutely printed as to give satisfaction, are sent to the Parishes.
109. The code of Civil and Criminal Laws, is uniform for all the Commonwealth.
110. No infringement can be made of the right which Citizens have, to cause their differences to be pronounced upon by Arbitrators of their choice.
111. The decision of these arbitrators is final if the Citizens have not reserved the right of objecting to them.
112. There are Justices of the Peace elected by the Citizens in the parishes.
113. They conciliate and judge without expense.
114. There are public arbitrators elected by the Electoral Assemblies.
115. Their number and their circuits are fixed by the Legislative Body.
116. They take cognizance of disputes which have not been finally determined by the private arbitrations of the Justices of the Peace.
117. They deliberate in public, they give their opinions aloud; they pronounce in the last resort on verbal defences or simple memorials without Procedures, and without expense; they assign the reasons of their decision.
118. The Justices of the Peace and the public arbitrators are elected every year.
119. In Criminal cases no Citizen can be tried but by an examination received by a Jury, or decreed by the Legislative Body, the accused have counsel chosen by themselves or nominated officially; the process is public; the fact and the intention are declared by a Jury of Judgement; the punishment is applied by a Criminal Tribunal.
120. Criminal Judges are elected every year by the Electoral Assemblies.
121. There is one Tribunal of Appeal for all the Commonwealth.
122. This Tribunal does not take cognisance of the merits of the case: it pronounces on the violation of forms and an express contravention of the Law.
123. The members of the Tribunal are nominated every year by the Electoral Assembly.
124. The National Treasury is the central point of the receipts and expenses of the Commonwealth.
125. It is supplied by an assessment raised quarterly of â€" in the pound, on the rents of the parishes by the Legislative
126. This assessment being sufficient for all national purposes, and being sent up by the parishes every quarter without expenses, renders revenues, laws and officers unnecessary.
127. The affairs of the Treasury are administered by accountable agents, nominated by the Executive Council.
128. These agents are superintended by Commissioners nominated by the Legislative Body, not of its own members, and responsible for abuses which they do not denounce.
129. The accounts of the agents of the national treasure, and of the administrators of the public money are given in annually to responsible Commissioners nominated by the Executive Council.
130. These verifications are superintended by Commissioners in the nomination of the Legislative Body, not of its own members, and responsible for errors, and abuses which they do not denounce; the Legislative Body passes the accounts.
131. The National Accounts are printed yearly sufficiently minute to give satisfaction, and sent to the parishes.
132. The General Forces of the Commonwealth are composed of the whole people.
133. The Commonwealth maintains in its pay, even in times of peace, an armed force by sea and land.
134. All the Spensonians are soldiers; they are all exercised in the use of Arms.
135. There is no Generalissimo.
136. Difference of ranks, their distinctive marks, and subordination subsist only with relation to service, and during its continuance.
137. The public force employed for maintaining order and peace in the interior, does not act but on the requisition in writing of the Constituted Authorities.
138. The public force employed against enemies from without acts under the order of the Executive Council.
139. No armed bodies can deliberate.
140. If in one more than half of the Counties, the tenth of the parishes of each regularly assembled demand the revision of the constitutional act or the change of some of its articles, the legislative body is bound to convoke all the parishes of the Commonwealth, to know if there be ground for a revision of the Constitution.
141. The assembly of revision is formed by two members from each County.
142. The assembly of revision exercises no function of legislation or of Government; it confines itself to the revision of the Constitutional Laws.
143. All the authorities continue the exercise of their functions, till the change proposed in the assembly of revision, shall have been accepted by the people, and till the new Authorities shall have been put in motion.
144. The assembly of revision addresses immediately to the parishes, the plan of reform which it has agreed upon. It is dissolved as soon as its plan has been addressed.
145. The Spensonian people is the friend and natural ally of every free people.
146. It does not interfere in the Government of other Nations. It does not suffer other nations to interfere in its own.
147. It gives an asylum to Foreigners banished from their Country for the cause of liberty; it refuses it to Tyrants.
148. It does not make peace with an enemy that occupies its territory.
149. The Constitution guarantees to all the Spensonians, Equality, Liberty, Safety, Property, parochial and private, the free exercise of worship, a common instruction, public succours; the indefinite liberty of the Press, the right of petition, the right of meeting in popular Societies, the enjoyment of all the Rights of Man.
150. The Spensonian Commonwealth honours Loyalty, courage, filial piety, misfortune. It puts the deposit of its Constitution under the guard of all virtues.
151. The declaration of rights, and the Constitutional Act are engraven on tables in the bosom of the Legislative Body and in the public places.
152. Spensonia disclaims all financial benefits from foreign Provinces, Dominions, or Colonies.
153. Yet because the unparalleled encouragement to marriage, and of the influx of Foreigners, must inevitably so increase the number of inhabitants under this Constitution, that Colonies enjoying the same blessings must be established as inviting offings for the redundance of population on the Mother Country to flow to.
154. All the Colonies (therefore) that now belong to Spensonia, or shall be hereafter established by her, are declared independent states, as soon as they adopt and put in practice similar Constitutions. They shall then be considered as in the most intimate state of alliance, and entitled to all the protection the Mother Country can afford.
155. To promote cleanliness and refresh the spirit of men and labouring animals, the weeks in Spensonia are but five days each; every fifth day being a day or Sabbath of Rest. Thus will the fourth day of the week be always a market day and a pay day for labourers.