Published in The Political Works of Thomas Spence, edited by H. T. Dickinson, 1982.
THE RESTORER OF SOCIETY TO ITS NATURAL STATE
Motto - Schemers of every class form an useful race of men and are not yet considered as they deserve. The bold political innovator is probably as necessary a character as any other for the improvement of the world. He leads us beyond the bounds of habit and custom a necessary step to future advances; and though he may sometimes lead us wrong it is better perhaps to go wrong sometimes than stand still too long.
Having left the manuscript of the following letters with a certain bookseller for his perusal he lent them to 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 two 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 the 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 remain 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 for1 murmuring and envying. 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, merchandise 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 enjoy".
There is 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 and 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 replenish their spacious and lordly mansions with abundance of rich furniture, clothes, 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 monopolisers 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 hunting park.
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 impediments.
But I may desire the great to look only a little to their own proceedings and see whether they regard us as 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 oppression.
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 advertisement in the public papers offering Fifty Pounds to any lady or gentleman, that will procure the advertiser 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 trade.
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 governments will be rapacious and traitorous, and all men villains.
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 land.
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 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 works 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 feel the consequences of his idleness there would be enough of work done for the happiness of society 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 conditions 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 ordainest 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 cheering 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 spend 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 asylums for the distrest both in body and mind.
But we, God help us I have fallen under the power of the hardest set of masters 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 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 wish 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, Feby. 5th, 1801.
London, July 19, 1800.
You see I am not forgetful of your request, that I should communicate such reflections as occurred to me concerning the means of improving the happiness of mankind, but in doing this it is necessary I should allow myself a sufficient latitude in treating subjects of such importance, for how shall a man that is not free himself point out the ways of freedom to others?
It is said in the beginning of the Bible that man was made to till the ground and have dominion over the whole animal creation. All this is self evident, for he is indeed as it were the God of this lower world, and his faculties both of body and mind sufficiently qualify him for this arduous task. But here the lordship of man ought to stop. For as Milton and reason say,
"Man over man, he made not Lord."
Happy would mankind have been had their ambition been thus bounded by nature. But the earliest records show, that the earth was immediately "filled with violence," and that God-like reason was as much employed in the destruction and robbery of fellow-creatures, as in subduing the earth and the brute creation for a more comfortable subsistence: Thus in proportion as the comforts of life increased by man's labour and ingenuity, so did the rapacity of men also increase to rob each other, and societies were as much formed for the sake of strength to plunder others, as for mutual defence. Well and truly then might it be said that "the wickedness of man was great in the earth," and that "all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth."
"Thus societies, families, and tribes being originally nothing but bandit-ties they esteemed war and pillage to be honourable, and the greatest ruffians seize on the principal shares of the spoils as well of land as movables, introduced into the world all the curst varieties of lordship, vassalage, and slavery as we see it at this day.
Now citizen, if we really want to get rid of these evils from amongst men, we must destroy not only personal and hereditary lordship, but the cause of them, which is private property in land. For this is the pillar that supports the temple of aristocracy. Take away this pillar, and the whole fabric of their dominion falls to the ground. Then shall no other lords have dominion over us, but the laws, and laws too of our own making; for at present it is those who have robbed us of our lands, that have robbed us also of the privilege of making our own laws: so in truth and reality we are in bondage, and vassalage to the landed interest. Wherefore let us bear this always in mind, and we shall never be at a loss to know where the root of the evil lies.
Then what can be the cure but this? Namely, that the land shall no longer be suffered to be the property of individuals, but of the parishes. The rents of this parish estate, shall be deemed the equal property of man, woman, and child, whether old or young, rich or poor, legitimate or illegitimate. But more of this hereafter.
I remain, yours, etc.,
London, Aug. 1st, 1800.
Reflecting on the number of lives lost every summer by people bathing in improper places, and considering the easiness with which convenient and safe bathing places may be made about most towns and villages, I could not help thinking the trifling expense required for such useful works, but very improperly saved. I need not direct how such baths might be made, as there is no want of baths for patterns; and where there are water works as here at London, that convey the water everywhere, the difficulty would be trifling, and a small current or pipe of water conducted to such a place would sufficiently keep it sweet and clean.
There are many places in the country where they have small rivers and brooks so naturally forming themselves into basins sufficiently deep and spacious, that they want but little labour to render them convenient and safe baths, where men might swim and yet boys be in no danger. It being chiefly for the sake of safety that such places are required they should never exceed in the deepest places four feet and a half. The good effects of such baths would be that everybody would venture freely where they knew there was no danger, and both learn to swim and promote their health, and also great anxiety would be taken from the minds of parents and relations, for the safety of young people at such seasons. And if a wall were carried round such places both for the sake of decency and shelter from the weather, the consequence would be, that many grown people at other seasons than the hottest, would frequent them for the benefit of their health. Indeed Citizen I think such works only require to be properly recommended to be carried into execution, either by voluntary subscription, or at the expense of the parishes.
I remain, yours, etc.,
London, Augt. 8th, 1800.
As nothing attracts my attention more at present than the hue and cry raised everywhere against monopolisers and forestallers on account of this artificial famine, let us see whether such a scene of villainy could be transacted under such a constitution of things as I hinted at in my first letter. You remember that I there gave the land to the parishes, by which means I broke the monopoly of land which is the mother of all other monopolies. Other monopolies cannot subsist after the fall of that, for the following reasons, viz.: First, because the inhabitants of every parish being the proprietors of all the soil within their respective parishes, they will take care that the farms shall be of such size, and let on such terms, and leases as shall appear to be most for the public good. In consequence of this, we may suppose that farms would be so small, that the farmers would hardly be rich enough to hoard much, neither would they be so few in number as easily to combine to raise the price of their produce.
Secondly, to ward against the danger that might arise to the public from the inability of these little farmers to reserve large stocks of corn, which might be of use in a time of scarcity, every parish would have a public granary, in which they would lay up every season a certain quantity of grain in proportion to their population. This like every other public expense would be defrayed out of the rental revenue of the parish, and would only be felt by the people for the first year or two, for after that they could always sell off as much of the oldest corn as would purchase the new. Also the parishes might lay up stores of coals, or anything else liable to accidental scarcity to prevent want, and individual monopoly.
Thus Citizen you see, I have put my people in a way to destroy all monopoly, and also effectually to provide against real famines with ease, and all by the simple operation of rendering the people what they ought to be, lords of their own districts.
You will think perhaps that people would be discouraged from cultivation and from commerce, if the parishes interfered in this manner, and engrossed so much of the business to themselves as corporate bodies.
To this I answer that they would be wiser than to usurp the trade the country, for the sake of trade, but only in such matters as an experience showed the public safety required. Besides if such a people as this had not wisdom who had such freedom to acquire, and make use of it, where must we expect it? For consider there would be none of your great quality, nor proud landed men, nor their minions to quash every project that does not first or last tend to increase their revenues. My people would give every one a fair hearing that had anything to propose for the public good. Neither would they long preserve in wrong measures, if they should chance to fall into them, because no obstacle remained to hinder them to change them.
In the advanced state of learning which the world is now arrived at, there can be no want of cultivated abilities everywhere sufficient to conduct the public business. All that is wanting is, a good system in which men being placed in a state of equality and freedom, the reasoning faculties would be encouraged to expand to the utmost. And such a system Citizen is this, which I have given you a sketch of.
I remain, yours, etc.,
London, Augt. 18th, 1800.
The late attempt of some of our legislature to amend the laws relating to adultery, could not but attract your attention as well as mine. But I think better preventatives have been adopted by a neighbouring nation, than any proposed in our Parliament.
The facility of divorce which the French now allow, must have the happiest effects. The matrimonial couples need not always now be chiding each other to no purpose about misconduct, for as they know they can part so easily they must if they wish to continue together study to make each other happy by sobriety, industry, civility, etc. Gross faults will not always be borne with now by either side therefore disgraceful bickerings will cease and the nuptial state will become like a continual courtship, because a good husband or good wife will be valued, and used as they deserve through fear of being lost.
Another good effect must also flow from such known possibility of separation. Men will no longer be afraid to give a beloved woman a fair trial of domestic life, though formerly she may have borne but a loose character, by which many will be reclaimed, the number of single women lessened, and the state of society much mended.
But under our unalterable establishment what a dreadful thing it is to make a wrong choice where there is no remedy nor redress for life. It is enough to make one shudder to think of being indissolubly bound to a spendthrift, a drunkard, a sluggard, a tyrant, a brute, a trollop, a vixen, -. What signifies reforms of government or redress of public grievances, if people cannot have their domestic grievances redressed? If they must behold ruin and disgrace overwhelming them like a deluge without any power of prevention?
This subject is so feelingly understood in this country, that it is supposed the chains of hymen would be among the first that would be broken, in case of a revolution, and the family business of life turned over to Cupid, who though he may be a little whimsical, is not so stern an jailor like a deity.
I remain, yours, etc.,
London, Sept. 20th, 1800.
The unprecedented dearness of provisions sets every head on devising how to find a remedy. And as people impute much of the mischief to the manner gentlemen now follow of letting their lands in large farms, they talk of having laws made to reduce farms again to a moderate size. But this is reckoning without their host. This is like the mice tying a bell about the cat's neck. Whose to do it? Are not our legislators all landlords? And are they going to make laws to restrict themselves in the management of their property? Believe it not. They find those rich tenants both give them more rent, and pay more certainly than poor men could. Neither bad seasons, nor accidents among cattle, affect them. They are still able in spite of every mischance to pay, and also to hoard and keep up what they have, till they can get a price to their mind. All this the landlord knows is for his advantage and makes him look on the increasing profits of the farmer with pleasure, as he will be sure to advance his rent in proportion at the expiration of his lease. These landed legislators therefore rejoice when markets are high, and will open and shut the ports, and give bounties of the national purse for the exportation of grain, rather than the farmers shall be hurt.
It is childish therefore to expect ever to see small farms again, or ever to see anything else than the utmost screwing and grinding of the poor, till you quite overturn the present system of landed property. For they have got more completely into the spirit and power of oppression now than ever was known before, and they hold the people in defiance by means of their armed associations. They are now like a warlike enemy quartered upon us for the purpose of raising contributions, and William the Conqueror and his Normans were fools to them in the art of fleecing. Therefore anything short of total destruction of the power of these Samsons will not do. And that must be accomplished not by simple shaving which leaves the roots of their strength to grow again. No: we must scalp them or else they will soon recover and pull our Temple of Liberty about our ears.
We must not leave even their stump in the earth, like Nebuchadnezzar though guarded by a band of iron. For ill destroyed royalty and aristocracy, will be sure to recover and overspread the earth again as before. And when they are suffered to return again to their former dominion it is always with ten-fold more rage and policy, and so the condition of their wretched subjects is quickly rendered worse as a reward for their too tender resistance.
In plain English nothing less than complete extermination of the present system of holding land in the manner I propose will ever bring the world again to a state worth living in.
But how is this mighty work to be done? I answer it must be done at once. For it will be sooner done at once than at twice or at an hundred times. For the public mind being suitably prepared by reading my little tracts and conversing on the subject, a few contingent parishes have only to declare the land to be theirs and form a convention of parochial delegates. Other adjacent parishes would immediately on being invited follow the example, and send also their delegates and thus would a beautiful and powerful new republic instantaneously arise in full vigour. The power and resources of war passing in this manner in a moment, into the hands of the people from the hands of their tyrants, they, like sham Samsons would become weak and harmless as other men. And being thus as it were scalped of their revenues and the lands that produced them their power would never more grow to enable them to overturn our Temple of Liberty.
Therefore talk no more of impossibilities. How lately have we seen unions of the people sufficiently grand and well conducted to give sure hopes of success? Abroad and at home, in America, France, and in our own fleets, we have seen enough of public spirit, and extensive unanimity in the present generation to accomplish schemes of infinitely greater difficulty than a thing that may be done in a day, when once the public mind is duly prepared. In fact it is like the Almighty saying 'Let there be light and it was so.' So the people have only to say 'Let the land be ours,' and it will be so.
For who, pray, are to hinder the people of any nation from doing so when they are inclined? Are the landlords in the parishes more numerous and powerful in proportion to the people than the brave warlike officers in our own mutinous fleets were to their crews?
Certainly not. Then landsmen have nothing to fear more than seamen, and indeed much less for after such a mutiny on land, the masters of the people would never become their masters again, whereas, the poor sailors had to submit again to their former masters, as they well know to their cost. And as they accomplished their mutinies without bloodshed, so may landsmen be assured if unanimous of accomplishing their deliverance in the same harmless manner.
But some that hanker after the flesh-pots of Egypt, and all the luxuries 'accompanying oppression, would not have the landed interest quite rooted out but only melt down by degrees the large estates into little ones, and a deal of pretty stuff like this.
Do not these drivellers consider, that little seeds produce great trees? That little principalities are the seeds of great empires? And that these little freeholders would frequently be buying and selling and marrying among themselves till they brought us back to the same inequality in which we are? Did not the Jews, the Spartans, the Romans, and the Saxons give us sufficient specimens of the instability of this little freehold system? Where are they now? Are they not all over-whelmed and swallowed up, while nothing but systems of monopoly remain?
But those nations though they went great lengths in their Agrarian Laws could never establish complete equality in estates. For great numbers were obliged to go without any land and were even in a state of slavery, and bought and sold like cattle. Surely we do not want such ignoble doings again in the earth? We are better off as we are. For pride accompanies land to such a degree that the smallest freeholder is possessed with all the aristocratic haughtiness and contempt for his fellow creatures as the greatest duke, and is much more insufferable on account of his greater ignorance. So the fewer we have of such detestable over-bearing breed, the better, and we then can the sooner destroy them, when we please.
Therefore away with the whole root of the evil I Let us no longer foolishly think of dividing the land, but only the rents; which is a thing practical and easy, whether we increase in number or diminish.
I remain yours, etc.
In order to show how far we are cut off from the rights of nature, and reduced to a more contemptible state than the brutes, I will relate an affair I had with a forester in a wood near Hexham alone by myself a gathering of nuts, the forester popped through the bushes upon me, and asking what I did there, I answered gathering nuts: gathering nuts! said he, and dare you say so? Yes, said I, why not? would you question a monkey, or a squirrel, about such a business? And am I to be treated as inferior to one of those creatures? Or have I a less right? But who are you, continued I, that thus take upon you to interrupt me? I'11 let you know that, said he when I lay you fast for trespassing here. Indeed! answered I. But how can I trespass here where no man ever planted or cultivated, for these nuts are the spontaneous gifts of nature ordained alike for the sustenance of man and beast that choose to gather them, and therefore they are common. I tell you, said he, this wood is no common. It belongs to the Duke of Portland. Oh: My service to the Duke of Portland, said I, nature knows no more of him than of me. Therefore, as in nature's storehouse the rule is, "First come, first served," so the Duke of Portland must look sharp if he wants any nuts. But in the name of seriousness, continued I, must not one's privileges be very great in a country where we dare not pluck a hazel nut? Is this an Englishman's birthright? Is it for this we are called upon to serve in the militia, to defend this wood, and this country against the enemy?
What must I say to the French, if they come? If they jeeringly ask me what I am fighting for? Must I tell them for my country? For my dear country in which I dare not pluck a nut? Would not they laugh at me? Yes. And you do think I would bear it? No: certainly I would not. I would throw down my musket saying let such as the Duke of Portland, who claim the country, fight for it, for I am but a stranger and sojourner, and have neither part nor lot amongst them.
This reasoning had such an effect on the forester that he told me to gather as many nuts as I pleased.
London, Septr. 25th, 1800.
The other day one of the labourers belonging to the East India warehouses being in my company, and knowing he could confide in me, opened his mind pretty freely concerning the present riots, and told me that several of their people had been discharged for saying they would bite off the bullets from their cartridges if they were ordered to fire at the mob, for, continues he, we in general wish the people well, and their cause, and would be sorry to hurt them; but I don't like their breaking the lamps and windows. Besides, adds he, they are too audacious and provoking. I, myself, was struck on the head with a stone.
You should keep better company, said I. How can they pry into your heart to know whether you mean them well or not? But they are at no loss to know that your appearance against them with arms in your hands is to keep them in awe, and encourage the monopolisers, and all their oppressors. Therefore if you would be thought to mean well to the people, and the redress of grievances, lay down your arms, for that is the best way to manifest to both parties, that you will not abet nor countenance such rapacity. But if you value your place more than your conscience, or humanity, think it but right to be knocked on the head.
It is thus, Citizen, that needy, mercenary and interested men, though of more than vulgar knowledge assist in riveting the chains of their fellow-creatures instead of contributing to break them. Fie upon it! that man should show more courage and steadiness in defending the cause of their masters, though ever so bad, than the cause of their fellows and equals, though ever so just, till at length they are depressed to a state below humanity.
I have often thought how much superior the condition of reptiles is to that of human nature, in the present perverted state of things.
A worm pays no rent: the earth while he lives is his portion, and he riots in untaxed luxuries. And, if perchance, a crow, or other creature, should pick him up, why that is only death, which must come in some shape or other to us all as well as he. But in this respect he had the advantage of us that while he lived he paid no rent! And herein are all the creatures to be envied.
Thus, though one species preys on another, there is no bondage, no slavery, in the case; it is only plain death. Could our oppressors free us from death, that would be something gained, in lieu of our liberty. But ours, God help us! is entirely a losing game. Instead of saving us from destruction, they accelerate our death a thousand ways. For, by their villianous wars, and artificial famines, they dig millions of untimely graves.
Blame me not then Citizen, for so earnestly pressing a system which I firmly believe would entirely abolish all political evils, and render the state of man as happy as it ought to be.
I remain, yours, etc.,
London, Oct. 8th, 1800.
Monopoly is injustice, let it be of what kind it will, whether of government, land, or trade, therefore I cannot help abhorring that national thirst of ours, after the universal trade of the world, to the prejudice of all other nations.
But this external monopoly is plainly the offspring of our internal monopoly. For the same covetousness which is nourished at home, by the oppression of fellow-citizens expands like ambition in its maturity till it grasps at the whole earth. Neither would the moon or planets elude our harpy claws, could we but find a passage thither, and we should soon hear of companies established to monopolise the celestial trade also.
Ought not therefore, such avaricious madness to be pitied, and like other madness curbed by force? I think it possible. And, if so, for the peace of the world it certainly should be accomplished. But, be not surprised, Citizen, when you see me again recur to my old specific. For I am fully convinced that my simple plan of destroying the impious monopoly of land, is the grand panacea that will cure all manner of evils arising from avarice and ambition.
Consider, Citizen, whether a nation which had no public stocks to traffic in, and whose land, as I propose, should all belong to the parishes, would hunger and thirst after the riches of the world, to the pernicious degree that is now common. For, observe, though they should acquire the riches of Peru, they could only speculate in fair and honest trade, and manufactures. For as I said, the parishes being so well able, out of their rents, to supply every exigence of the government upon the spur of the occasion, there could not possibly be any national debt or funds. Neither could they root, or concentrate their acquirements in land to give their names to, as the psalmist says, and invest them in their worthless heirs. So that men would learn to moderate their desires, and cease to aspire after boundless wealth, which they could have no means of consolidating.
Neither could such a nation be fond of conquest for the same reason, because if they wished for the continuance of their own constitution at home (which I believe they would not willingly part with) they must be careful how they introduce a sudden inundation of wealth from abroad. So, if they were forced by an implacable enemy to conquer him, they would be systematically compelled to establish in that country their own constitution, as the best means of rendering it in future a pacific and good neighbour.
It would be highly dangerous to their system of liberty and equality, to have their citizens pompously established abroad like princes, under the denomination of prefects or governors, and swelling into unmanigable power on the spoils of foreign provinces. The histories of all republics will woefully teach them to beware of such destructive rocks.
But you will perhaps say, the revenues arising from foreign conquests and provinces, appear very alluring and flattering to any people, and, if brought home to the national treasury, might in proportion to their quantity, lessen the land-taxes of the parishes. But this would be a deceitful and dangerous easement. For a government that draws great riches from sources which do not immediately affect the people, as from loans, mines, foreign tribute or subsidies, is sure to creep by degrees into absolute power and overturn everything.
It is for this reason I would not have the land national, nor provincial, but parochial property, that the people might be as much interested as possible, both in the improvement of their estates, which thus would be always under their eye, and in the expenditure of all public monies, which would be paid straight out of their revenues, even while in their hands, and when just going into their pockets. The government being supplied in this hard but honest way, by the general, land-taxes sent regularly, would neither be suffered, nor require, to have a rich treasury. Therefore a government so supported, without revenue officers, and very few place-men at home, and none abroad, could not be very dangerous to liberty.
You may be apt to think this discouragement to the monopoly of foreign trade and conquest, will tend to bring on a national apathy and disgust to labour and business, and that stimulating motives will be wanting to prevent the return of barbarism.
No such thing, Citizen, such a people will have incentives enough to industry and to improve rather than decline in civilisation.
In the first place they will be all well educated, having schools, and perhaps libraries, at the expense of the parishes. Reading promotes refinement and sensibility, and a taste for elegance in clothes, furniture and every department in life. Now, it is only labour, industry and ingenuity that can administer gratification to this multiplication of refined desires; therefore trade, manufactures, and the arts must needs be greatly encouraged. And as all nations, however barbarous or civilized, have naturally a taste for foreign productions and luxuries, and will do anything they can to acquire them, so may we expect this people.
A working and ingenious people can never want wherewith to barter for the produce of other climes, and, if so, will have trade enough without having recourse to the expedient of great, avaricious, monopolising companies like us, who for their private ends, disturb the peace of the whole world, setting nation against nation, and people against people, till the whole earth and sea is turned into an aceldama.
Surely nothing can be wanting to encourage both trade and labour, but open ports, liberty and security of property.
For where is the people so barbarous that will not trade, and be stimulated by it to labour, hunt, fish, and exert their abilities to the utmost, for articles to traffic with, unless interrupted by some malignant, tyrannical power? So, as nothing can be got without labour, there can be no reason to fear that a people so enlightened, and enjoying such unparalleled security, under laws of their own making can ever degenerate into sloth, and all its disgustful consequences.
Wherefore to conclude. As mediocrity of wealth has always been found to be the never failing source of knowledge, good taste, industry and happiness, and of all the virtues, I can harbour no apprehensions for the welfare of my commonwealth.
I remain, yours, etc.,
London, Oct. 9th, 1800.
I have often amused myself with comparing the superior degrees of happiness which I supposed people of such callings and stations in life would enjoy in my commonwealth, above what they now enjoy under the present system of things, and shall at this time take a glance at the mariners.
In the first place, as my commonwealth can have no interest in war, as made appear in my last, so the sailors can have no press-gangs to fear.
And in the next place, as the government is entirely supported by one simple tax which is the land-tax, and therefore has no occasion to raise the revenue on trade, either on exportation, or importation, the mariner will be free from the plague of custom house officers.
He being thus at full liberty to fetch and carry like a man on land, from one village or town to another, it may naturally be expected that every man and boy on board of a vessel, will turn merchant and condition with their master for a certain portion of stowage room for their goods. Sailors having such liberty and privileges, would soon become quite another set of people than what they are at present. Instead of the desperate, careless, reprobate character, which the common men now generally acquire, they would become provident and sober, and solicitous to provide for their families and their own subsistence in old age.
In consequence of such improvement and the desirable commodities conveyed by them from clime to clime, they would always be welcomed and respected wherever they came, as a most valuable class of men. In short Citizen, their improved condition would be beyond all description. For as all the children of the commonwealth would partake of the good education of the country before they were suffered to go to business of any kind so would those who went to sea.
Then let us push forward to that joyful day, when all shall be happy by land and by sea.
I remain, yours, etc.,
London, Octr. 12th, 1800.
After providing so well for the seamen, you will naturally expect I should appease the apprehensions of four classes of men, who will be thrown out of employ by the adoption of my constitution. Those four classes are:
First, Landlords and stockholders who subsist on revenues extorted legally as they say, from the rest of mankind and are called quality and gentry.
Secondly, Lawyers, attorneys, etc., who subsist almost entirely by conveying landed property from one to another, and in litigations about it.
Thirdly, Gentlemen's servants of every description.
Lastly, Soldiers and sailors employed in war.
Now Citizen it becomes us to pay particular attention to the first class, for they have always been the principal care of every author especially of the great Mr. Burke, of aristocratic memory.
Well then, at the creation of the commonwealth when the mighty fiat of the people has gone forth and at the sound of it the landlords of the earth, and the creditors of the state, are annihilated, the condition of the ci-devant quality will stand thus.
In the first place they will find the people in their great lenity and generosity to have spared their lives, and also their money, plate, jewels, furniture, apparel, cattle and movable effects of every kind. And in the next place as an equivalent for their lost land, and money in the stocks, they will find themselves in the full possession of the rights of citizenship, in the fostering bosom of the most human and just commonwealth that ever existed.
Now Citizen I wish to know, after landing these people so safely on the other side of this dreadful revolution, and withal so richly provided, they ought still to be pitied? Or whether some might not think they had been suffered to escape with too much of the spoils which they and their forefathers had squeezed from poor suffering humanity? Might not these people being still the richest class, though they had lost their lands and money in the funds, be well content to be quiet, lest by stirring they should compel the people in their own defence to exterminate them, and sequester also the remainder of their ill gotten wealth. Yes, verily; I think they may be glad and rest well satisfied with their happy lot.
Query. But will not they lead a melancholy life, reflecting on the goodly estates and pensions, which they have lost and all their other ample revenues? And, how must they subsist without an income for their movable effects, though ever so considerable, will dwindle away?
What! Are these pampered people, these monopolisers of the earth, these stockholders, these placemen and pensioners, this tyrannical crew under which we groan: to furnish rents and taxes, for whom we starve ourselves and families, and suffer the privation of every comfort that renders life desirable: I say are these locusts to be eternally held up to us as objects of charity and commisseration, though we so generously suffer them still to remain the richest members of the community, and adopt those people for fellow-citizens, that reject us, nay that treat us as a different species? For shame! Urge not another word in favour of such undeserving objects.
And suppose now these high-minded beggars should still wish to continue in their former extravagance and luxury, till the whole of the effects which the good natured people shall leave them to be spent: are we for ever bound to uphold them in such doings?
But on the other hand, if they rather wish prudently to submit to their fate, most of them will find that they have effects sufficient, with a small share of economy, to maintain themselves luxuriously, without work or industry all their lives, especially in a nation where everything will be cheap, and free of taxes. And if they further submit to turn their talents and property to trade, their superior capital cannot fail of yielding a genteel and happy livelihood. Let therefore all this superfluity of concern for any class, but especially for the richest, cease and let this incomparable jubilee, this new creation be celebrated with that universal joy and fraternity becoming so grand an occasion.
Query. -- But as there can be no law to compel people to economy and industry, what will be the fate of these idle-bred people, if they should prodigally spend all, and reduce themselves to beggars? D-n these idle-bred people, I was going to say. But I'll try to keep my temper. This query seems entirely superfluous. For I have said all along that after all public expenses are paid out of the rents, the remainder will be equally divided among all the men, woman, and children in the parish whether poor or rich. Because neither riches nor poverty can disqualify a person from a participation of natural rights. So then even though we should suppose our quondam betters will so far disgrace themselves as to act like thoughtless profligates and reduce themselves to the lowest ebb of poverty, yet will they have as well as others, their sad shares of the public money that is returned to the people. But if notwithstanding all these helps and favourable situations, some high-bred personages should think it more for their honour bravely to rush into the danger of starvation, there will yet be another resource in the humanity and wisdom of the country, and such lunatics no doubt, would be suitably taken care of. Though I do not suppose they would degrade their fellow-creatures, as is done at present, by cramming them into the poor-houses among the most degenerate of the species in their distress, but would rather grant them small pensions which, in addition to their rental dividends, would comfortably maintain them at the fire-side of their friends.
Now Citizen, having got these troublesome gentry off my hand I shall find but small difficulty in disposing of the other three classes because they are neither so high-bred nor so little used to industry, and therefore can the more easily accommodate themselves to some useful calling by sea or land suitable to their genius and circumstances. And even at the worst, if some of them should turn out as worthless as we supposed the quality, they would also find the same resources in the parishes.
It is impossible but there should be some partial losses and inconveniences attending so radical a revolution, but when the sufferers reflected how much the state of society was improved, they could not say they had no equivalent.
I remain, yours, etc.,
London, Octr. 14th, 1800.
It is said in the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, that Judas purchased a field with the reward of iniquity, and that it was called the Field of Blood.
Now Citizen if we go to examine but very superficially into the manner that most fields and estates have been acquired either formerly or now-a-days, I am afraid too much blood and iniquity will appear in the business.
There are but two ways of inheriting the earth agreeable to justice and the rights of man: the first is in the patriarchal and Indian manner by using it as a common grazing pasture and hunting park, as was done by Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, and Esau and Ishmael. The second is by letting out in farms and tenements for cultivation and habitation as at present, but reserving the rents to the people of the district in lieu of their rights of pasturage, and hunting.
The first mode was naturally fallen into by the rudest of mankind, as it were by instinct, but we could hardly expect the adoption of the second, till experience showed the evils they must endure, on departing from the simplicity of the first, and introducing private property in land.
It was owing to the villainies practised in the way of getting private possessions, the wars necessary for their defence from other intruders, and the enslaving of men for the cultivation of them that the Rechabites were enjoined by their father, neither to build houses, sow seed, plant vineyard nor have any but to live in tents; and thus by beginning anew the pastoral and patriarchal mode of life exhibit to the jarring world an example of primeval innocence.
Now we find the Rechabites were far from being despised, for adopting and following those simple old-fashioned customs, but on the contrary we see the usurper Jehu, honourably saluting Jonadab, the son of Rechab, and taking him into his chariot to be a witness of the vengeance he was executing on the encroaching monopolising House of Ahab. We find likewise Jeremiah the prophet making honourable mention of this family of the Rechabites for adhering so closely to the innocent pastoral institutions enjoined by their father.
If these just men had conceived the possibility of preserving the just rights of man in a state of cultivation by dividing the rents, they would certainly have adopted such a mode, rather than forego the conveniences attending such a condition, but as they did not they were excusable in going back again to their original state rather than be concerned in the villainous transactions attending private possession.
Now, Citizen, a practical way of reconciling the rights of man, with a state of cultivation having as you see been plainly proposed, the world can no longer live with innocence, or the least plausible excuse in the present monopolising unjust state.
If the Rechabites were so struck with abhorrence at the proceeding of Ahab and Jezebel in the disinheritance and murder of Naboth, that they retired from the comforts and pleasures of towns and cultivation, what feelings must we have, who with all the villainies of history, as well as the enormities of our contemporaries, and neighbours before our eyes in this diabolical business of acquiring possessions, can wish to continue a day longer in a state so repugnant to every human feeling.
Do we still wish to see such men as Judas, as General Monk, as villainous ministers, as jailors, and Bastille keepers, as citizen killing generals and admirals, as our monopolisers of every description, with all the tribes of nabobs and slave traders from the East and West Indies, each coming with the reward of iniquity in his hand to buy a field of blood.
Can we expect to enjoy liberty and the rights of man, in the midst of such neighbours, who founded their estates in blood and must continue them in oppression? In endless, and increasing oppression? For they still cry, more! morel another vineyard! I have not yet enough! My family is not yet sufficiently aggrandised.
Thus you see Citizen, that all the traitors and robbers of mankind wish like Judas to bury and secure their spoils in the earth in fields of blood. Let us therefore prevent it, by taking the earth into our own hands, and convert it from being the means of our greatest evils, to our greatest good.
I remain, yours, etc.,
London, Octr. 16, 1800.
You see I do not in the old fashioned manner attempt to preach and pray the world into justice and tenderheartedness. No truly. I have seen enough of that kind of delusion. If religion would have any influence on men's lives, we ought to be the most righteous and compassionate people on earth. Where is there a people that abound more in preaching men, and preaching books, in all the sects and persuasions, and also in books of morality, satire, etc., and yet you see there is no living on account of every species of oppression and monopoly. Therefore it is evident that it is only by good laws and constitutions that we must hope to amend our deplorable state, and not by our addressing ourselves to the religion, generosity, and feelings of the rich and powerful, for their humiliating charity. And it is natural and universal interest alone can cement our society when established and secure us from revolving back again to our former wretchedness.
Permit me then Citizen, to return to my old subject and show the good effects that would instantaneously be felt through the whole nation on the adoption of my proposed constitution.
No sooner would it be proclaimed, but the prices of every article would begin to fall. For the taxes and the paper money, which now enhance the price of everything, ceasing all at once, the difference in value, would be found very great, and the dealers would immediately enter into a competition with each other striving who should first lower their articles till everything found the lowest level.
The farmers likewise would not be the last to show a disposition to supply the markets at a reasonable rate. For they must thenceforth look on the people as their landlords, who either might renew their leases or not, as they considered them well-wishers to the public good.
Again, in order to make comfortable livings for poor husbandmen the parishes no doubt would divide the over-large farms, as soon as their leases expired, and also be at some expense in enclosing and improving their waste ground, whether consisting of high land, or marshes, and suffer no space to remain in a useless and unprofitable state. For as every person would have a most intimate feeling in the improvement of their parish estate, so every parish would in fact, instantaneously and naturally become a board of agriculture. The consequence of which would be an immediate increase of husbandmen, and a wholesome decrease of artificers and tradesmen, who are now out of all proportion too numerous.
Nay I suppose many country parishes would find it for their advantage to invite poor men from the towns, to come and settle on their waste lands, and by advancing them a little money at first, either by way of gift or loan, enable to purchase some stock and utensils by which both the community at large, would be benefitted by an increase of provisions, and the parish revenues, greatly increased by the addition of the new rents. Thus trade and manufactures being thinned, the more business and employment would be left for the remainder of the workmen, and good wages, would be the result in every calling, to which when added to the cheapness of provisions, and the joys of freedom, the happiness of mankind would be complete.
Foreign nations that did not adopt the same constitution would be ruined. For they could not support a competition in trade against such a people who had no drones in their society. The present idle classes being all compelled by necessity to beome industrious bees in one line or other, the real wealth of nations, which is the produce of labour would so increase, that it must in spite of every obstruction overflow, and influence all the nations of the earth.
I am, yours, etc.,
London, Oct., 18th, 1800.
I am pleased to find that you coincide in my political opinions and plans. You also tell me you have perused my constitution of a perfect commonwealth, and my other little pamphlets on the same subject, and approve of the whole. This is some satisfaction and encouragement, and 1 rejoice not as a vain author, but as a well-wisher to mankind, because if these writings be capable of convincing and animating one man of sense, they may by parity of reasoning be supposed in due time to convince millions.
It is natural enough of you to wonder why none of the modern champions of the rights of man should take notice of my scheme in their books and harangues though I have been diligently publishing it these six and twenty years, in great variety of shapes, and have sold many thousands of copies.
But Citizen though they could not be ignorant (for I did not poor as I have been conceal my ideas under a bushel) yet your surprise will cease when I reflect on the purity of the plan, and the selfishness and avarice of the human heart. Can any think you, but real lovers of justice and equality, admire a constitution framed according to the exactions of nature? - That suffers no national or confiscated estates, or domains to be dealt out in portions among the orators, writers and generals who may contribute to the establishment? - That makes no partial distinctions of its children into happy elect and rejected reprobates? - That omits the very babies and their mothers, the blind and the lame, the dumb and the eloquent to an equal participation of the rights of nature? I say will such a levelling constitution as this, do for proud men of abilities and conceited excellence? No: surely. Our reformers would have showed themselves Israelites indeed, in whom there was no guile had they heartily patronised, and pressed on mankind so disinterested a scheme.
Then you may say why trouble myself further about such a crooked race? Let them still go on their old way, changing names without the substance; and setting up one set of lords, and monopolies on the ruins of another as they have done from the beginning.
Indeed Citizen with grief I behold the indirect and suspicious modes which the professed reformers of the world take to deliver it from oppression. For instead of striking at the root, they only aim at the branches. So that like some prolific vegetables the more it is hacked and hewed, the more it spreads. For the very chips and cuttings take root, and become distinct plants. But yet I hope, that when the cup of villainy is full, and men are fairly tired out, and have lost conceit of their inconsistent democracies and other forms of government: when they perceive that mamelukes and citizens, make but an incoherent mass, and that men, who under the specious name of citizens, have the estates and power of lords and princes and use them as much to the injury of mankind; when they are fairly sick of the wars, the artificial famines, and all the other evils, springing from this bitter root of landed monopoly, that then they may turn their eyes to my just constitution, as the last, and only remedy against all political evils.
You are likewise surprised that I have been suffered in these persecuting times, to print and publish a plan, that more certainly aims at the overthrow of all establishments, than any that were ever proposed by others.
But Citizen, I do not particularly aim at the overthrow of the government of this country, by publishing my plan. No such thing. For it is as well calculated for any nation under the heavens, though I write it in England for the best of reasons, viz., because, I am here and cannot help it. In consequence of this I cannot altogether avoid appearing sensible to some affairs transacting around me by which I am very intimately affected, but nevertheless, I am as abstract as possible, and ought to be considered as only advancing a theory, which I believe would greatly increase the happiness of the world, or any part of it, that choose to give it a trial. But whether England be the first or the last country to adopt it, or whether it be adopted anywhere at all, does not rest with me. I am but an individual, and it is now out of my power even to recall it again, and therefore must remain whether I will or no, a mere bystander, while it must stand or fall according to its own merit.
I remain, yours, etc.,
London, Oct. 24th, 1800.
The management of hospitals for the sick being of the greatest importance to the public, nobody can be blamed for endeavouring to improve their state. And though they are of very great public utility, as at present conducted, yet I think they may be of much greater, by allowing an unbounded latitude and ease of admittance.
Is it not wonderful that subscribers or governors, as they call themselves to such institutions, should so far stand on punctilios, as to require application from the poor weak patients for letters of recommendation, before they can be admitted.
The difficulties attending the procurement of these recommendatory papers, and the time and strength wasted about them, are often of the most hurtful tendency to poor creatures labouring under the accumulated burdens of disease and poverty and are certainly the cause of many a death. The grievances and anxieties suffered on such occasions are incomprehensible to such as have not tasted of the bitter cup. As to out-patients, their usage is shameful to an extreme, by the uncertain time of medical gentlemen's attendance, and makes it more to a patient's advantage if his time be of any value at all, to pay for his medicines elsewhere, than to fret so many hours away in waiting.
Why then in the name of humanity, should all these disagreeable repugnances be thrown in people's way? It is doubtless to deter as many as possible from applying to such places for relief, and induce them to apply to the faculty elsewhere, rather than dance such distressing attendance.
So much then for the medical gentlemen working together for the benefit of their craft. They should therefore be looked strictly after and made to attend more punctual to their appointed time, at all such places of medical relief, for surely the time of one individual cannot be more precious than that of the many unhappy, and useful sick, who are waiting for them.
But what is the strangest of all in this melancholy business, is, that the very subscribers should wish to come in for a share of this pitiable attendance, and at the most critical time too. Good God! Can it be to squeeze a little homage from such suffering creatures, or is it to take such a sure opportunity as this to mortify, and let them know their dependent condition? They will not dare to avow such mean motives.
Well then Citizen to remedy all these evils I would have the hospitals open for the admission of the sick of every description, every day of the week, without previous application. For as in cases of sickness there can be the least chance of imposture, we may safely trust the detection of cheats to the sagacity of the faculty who should admit all applicants immediately without making them wait for a particular day of the week as for the moving of the waters. I say, let all immediately be admitted either as in or out-patients, as the cases should require. No questions should be asked about circumstances or security for funerals, neither should maladies of any description be rejected, but only for want of room in which case, if the patient required to be taken in, he should be told to apply to such other hospital as they knew to have vacancies, that no time might be lost.
By such speedy relief and encouraging invitation the most happy effects would accrue to the public. Every disease would be taken in such due time, as to render the cure almost certain, and those of an infectious nature would likewise be prevented from spreading.
Now I am speaking of infectious diseases, let me propose the treatment of a certain one in some such manner as the plague, which does perhaps infinitely more mischief to the human species. Every one infected with that foul malady, should be by law compelled to fly to an hospital for relief as soon as they perceived themselves injured. And to prevent either male or female, old or young, rich or poor from concealing their case through modesty large rewards should be ordained for the discovery of such infected people, of what condition so-ever, who should immediately when discovered, be thrust into an hospital, and there locked up in the foul ward till completely cured. A penalty should also be laid on such persons as did not immediately apply to an hospital as soon as they knew themselves infected.
This would be an effectual way to root that destructive disease out of any country, and we should soon, yes very soon, hear little or nothing of it, if so treated. Perhaps the same method taken with the small pox, might eradicate it also. And so of every infectious disorder.
But now Citizen, methinks I hear you say, what will become of such of the faculty as have not places in the hospitals for they would be ruined if such free and easy access were permitted to such institutions.
I answer that I was not studying for the interest of any particular set of men, but for the public good. But supposing there were hospitals sufficient for all the people when sick, and that there'were no other medical men employed than were placed in them, I cannot apprehend that the state of mankind would be worse. And suppose further that hospitals were all supported by county rates, instead of private subscriptions that we might get rid of paying such distressing homage to subscribers and governors, it would certainly be a great improvement.
This business of hospitals like all other public business, would be best conducted in my commonwealth. For in that incomparable state everything of an extensive nature and influence beyond the bounds of a parish, as hospitals, colleges, bridges, harbours, roads, etc., would be supported by provincial or county rates of so much per pound, and the rents of the parishes. So that after a parish rents were collected, the account of expenditure would stand thus.
Thus one single and simple collection of the rents serves for every public purpose, without the expense and grievances of revenue-officers, and revenue laws, and without further toll tax or custom.
I remain, yours, etc.,
London, Deer. 27, 1800.
When I contemplate the meagre and beggarly appearance of the working people at this deplorable period, and at the same time hear their deep and desperate exclamations, sighed forth from their broken hearts, I cannot help thinking but that we are on the eve of some very great commotion. This is the time then for plans of various sorts to be ready, that the nation may have it in their power to choose one that will prevent the like misfortunes in future, for it is a melancholy thing to see a people after being compelled to throw their burdens off their backs till they are laid on again, for want of knowing better.
But we are not without political planners, even where one would hardly expect them. For I overheard a stable-boy the other day in a great rage telling his companions that nothing would do but a sponge to wipe off at once the whole of the national debt.
Now this young man is not singular, nay it is the general opinion that nothing less will do us any good. Wherefore when we are about it, and the sponge is yet wet, let us make a clean board, and wipe off the landed score also. For surely we are not bound in conscience to continue in the payment of rents for our own lands, any more than to pay interest for debts which we never contracted.
It is certainly full time that mankind were come to a clear understanding about establishing their own happiness. Temporising measures will no longer answer any purpose, but of continuing anarchy. Mixture of right and wrong, and of liberty and slavery, did never give long content, and at this enlightened period, will less do so than ever. So that revolutions will now never cease, or rather the nations will be in a continual state of revolution, till perfect truth and right be established. Then let us lay aside all sinister and bye views, let us open our eyes to the search of truth, and let us read, compare, judge, and determine. And when we have happily found the plan that we are convinced will restore society to its natural state, let us embrace it with singleness of heart, and propagate the knowledge thereof among our fellow-creatures with the zeal of apostles, both "in season and out of season".
The public opinion will soon become one on a plain interesting truth if properly and diligently represented to them. Then in consequence of such laudable diligence we may soon expect to see the people arise as one man, and peacably retake possession of their long lost rights.
You see Citizen, we have arrived at a very serious crisis. The question is no longer of a lukewarm complexion, or bare curious investigation for vain men to show their abilities in debating upon, we must now study for life or death. The question I say is no longer about which form of government is most favourable to liberty, as simply heretofore considered, but which system of society is most favourable to existence, and capable of delivering us from the deadly mischiefs of great accumulations of wealth, which enable a few rich unfeeling monsters, to starve whole nations in spite of all the fruitful seasons God Almighty can send.
I remain, yours, etc.,