We reproduce here a short list of the books and articles written about Spence plus the most comprehensive bibliography of Spence's written work.
Books and Articles about Thomas Spence
Scrivener, Michael. "4 Excursus: Radical Underground: Spence and Wedderburn". Seditious Allegories: John Thelwall and Jacobin Writing, University Park, USA: Penn State University Press, 2021, pp. 129-166.
Matilde Cazzola (2017): “All shall be happy by land and by sea”: Thomas Spence as an Atlantic thinker, Atlantic Studies
Thomas Spence: The Poor Man’s Revolutionary, Edited by Alastair Bonnett & Keith Armstrong (Breviary Stuff Publications, London, 2014) ISBN 978-0-9570005-9-9 A paperback edition Malcolm Chase's important study of Spence's ideas and impact, The People's Farm: English Radical Agrarianism 1775-1840 has been published by Breviary Stuff Publications (London) A brief summary, by Alastair Bonnett, of the differences between the newly discovered edition of 'Property in Land Every One's Right' and later editions (published as 'The Rights of Man') can be found in Labour History Review, 74, 1, 2009, pp.134-136. [reproduced on 'Debates' page] Ian Robson's interview with Alastair Bonnett on Thomas Spence appeared in The Journal July 13th 2010, titled 'Shedding light on life of unsung local hero'. It can be found at: http://www.journallive.co.uk/lifestyle-news/newcastle-features/2010/07/13/shedding-light-on-life-of-unsung-hero-thomas-spence-61634-26838256/ 'Paine, Spence, Chartism and 'the Real Rights of Man', by Malcolm Chase [The 2008 Eric Paine Memorial Lecture], The Journal of Radical History of the Thomas Paine Society, 2008, volume 9, issue 3, pp. 1-14 'The Other Rights of Man: The Revolutionary Plan of Thomas Spence: Alastair Bonnett, History Today, September 2007, pp.42-48 Find on Home 'Nostalgia in and against English Socialism, 1775-1894' by Alastair Bonnett, Chapter Two of Left in the Past: Radicalism and the Politics of Nostalgia (Continuum, New York). This chapter looks at the treament of Spence by later radicals. To read a pdf draft of this chapter see Home The Hive of Liberty: The Life and Works of Thomas Spence, edited by Keith Armstrong. This 40 page pamphlet is published by The Thomas Spence Tdst, 93 Woodburn Square, Whitley Bay, NE26 3JD. Send £5 + £1.50 p+p. Money raised by this publication helped the Trust establish a memorial to Spence in Newcastle. The pamphlet contains essays and poems by Spence as well as short pieces by Joan Beal, Keith Armstrong, Alastair Bonnett, George French, P.M. Ashraf and Olive Rudkin Beal, J. 2002 English Pronunciation in the Eighteenth Century: Thomas Spence's "Grand Repository of the English Language (Oxford University Press) contains an lots of contextual material. The introductory essay provides an overvew of Thomas Spence's 'Life and Works'. Olive Rudkins's Thomas Spence and his Connections (George Allen and Unwin,1927) is an old book but remains an important reference point. It is a more fluent and less ideological work than Ashraf's and can be recommended as the best biography of Spence. There are entries on Spence and various folk who were Spenceans in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. In the 1920s Max Beer's overviews of socialist history paid proper attention to Spence (unlike G.D.H. Cole who never took him seriously). Thus one can find discussion on Spence in Beer's 1920 book The Pioneers of Land Reform: Thomas Spence, William Ogilvie, Thomas Paine and in his 1925 Social Struggles and Thought (1750-1860). Some really hard to find items: The English Marxist H.M.Hyndman's 'discovery' of Spence in 1882 was a key moment in his entry into late Victorian radicalism. Hyndman's subsequent pamphlet was titled: The Nationalization of the Land in 1775 and 1882: Being a Lecture Delivered at Newcastle-upon-Tyne by Thomas Spence, 1775 (E.W. Allen, 1882). Hyndman's pamphlet reprinted Spence's 1775 lecture, adding an introductory essay and footnotes. The pamphlet, Hyndman later noted, sold 'many thousands'. Its title is a clear indication that Hyndman was trying to incorporate Spence's support in the land nationalization movement of the , time, which Hyndman saw as allied to the politics of both Marx and Henry Wood. Allen Davenport 1836 The Life, Writings and Principles of Thomas Spence, author of the Spencean System, or Agrarian Equality London: Wakelin. This book by a follower of Spence has now been digitised by Google and I have uploaded it for you on the Home page. Davenport says of his book: 'We have seen many physical revolutions, and some moral or legal reforms; yet none of these changes have put a single extra loaf of bread into the cubboard of the poor. But in the reform that is here proposed, all the advantages will be, as they ought, on the side of the working man ... Every thing that is necessary to prepare the public mind for this great CUPBOARD REVOLUTION, or agrarian reform, contained in this truly philanthropic system, will be found in the following pages' Thomas Evans, A Brief Sketch of the Life of Thomas Spence Manchester: 1821. Keith Armstrong 1997 Pig's Meat: Visions of Utopia: A Celebration Based on the Life and Work of Thomas Spence (1750-1814) Whitley Bay: n.p. Welford, R. 1895 'Thomas Spence, the Spencean philosopher', a biographical essay in Richard Welford's Men of Mark 'Twixt Tyne and Tweed, Walter Scott, London Clephan, James 1887 'Thomas Spence', The Monthly Chronicle of North-Country Lore and Legend, September, pp.296-302. Uses the 'lost' 1775 edition of Spence's pamphlet. Available at: https://archive.org/stream/monthlychronicle01jubiuoft#page/300/mode/1up REPRINTS Spence's journal Pigs' Meat has been digitised by Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Volume One is available by the link below. Volume Two is also available on the same site. http://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/ecco/004910016.0001.001?rgn=subject;view=toc;q1=Poor+--+Law+and+legislation+--+Great+Britain A number of Spence's pamphlets have been scanned in Gale Eighteenth Century Collections Online. These include his 'The Coin Collector's Companion'; 'The Case of Thomas Spence' [1792 trial], 'A s'upl'im'int too thi Histire ov Robinsin Kruzo' [written in Spence's phonetic script; and scanned so badly as to be unreadable] and 'The Reign of Felicity'. The latter is an important work and the scanned version is available on the Home page. Armstrong, K. 2000 Bless'd millennium: The Life & Work of Thomas Spence (1750-1814) Northern Voices Beal, J. 2002 English Pronunciation in the Eighteenth Century: Thomas Spence's "Grand Repository of the English Language Oxford University Press Gallop G. 1982 Pigs' Meat: Selected Writings of Thomas Spence Spokeman G. Claeys, 1981 'Four letters between Thomas Spence and Charles Hall', Notes and Queries, 28, 4, pp.317-321 Waters, A. 1917 Trial of Thomas Spence in 1801, together with his Description of Spensonia, Constitution of Spensonia, End of Oppression, Recantation of the End of Oppression, Newcastle on Tyne Lecture delivered in 1775; also a brief life of Spence and a description of his political token dies Courier Press [only 75 copies printed] Kemp-Ashraf, M. and Mitchell, J. 1966 Essays in Honour of William Gallacher: Supplement: Thomas Spence: The History of Crusonia and Other Writings Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin Dickinson, H. 1982 The Political Works of Thomas Spence Avero This volume can be accessed at :http://www.ditext.com/spence/dickinson.html Ogilivie, W. and Paine, T. 1920 The Pioneers of Land Reform: Thomas Spence, William Ogilivie, Thomas Paine, with an Introduction by M. Beer, G. Bell and Sons (reprints Spence's 1793 Rights of Man pamphlet) OTHER ARTICLES Halliwell, John 2010 'Acts of insincerity? Thomas Spence and radical print culture in the 1790s', in T. Milnes and K. Sinanan (Eds) Romanticism, Sincerity and Authenticity Palgrave, London, pages 201-218 Gupta, Anthea Fraser 1997 'Correct pronunciation and the Millenium' English Today 51, pages 23-25. Can be found at http://www.leeds.ac.uk/english/staff/afg/langpol3.doc Morris, Brian 1996 'The agarian socialism of Thomas Spence', in Brian Morris Ecology and AnarchismImages Publishing Knox, T. 1977 'Thomas Spence: the trumpet of Jubilee' Past and Present 76, pages 75-98 Parssinen, T. 1973 'Thomas Spence and the origins of English land nationalization' Journal of the History of Ideas 34, 1, pages 135-141. Can be found at: http://www.ditext.com/parssinen/spence.html Parssinen, T. 1970 'Thomas Spence', in Biographical Dictionary of British Radicals, Volume One, edited by J.O. Baylen and N.J. Gossman Harvester Press Bonnett, A. 2010 'Nostalgia in and against English socialism' in Left in the Past: Radicalism and the Politics of Nostalgia Continuum [chapter 2] (see Home page for pdf) Shields, A. 1974 'Thomas Spence and the English language' Transactions of the Philological Society 61, pages 33-64 Beal, Joan 2004 ‘An Autodidact’s Lexicon: Thomas Spence’s Grand Repository of the English Language (1775)’ in Coleman, J. & McDermott, A. (eds.) Dictionary History and Historical Lexicography Tubingen Bob (R.A.) Franklin 1982 'The Political Ideas of Thomas Spence', Journal of Local Studies 2, 1, pp. 21-40. Bob (R.A.) Franklin 1980 'Thomas Spence: The Poor Man's Advocate' Bulletin for the Study of Labour History pp. 11-32 Gilbert, A. 1992 'Landlords and Lacklanders: The Radical Politics and Popular Economy of Thomas Spence and Robert Wedderburn. "Exquisite Balances," Denver Quarterly 27,1 pp. 22-42. King, J. 2006 'Two arguments for basic income: Thomas Paine (1737-1809) and Thomas Spence (1750-1814)' History of Economic Ideas, 14, 1, pp.55-71. Can be found at:http://lamar.colostate.edu/~jmarango/publications/HEI.pdf Marangos, J. 2008 'Thomas Paine (1737-1809) and Thomas Spence (1750-1814) on land ownership, land taxes and the provision of citizens' dividend', International Journal of Social Economics, 35, 5, pp. 313 - 325 Dickinson, H. T. 1979 Radical Politics in the North-East of England in the Later Eighteenth Century,Durham: Durham County Local History Society Davidson, J. 1971 (first published 1899) Concerning Four Precursors of Henry George and the Single Tax, Kennikat Press CATO STREET etc. This web site doesn't cover the Spenceans. It's a nice idea but quite beyond me! They were a mixed group and Malcolm Chase's book remains the best source. Those interested in the physical force Spenceans will want to look at the Spartacus Educational essay on the Cato Street conspiracy, on their web site and also found here SPENCE'S COINS Spence's tokens were catalogued by the numismatists Richard Dalton and Samuel Henry Hamer in their substantial catalogue of eighteenth-century tokens. Originally a part-work, this has recently been updated and reprinted as a single volume and remains the standard work: R. Dalton & S. H. Hamer, The Provincial Token-Coinage of the 18th Century Illustrated, rev. Allan Davisson (Cold Spring: Davisson's 1990). A more current reference is now provided by P. & B. R. Withers, The Token Book: 17th 18th & 19th Century Tokens and their Values (Llanfyllin: Galata 2010), but this illustrates only a few pieces. The details of the manufacture of and market for tokens can be accessed via Richard Doty's The Soho Mint and the Industrialization of Money (London: British Numismatic Society 1998), or two articles from 2003, Peter Mathias, "Official and Unofficial Money in the Eighteenth Century: the evolving uses of money. The Howard Linecar Memorial Lecture 2003" in British Numismatic Journal Vol. 73 (London: BNS 2003), pp. 69-83 & David Dykes, "Some Reflections on Provincial Coinage, 1787-1797", ibid. pp. 160-74. Neither have anything substantive to say of Spence, however, whom Dykes calls a "hare-brained radical". A detailed study of Spence's dies and discussion of others that may or may not be his, as well as extensive quotes from his works in which the tokens were grounded, can instead be found in R. H. Thompson, "The Dies of Thomas Spence (1750-1814)", British Numismatic Journal Vol. 38 (London: BNS 1969), pp. 126-162, and "The Dies of Thomas Spence (1750-1814): Additions and Corrections", ibid. Vol. 40 (1971), pp. 136-138. 'Spence's Coins' is taken from: http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/dept/coins/exhibitions/spence/index.html Two items they miss: Spence, T. undated The Coin Collector's Companion, being a descriptive list of the modern provincial political and other copper coins. Gale ECCO Print Edition; Judd, A. 'Spence's countermarked tokens', Condor Society Journal [reproduced on this site]. R. H. Thompson, 'The Dies of Thomas Spence' can be found at:http://www.britnumsoc.org/publications/Digital%20BNJ/pdfs/1969_BNJ_38_11.pdf A clear and useful recent (2007) academic article by John Barrell with good quality images of Spence's coins and lots of contemporary reports (about half way through the article) of their reception (pretty mixed) can be found at: http://www.erudit.org/revue/ron/2007/v/n46/016131ar.html 'Mo Money Mo Problems – Radical political satire and the satirical coinage of Thomas Spence': This essay can be found at: http://theprintshopwindow.wordpress.com/2013/09/30/mo-money-mo-problems-radical-political-satire-and-the-satirical-coinage-of-thomas-spence/
An Annotated Bibliography of the Works of Thomas Spence
by Mary Kemp-Ashraf
Introduction by Alastair Bonnett
The following annotated bibliography was assembled by Mary Kemp-Ashraf, an English communist who died in the GDR in 1983. Kemp-Ashraf saw Spence as an embryonic or 'proto' Marxist and embryonic or 'proto' working class intellectual. Such views both explain her interest in him and shape her account of his publications. It is a detailed and vital narrative of Spence's work. But it is also a sad reflection of the way the anti-authoritarian and down-right quirky free spirit of Spence could be co-opted by the horrible and tedious Marxist scholarship spawned by the USSR and GDR.
Kemp-Ashraf was a researcher at the Institute for Marxism-Leninism in Moscow, where she undertook research on the history of black radicals in Britain. She then moved to a university post in the GDR. Her most well known work is The History of English Working-Class Literature. The following bibliography comes from her book, written under the name 'P. M. Ashraf' The Life and Times of Thomas Spence, published by Frank Graham, Newcastle, in 1983. No copyright is indicated.
NB: This bibliography is the best one we have but Spence's output is often hard to trace. Original copies of his works are incredibly rare. Moreover, there are some that have never been traced (for example, his 1805 map, 'The World Turned Upside Down', a world map in which the hemispheres are reversed).
All Spence's more important writings survived in one or more editions. The third issue of The Giant-Killer and Eye-Salve announced in Pigs' Meat, vol. II, may never have appeared. His tracts frequently mention or advertise previous ones, and these notices help to establish dates of publication. Not all editions of particular works have been traced and there is doubt as to what was meant by the third part of The End of Oppression or by Spence's Plan mentioned in Spence's Songs.
As regards slips and broadsides it is quite impossible to say how many of these were issued or what they all contained. These are now scattered in various private and public collections and many must have been entirely lost.
Some of the tracts do not have Spence's name as author on the title page. It is possible that he published others anonymously and that items hitherto not identified still exist. In the absence of other evidence nothing can be attributed to Spence which does not show his quite individual peculiarities of style. He seldom missed any opportunity of expounding his main teachings and writings which express decidedly different views. The only exceptions are topical ballads, e.g. on the British Convention, against the war with France, satires of Burke, Pitt or the Government. Some of these will be found signed 'T.S.' but are in one way or another characteristic of his approach.
Place left a description of Spence's works. Rudkin's monograph reprinted a bibliography originally published in the Bulletin of the London School of Economics, May 1926, with further details and descriptive comments. There are also bibliographical data in Waters' book, together with a catalogue of Spence's tokens, later amplified by Waters and other authorities.
(1) Lecture to the Philosophical Society in Newcastle. The title quoted in the report of the Society was Property in Land Every Man's Right. All authorities agree that the Lecture was undoubtedly printed at Newcastle in that year shortly after Spence had delivered it. According to Mitchel, Mackenzie and Place the title was The Real Rights of Man. No copy of the first edition has survived. The two Newcastle writers may have taken the title from a later edition, and Place had his information presumably from Mitchel. Spence's ballad version of his Plan was called The Rights of Man. There was no need to stress "real rights" before Paine's The Rights of Man.
Thomas Evans says that the subject of the lecture was "on a plan, or mode of administering the landed estate of the nation as a joint-stock property", but in a short list of Spence's works he begins with Rights of Man, evidently the Lecture. Davenport gives as the title of the Lecture: On the Mode of Administering the Landed Estate of the Nation as a joint-stock Property in Parochial Partnerships, by dividing the Rent. He might have substituted subject for title. The pretentious wording is unlike the brief colourful main titles so characteristic of Spence's publications. It is more reminiscent of Evans's phraseology and of the slant which he gave to the Plan. A similar formulation is found for example in the second Address of the Spencean Philanthropists composed by Evans.
The Northern Star (1849) says that Spence gave a lecture "taking for his subject: "The Mode of Administering the Landed Estate of the Nation as a joint-stock Property in Parochial partnerships by dividing the Rent", i.e. printing the words like a title with capital letters as in Davenport's Life. It is known that the writer in the Northern Star had at his disposal copies of Pigs' Meat, and The Important Trial with The Restorer, supplied by a reader, and no doubt Davenport's Life, and may therefore have had other pamphlets as well.
However a pamphlet with this title must have existed. It was not published at Newcastle and cannot therefore have been the original version of the Lecture. Morrison Davidson quotes a pamphlet with exactly the same title (with 'partnerships' in the plural as in all the other instances) published by Reeves of Fleet Street, but no date. If his quotations are all from the same pamphlet, it would appear to combine part of the Lecture (corresponding to the fourth edition) with part of the Introduction to The Constitution of a Perfect Commonwealth, including the additional passages given by Davenport in his Life, but not by Evans, and not found in the second edition of The Constitution.
As the edition of the Lecture, presumably the third, which led to Spence's arrest in 1792 was entitled Rights of Man, it seems unlikely that he would have used such a very different title for the London edition which could only recently have preceded it. Perhaps there was an entirely separate pamphlet, possibly not published in Spence's lifetime, since he himself made no reference to it in his advertisements nor does it occur in the advertisements of other booksellers who distributed his pamphlets(Lee, Eaton and Ballard), but compiled by one of his followers after his death.
The question of this title is more than a mere bibliographical detail. Although Rudkin did not mention this wording as a title of a pamphlet, she adopted the interpretation of the Plan which it implies. She maintains that what was meant by Parish property merely amounted to the Parish as an administrative unit for the management of national land. This might be a logical deduction, but it is clear from every first-hand description of his system that Spence always thought of it the other way round, namely that the state was a collection of federated small regions whose inhabitants enjoyed the absolute inalienable right to their land, and whose central government was composed of the representatives of these "landlords" (just as the existing government consisted of private property owners) who agreed on equitable contributions to the national rent and its expenditure. In The Restorer Spence made a point of rejecting the concept of nationalisation of the land, indicating that the question might have been raised at that time in connection with his Plan. It is not absolutely certain that Evans had already attached himself to Spence's circle.
The Land: and every Man's Right is the title of a much later anonymous pamphlet published at London perhaps in the late eighteen-forties. The title nearly coincides with that of the Lecture in the first notices. Although the arguments and proposals of a "partnership" and division of rents are very close to Spence it was obviously not written by him. It calls for the gradual nationalisation of land and could have been an attempt to adapt the Plan to changed circumstances and bring it up to date.
(2) The next edition of the Lecture of which there is any certain knowledge was in circulation in 1792 when a copy of Spence's Rights of Man was bought by the agent who visited his shop, in mistake for Paine's Rights of Man. (See: The Case of Thomas Spence, p. 3). It is not clear whether this was a second or third edition.
(3) The Rights of Man as exhibited in a Lecture read at the Philosophical Society in Newcastle. To which is now added an interesting conversation between a Gentleman and the Author, on the subject of the Scheme with the Queries sent by the Rev. Mr. J. Murray to the Society in Defence of the same. And a Song of Triumph for the People on the Recovery of their Long Lost Rights. The fourth edition. By T. Spence. Printed for the author and sold at the Corner of Chancery Lane, Holborn. 1793.
The Preface quotes Swift and disclaims that the Plan is intended for "a country so well-bred as this", but rather for American or African savages who have not yet learned to reverence "blood-sucking landlords and state leeches". It is signed 'London, November 19, 1792. The Author'. Either the volume which the police runner bought was printed between November 19th and December 6th, or it was an earlier edition without this Preface. The fourth edition might have been in preparation at the time and owing to Spence's arrest not published until the following year.
Eighteen of Murray's original twenty-two Queries are given. The Hymn of Triumph at the end of the pamphlet is a new version of the Jubilee Hymn. On the last page there is a quotation from Swift's Letters headed "Swift's Revolution Principle".
(4) The Real Rights of Man. Plainly shown in a Lecture, read at the Philosophical Society in Newcastle, on the 8th of November, 1775, for printing of which, the Society did the Author the honour to expel him.
This is printed in Pigs' Meat, vol. Ill, 1795; pp. 220-241. There is no Preface. The 'Conversation' and the 'Queries' follow the Lecture, which does not differ in any important respect from the edition of 1793.
(5) The Meridian Sun of Liberty on the whole Rights of Man displayed and most accurately defined in a LECTURE read at the PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY in Newcastle on the 8th of November, 1775, for printing of which the Society did the Author the honour to expel him. To which is now first prefixed by way of PREFACE, a most important DIALOGUE between the CITIZEN-READER, and the AUTHOR. By T. Spence. London, 1796.
The prefatory 'Dialogue' differs considerably from the 'Conversation' in the previous edition. In place of a "Gentleman" objecting from the point of view of landlords and ending with an appeal to religion, in the new dialogue the "Citizen-Reader" speaks for democratic reformers whose notion of the Rights of Man is limited to parliamentary representation and the enjoyment of their individual property. The Author points out that since they agree to a system based on property, which excludes them and treats them no better than strangers in a land entirely owned by others, they ought to acknowledge the perfect right of the landlords to manage their property in whatever way they please. But by demanding a share in government, control of taxation and financial reforms, they are in fact attacking property. One might well suspect that these democratic leaders only want to change one lot of masters for another and stir up unrest in order to fish in troubled waters. This is a very clear statement that Spence regarded the state as an instru-ment of the ruling class and not as an impartial regulator of different interests. Taken together with The End of Oppression, the 'Dialogue' marks the sharpening of his polemic against half-way reform. A verse on the title page brackets John Thelwall, who had now left the London Corresponding Society, with Burke.
Below the end of the Lecture on the last page is printed "An Important Query" advertising the three complete volumes of Pigs' Meat, forming a permanent "School of Man's Rights".
The most important change in the text of the Lecture itself is the addition of three final paragraphs establishing the public auction of leases limited to seven years and the distribution of a quarterly dividend.
In the original Lecture and The History of Crusonia the people of the parish form "a corporation" and use their revenue, after paying a portion to the central government, for any purpose they may agree upon. Spence's firsl audience did not need to be told that the Newcastle Burgesses had recently shared out their Town Moor rents or that many local Box Societies regularly shared out the whole or a surplus of their funds. The dividend was implied in the formulation. However only later it became a key point for the operation of the Plan. The dividend is expressly mentioned in The Rights of Man in verse in 1783, in the Pigs' Meat version of the Lecture and again in The Marine Republic and A Further Account of Spensonia. Here it is said that some dividend however small should always be distributed as a reminder of the people's partnership in the soil. In The Meridian Sun an equal dividend is tentatively extended to include all men, women and children since all have the same right to existence. It is put as a suggestion evidently anticipating possible objections to the inclusion of women and children. But as Murray used the expression "dividend" before Spence in the sense of the share of the earth's wealth to which all are entitled, it is probable that this was the source of Spence's idea and that he had always considered this right to be universal and inalienable.
The Grand Repository of the English Language containing besides the excellencies of all other dictionaries and grammars of the English tongue, the peculiarity of having the most proper and agreeable pronunciation of the alphabetical words denoted in the most intelligible manner by a new alphabet, with a copperplate exhibiting the new alphabet both in writing and printing characters, intended for the use of everyone whether native or foreigner that would acquire a complete knowledge of the English language with the least waste of time and expense but especially for those who are but indifferent readers from not having been taught to pronounce properly.
By Thomas Spence, Teacher of English in Newcastle, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Printed by T. Saint for the Author and sold by him at his school on the Keyside, and by all the Booksellers in Town and Country. 1775.
There is a Preface, quoting Sheridan and Baron Biefield, on the need for a reformed spelling especially to aid "the labouring part of the people" to educate their children. A summary of grammar with rules of syntax and exercises is followed by the new alphabet and a dictionary giving new and old spelling. Immediately after the Preface there is an advertisement:—
"Just published by the Author and sold by him at his school on the Keyside, and the Booksellers and Newscarriers. No. 1 (Price One Penny) of The Repository of Commonsense and Innocent Amusement".
This is described as a weekly miscellany of "extracts from the best authors". It is mentioned by Mackenzie and Thomas Bewick possessed a copy but none now survives in any of the main libraries.
The Poor Man's Advocate.
An extract is printed in Pigs' Meat, vol. II, pp. 32-35, under the heading:
"A Lesson for the Swinish Multitude. Being Queries of Importance. From a pamphlet entitled 'The Poor Man's Advocate', published at Newcastle by T. Spence, in the year 1779".
The contents of the pamphlet is nowhere indicated. Spence used the same pen name "The Poor Man's Advocate" as editor of Pigs' Meat. No copy of the original pamphlet is known. It is impossible to say whether this extract is an exact reprint of what was published in 1779. The phrase "the sheepish multitude" was of course newly inspired by Burke's famous "swinish multitude" in 1791. The questions introduce "gentle-horses" served by docile "landless horses", a parable of landlord and tenant relations suggestive of the Houyhnhnms in Gulliver's Travels.
These questions contain the first mention of Spensonia and it is evidently assumed that the reader knows what the word means. Place says that Spence published a Spensonia story at Newcastle after 1783, i.e. in addition to The History of Crusonia. All Place's information on Newcastle publications was at second-hand. Perhaps this reference was to The Rights of Man in Verse published in 1783 which also describes Spensonia, if there was not another prose narrative which has been lost. The Poor Man's Advocate may have been the first version of a story about a Utopia called Spensonia and the name may have been changed in 1782 to fit the Robinson Crusoe context of the next story.
The extract is also of interest on account of a statement that those who acquire wealth by honest work or trade in Spensonia cannot force others to work for them. This would seem to indicate that Spence had had labour and production relations as well as property relations in mind from the outset.
The Real Reading-Made-Easy: or, a Foreigner's and Grown Person's Pleasing Introduction To Reading English, Whereby all Persons, of whatever Age or Nation, may soon be taught, with Ease and Pleasure, to read the English Language. Newcastle: Printed and sold by T. Saint. 1782.
This book contains "Eze Lesinz for Kruzoniin Skolirz" consisting of short Biblical sentences or sayings in Spence's "Crusonian" alphabet, arranged to familiarise key words by repitition. It could be counted on that grown persons and children from Bible-reading families would already have heard similar sentences. They are of the rhythmical and easily memorized kind. The selection is evidence that Spence must have worked out a real method of teaching based on practice.
This is the first time that Saint appears as Spence's publisher. Thomas Hastie's The only method to make reading easy was published with Bewick cuts by T. Angus in the 1770's. It had considerable circulation. The 73rd edition appeared in 1839. Angus and Saint were not only trade rivals but religious and political antagonists. The title, Real Reading-Made-Easy, suggests that Saint backed Spence's new method to compete with Angus's book.
The same year Spence invited subscriptions of a penny a week for a complete Bible in this phonetic or "Crusonian" script. The advertisement appears at the end of A Supl'im'int too thi Histire ov Robinsin Kruzo. Proof pages corrected by Spence giving title page, Preface, and an Alphabet, of The Pronouncing and Foreigners' Bible. By T. Spence, Teacher of English, London, printed by T. and J. Cook, Paternoster Row and J. Debrett, Piccadilly, are in the Place MSS (Add. 27808. f. 249). The proof is a single sheet of which seven pages are printed. Spence evidently attempted to launch his phonetic Bible in London. No Newcastle edition known. Nothing further is heard of it.
A Supplement to the History of Robinson Crusoe being the History of Crusonia or Robinson Crusoe's Island down to the present time. Copied from a letter sent by Mr. Thomas Wishit, Captain of the Good Intent to an intelligent friend in England, after being in a storm in May 1781, driven out of his course to the said Island. Published by this said gentleman for the agreeable Perusal of Robinson Crusoe's Friends of all Sizes.
A New Edition. Newcastle. Printed and Sold by T. Saint, in 1782.
The volume contains three additional stories, which are run on without separate title pages, viz:—
"An History of the Progress of Learning in Lilliput; and the changes it produced there in the manners and customs. Brought over in the Ship Swallow, by Master Ramble".
"The History of the Mercolians, communicated by Master Brolio of Lilliput".
"What Happened on a Journey with Old Zigzag. On Tenderness to Animals".
There is a full page woodcut frontispiece depicting Robinson Crusoe and three vignettes illustrating the Zigzag story. These are generally thought to be by Thomas Bewick. The Crusoe picture is crude and conventional and might have been one of the old blocks of which Saint had a large stock. He published various editions of Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, including one in 1784. The small pictures might well be by young Bewick trying to render lifelike movement and humour before he had overcome the difficulties of a crude medium and bad printing.
On page 3 (unnumbered) is a poem by Jeremiah Spence On reading the History of Crusonia, in this edition unsigned.
The Jubilee Hymn appears for the first time in The History of the Progress of Learning in Lilliput as the Prologue to a play performed in the Parish theatre every year to commemorate the establishment of the Jubilee. It is sung line by line in turn by four actors representing different trades "as if the words arose spontaneously from the Occasion".
A phonetic version with the same frontispiece was also published:
A S'uprim'int too thi Histire ov Robinsin Kruzo being TH'I H'lST'IRE 'ov KRUZONEA or R'O'INS'IN KRUZO'Z IL'IND
down too thi prezint Tim . . .
Nuk'as'il. T. SANT. 1782.
A Preface explains that the aim of spelling reform is "to free the poor and the stranger, the industrious and the innocent (i.e. workers and children, P.M.A.) from vecsatious, tedious and ridiculous absurdities: and also to make Charity schools and in a great measure, all schools for teaching English, unnecessary". The verses On Reading the History of Crusonia follow, signed "J. S. Newcastle, July 7, 1781", and some other verses, The Universal Jubilee (not the Jubilee Hymn), signed "S. T.", possibly in error for "T. S.". There is a "Postscript" at the end of the story with the Crusonian alphabet, and a passage from Priestley on progress through experience and observation as against the mental apathy induced by "rigid, unalterable establishments". The History of the Progress of Learning in Lilliput is included in this volume but not the other two stories.
It would seem from the date, May 1781, mentioned in the title and the date of Jeremiah Spence's verses, July 1781, that the book was written about six months before publication. Dates of publication of the two versions within three weeks of one another are established by two separate advertisements of them in the Newcastle Courant for 22 December 1781 and 12 January 1782. Place thought that the phonetic version appeared or was written first. That might account for calling the normal script version "a new edition". There is so far no trace of any earlier edition.
There was a further edition of The Real Reading-Made Easy followed by both versions of A Supplement to the History of Robinson Crusoe, in a single miniature 24-mo volume, "Printed and Sold by T. Saint. 1782. Price one shilling". This volume is described by Place and a copy was preserved in the Newcastle Public Library. These various editions might indicate that the book had a good sale.
Saint ran a line in toy books similar to Newbery's at London. The economy in paper perhaps enabled him to sell three books in one at two-thirds the price of the normal volumes. Probably the miniature edition was also sold in separate parts.
And it must therefore be recorded that the first and perhaps the most original contribution in England to Utopian socialism in the period of the industrial revolution first circulated as a halfpenny pamphlet sold in public houses, then in the form of a children's story and finally in a toy book.
The History of Crusonia might be described as a Utopian romance demonstrating the benefits of the system outlined in the Lecture. The descendants of the people left by Crusoe on the island intermarry with the Indians on the mainland. The young generation that results decides to abolish the inconveniences of the political system which the first settlers brought with them from Europe, and to combine the benefits of civilization with the free customs of their Indian ancestry. The results particularly brought out are:— Political democracy based on local autonomy of federated parishes, possible when private property in land is abolished; the functions of the Parish corporations and the use of revenue to provide public amenities and to encourage industry and enterprise; the reasons why the system once established will be permanent, and the means of defense by a people's militia. The really new aspect here is the insistence on human equality. Residence alone gives full citizen rights irrespective of origin. The parishes grow and strengthen through naturalizing foreigners attracted to settle among them. The system spreads by founding new free parishes in uninhabited lands, and by neighbouring people adopting a similar way of life. To prevent landlordism reappearing, colonisation by conquest is forbidden and no individual is allowed to settle on unoccupied land until it has been duly incorporated in the parish. All unsettled land is regarded as the common property of the state. The universal character of the original Plan is thus illustrated in an imaginery non-European setting. Hence the The History of Crusonia con-tains both the basic idea of the ideal democracy described in The Marine Republic, and part of the specific criticism of the whole domestic and foreign policy arising from the existing order of property and not from the 'mis-takes' of foolish or of wicked men in power. It is not difficult to see that Spence's ideas were also influenced by the American war. The History of Crusonia shows how America could have been settled peacefully by Europeans without injustice to the native inhabitants and reflects an opinion then current in democratic circles that colonial conquest and plunder were one of the sources of the political corruption at home.
It has always been assumed that the whole book was written by Spence, in the first instance by Place.
"The Supplement to Robinson Crusoe, the Learning of Lilliput and the History of the Mercolians are pictures of what he supposed would be the practice and condition of the people under his system, principally in answer to objections, to the account of Robinson Crusoe's Island. In these tracts he makes some good observations on voting by ballot, proving its necessity and utility".
John Bell only refers to The History of Crusonia, saying that after the failure of the Lecture, "to further his project he wrote the account of 'Crusonia' ".
Only The History of Crusonia is a full account of Spence's ideas. In The History of Learning in Lilliput there is the old facile convention that enlightenment precedes liberty (in flat contradiction to the alleged freedom of the primitive Golden Age), so that the "important revolution" which over-throws the Landlords, results spontaneously from "the introduction of learning". The Jubilee — "the former captives now were all set free, all Debts were abolished" — follows Moses not Spence. The History of the Mercolians presents constitutional reform as a possible half-way stage to full liberty. It may be that it was only after he came to London that Spence became completely convinced that neither the universal franchise, nor the ballot, nor any change in the form of government would suffice to bring about a change in the material basis of society. After 1794, while continuing to support the French Revolution and the principles of democratic rights proclaimed in England, he began to attack rather than lament the Reformers' aims even as a means to an end. The three stories however show something of the connection between Spence's political ideas and the Parliamentary Reform movement, particularly for example as regards the militia and the ballot, although at the time he published them the Reform movement was showing very little sign of activity.
Although The History of Crusonia is a political allegory its most interes-ting features are the practical uses to which the collective surplus of production, represented by the rents, can be put for public works and services. Idealistic as they sound, they were based on real contemporary needs and demands.
Crusoe himself stands for the enterprise of labour and in particular for his "Jack-of-all-Trades Disciples", "the Mechanics". The popular image in the eighteenth century was not always "the isolated economic man pitting his strength against nature", or the nascent capitalist, but very often "poor Crusoe". True, he set out to get rich by any means, including the slave trade, but through hardship and loneliness learned to respect labour and the social bond. There was an inn sign in Gateshead painted by John Collier in 1774 and the local poet's verses on it probably expressed what Spence also saw in the figure.
"Stop my good friend, and cast your eyes around,
Behold a Figure! rarely to be found —
The figure of a Man, in veiled distress;
Yet arm'd, as if he would defiance show.
Is this the fancy of the sage Defoe?
It is the same; — and now by memory led,
Robinson Crusoe half the world have read.
See him thus wreck'd upon his desert isle,
Inur'd to patience, and inur'd to toil.
His looks, though chang'd, betray no weak despair;
Cheerfulness and gravity seem blended there.
We'll not the painter's happy skill define
But mark the moral meaning of his Sign.
Old Time may have to Revelation brought
Why Selkirk suffered and why Daniel wrote.
And mark, my friend, if stray report say true,
'Twas in this place the bold design he drew;
Gateshead, scarce known, the hardy writer chose,
When sorely prest by persecuting foes;
To teach frail mortals, as a friendly guide,
In Providence to trust, whate'er betide.
Reader, here's folly, come and laugh thy fill,
He ne'er did good that never did ought ill".
There was something of this in Spence's own singlehanded struggle with poverty and persecution and his collectivism was very much the mutual aid of poor but self-reliant artisans. Crusonian happiness corrected the poverty of the isolated individual. Mutual dependence abolished Crusoe's landlord attitude to the island as his property and to other races as his natural slaves and inferiors. Crusoe is honoured as the founder in his character of husbandman, mechanic and worker, not as the adventurer after wealth. There are degrees of personal success in Crusonia but no one monopolizes the sources of wealth. One of the functions of the Parish is to provide good workshops for a population entirely of working people. From the common revenue they create a garden landscape, workers' homes "like the Habitations of Gentry", no more dirty patched windows, smoky houses, broken pavements, but all the refinements of living and learning that make every parish "a little polished Athens".
The History of Crusonia is an original continuation, a legitimate use of a popular classic. It borrows nothing but the symbolism of what was now a folk character. The other three stories in the book, however, are in a large measure word for word reproductions of earlier versions. It was not hitherto noticed that An History of the rise and progress of learning in Lilliput and The History of the Mercolians had appeared much earlier in Newbery's Lilliputian Magazine, a work which Francis Place had evidently not consulted on the theory of the ballot. The title page sets forth that ideal of simplicity and virtue which the working middle class liked to contrast with the corruption of idle wealth.
"The Lilliputian Magazine or the Young Gentleman's and Lady's Golden Library. Being an Attempt to mend the World to render the Society of Man more Amiable and to establish the Plainness, Simplicity, Virtue and Wisdom of the Golden Age so much celebrated by the Poets and Historians.
Men in that Age no Rule but Reason knew, And with a native bent did Good pursue:— Unforc'd by Punishment nor aw'd by Fear, — His words were simple and his Soul sincere.
Printed for the Society and Published by T. Carnan at Mr. Newbery's Bible and Sun in St. Paul's Church Yard".
This was one of Newbery's toy books for children. What appears to be the oldest specimen is undated. It is not a magazine in the modern sense, but a collection of miscellaneous pieces. All the contributions are anonymous. They include The Adventures of Little Tommy Trip, sometimes ascribed to Goldsmith who has also been suggested as the editor. Accounts of the controversy over Goldsmith's connection and the date of publication did not offer any conclusive result. In the book itself the beginning of the children's society mentioned on the title page, is given as 1750 (pp. 8, 9), and a list of subscribers at the end is dated 1752 (which rules out Goldsmith). This date was taken as the probable date of publication for instance by The Cambridge History of English Literature, and is given with a query in the British Museum catalogue.
The book is illustrated and just as a famous writer was chosen as the hypothetical editor, so the pictures were ascribed to a well-known artist, Thomas Bewick, who was not yet born. The cuts have nothing characteristic even of Bewick's earliest efforts and the details of costume belong to an earlier period. They do not help to decide the date of publication as sometimes very old blocks were used for cheap books. The internal date also does not count for much as evidence. The Magazine was still being sold by John Newbery's grandson, Francis Power, in the 'seventies, when the society, if it had ever existed, could only have been a fiction. There was nothing unusual in reprinting such books after a considerable time without bringing them up to date.
At this time the Newcastle trade in children's books was nearly as extensive as that of London. Saint and White published a number of books similar in style to Newbery's, illustrated by the Bewick brothers. Saint had connections with Carnan and Newbery, printed or took over some of their books, and through this connection Bewick, while still unknown, was employed to make designs for the London printers whom he met on his visit to London in 1776. Hence it would not have been impossible for Spence to have been commissioned to write stories for them. If the date of publication of the Magazine could be pushed forward about twenty years or shown to be a new edition in the seventies of an earlier publication, he might have been the author of the original Learning in Lilliput and The Mercolians. However, it seems more probable that in order to make a more substantial volume Spence adapted these stories for Saint and that the plagiarism was not regarded as any infringement of the other publisher's interests. It might have been done by agreement while Newbery's book was out of print.
The Newbery's and Saint were businessmen, but that does not mean that their children's books were not genuinely inspired by certain benevolent and progressive ideals. Saint not only launched Spence's spelling reform with its much stronger emphasis on the needs of the working poor, as well as his Utopian schemes which the Philosophical Society had outlawed, but at one time risked publishing handscript for another experimenter.
The editors or authors of The Lilliputian Magazine claimed that they were introducing "a new method of education" as well as 'Golden Age' precepts, "to remove that rusticity and awkwardness which appears in the common people when talking to their superiors". The price is so trifling that their book is within the reach of the poor also who are "in their station as much regarded as the rest". ('Common people' here evidently meant not the labouring poor but the lesser middle class in trade and employments where they had occasion to meet their 'superiors'). The aim is "to unloose the minds of children from the fetters of habit and custom". The History of Learning in Lilliput in this version is meant to make learning to read attrac-tive by giving a rational explanation of the alphabet. Perhaps this attempt convinced Spence that the only way in which reading could be simplified was to adopt a system of regular phonetic spelling. His demand for universal education, as expressed in for example in The History of Crusonia and later extended to higher learning, is to be connected with this democratic movement in education, a necessity for the rising manufacturing and commercial middle class, and was only re-affirmed for Spence by the vague provisions in the French Constitution of 1793. He merely extends the demand to the lower classes, since the proletariat in its turn had similar reasons for making the same demand, and makes it a political matter, as the working class movement did later.
Spence's Learning in Lilliput up to p. 40, 1.2, coincides with the first instalment in The Lilliputian Magazine. The second part of the latter (pp. 105-108) only explains the normal alphabet, while Spence went on to the reform of the alphabet and the spread of learning. The now enlightened Lilliputians, driven by the oppression of the landlords, make "an important revolution", take over the land and cancel all debts. The annual commemoration of this Jubilee is described. Incidentally Spence satirizes certain local characters who had become notorious in recent dissenter battles over Free Grace, which could only have appealed to a more adult local audience.
Newbery's The History of the Mercolians exemplifies the evils of money, the dignity of labour — ploughman, artisan and tradesman — time-honoured themes for didactic literature for the young if not intended for adult practice. But here too the original writer went a little further than was usual. Money having corrupted morals, the King makes the people bring all their money every four years into the public treasury, when it is redistributed in equal shares to all alike. Those who have accumulated more "by honest means" earn "the thanks of the community" and marks of royal favour. This naive treatment of money and the clumsy device of periodic redistribution based on pure altruism, was cut out of Spence's version. The History of Crusonia had already given a better scheme. (It may be noticed in all his stories that the Crusonians or Spensonians were not of a saving disposition but spent most of their dividend as soon as it came to hand, enjoying the pleasure of the moment like sensible people, not to mention that saving in any form was considered sinful by his Glassite connections). On the other hand he retained the classical tale of corrupting the enemy's army with gold and perhaps this was the germ of the Spensonian strategy of offering double pay for life to deserters from an enemy (as in An Infallible Way to make Peace at any Time) in earnest of the benefits to expect from the establishment of Spensonianism. There is also a description of elections by open voting. The Mercolians are said to be far behind the Crusonians in political wisdom, "and carry on their improvements very slowly like the English ... or the American Sluggard".
An Account of what passed on a journey with old Zigzag has never been discussed. On the surface it is simply a lesson about kindness to animals and has nothing to do with political theory. However, it is in fact a series of amusing fables with an application to human affairs — social inequality in the story of the bees and the ants, the ingratitude of cruel masters in the case of the cock or the plough horses. The comment on social ethics is not markedly more radical than other contemporary humane moralizing. The treatment of animal consciousness and natural rights extending throughout creation may be compared with William Godwin's more thoughtful and amusing fable-writing for children. It appeared as an ingredient of that broadly humane social harmony which was more important to these thinkers in the long run than any formal argument about political rights and essential for the enjoyment of life. Spence's story in The Supplement to the History of Robinson Crusoe is word for word a slightly abridged version of an older one in another Carnan and Newbery children's book, The Valentine's Gift (1777). This book was reissued unchanged by Francis Power, grandson of John Newbery and successor to Francis Newbery, in 1790. There may have been other editions. The last seems to be by J. Lumsden & Son, Glasgow, c. 1824, with new illustrations by Richard Austin. This is evidence of long-lasting popularity. The Zigzag story in these editions is entitled A Lecture. To let down the Pride of Man or an account of what passed on a journey with Old Zigzag. It is linked with the main Valentine story and there is a description of Zigzag. One of the passages omitted by Spence uses London associations for general illustration — "I never heard that the dogs of Islington went in a body to destroy the dogs at Newington" (p. 40). The style also shows that it was not by Spence.
These borrowings show that Spence in his youth was influenced by a prog-ressive trend of humanitarian liberalism and non-denominational ethics which might be said to reflect criticism of the dominant norm from the point of view of the working lower-middle class and artisan sections.
"The Rights of Man".
This ballad, often called "The Rights of Man in Verse", to the tune of Chevy Chase, summarized the Plan in 31 stanzas. (In some copies only 30 stanzas are given). No first print is known. It appeared in Pigs' Meat III, p. 250, in Spence's Songs and on numerous broadsides, usually with the heading The Rights of Man. First published in the Year 1783. The "dividend of rents", equal for all men, women and children, is mentioned. Generally there is a footnote briefly explaining Parish finance.
A new version in 20 verses, some entirely new and some slightly altered or rearranged, was published in 1819 with the title The Wrongs of Man or Things as they Are by a Spencean Philanthropist, and a companion piece, The Rights of Man, or things as they were Intended to be by Divine Providence. These were by Thomas Evans.
Spence claimed that he was the first writer to use the phrase "the Rights of Man". When he visited the miner who had retired to live on Marsden Rock in 1780 to escape from a landlord, he chalked over the hearth
"Ye landlords vile, whose man's place mar
Come levy rents here if you can, Your steward and lawyers I defy
And live with all the Rights of Man".
This anecdote is given in a note to another ballad, The Rights of Man for me composed during confinement in Newgate in 1794.
Sykes gave the year for the occupation of the cave as 1782.
"In the summer of this year a man near 80 years of age and his wife made one of the caverns under Marsden rocks, near Shields, their place of residence. In the earlier part of his life, he had been a miner at Allenheads, but having removed to Shields, to avoid the charge of housekeeping, he and his wife formed the resolution to retire to one of these caves, which they furnished. The romantic situation and the singularity of the thing drew numbers of people to visit them, whom they accommodated with refreshments, even ladies and gentlemen in car-riages drove to the place and partook of the old couple's cheer."
A more commercial-minded man took over the cave later and turned it into a refreshment room and tourist attraction. Local tradition knew the old miner as 'Jack the Blaster'. Mr. Alex Robson of North Shields, the veteran seamen's leader who figured in the S.S. Linaria case and was active in the Red International Seamen's Union of the nineteen-thirties, claims to be a descendant.
This completes Spence's known Newcastle publications. There are references and quotations in them which show that he already knew a number of important writers and that he had probably begun collecting the kind of extracts later published in Pigs' Meat. They show that the basic machinery of the Plan as a method of establishing and maintaining social equality had been worked out, but not the clearer conception of the class aspect or the revolutionary means which characterize his writings in the nineties.
The Case of Thomas Spence, Bookseller, the Corner of Chancery Lane, London, who was committed to Clerkenwell Prison on Monday the 10th of December 1792 for selling the second part of Paine's "Rights of Man", and a bill of indictment found against him to which is added an extract from a letter from His Grace the Duke of Richmond to the Chairman of the Committee of the County of Sussex convened at Lewes, January 18th 1783 for the purpose of presenting a petition to the House of Commons to take into consideration the unequal State of representation in Parliament &c. London, 1792.
The pamphlet contains precisely what is specified. It is a protest against unlawful detention, treatment under arrest and harassment of the victim and his family by the agents of Reeves's society. It was published while Spence was awaiting trial and announced that a fellow-bookseller, Mr. Hamilton, was collecting subscriptions to pay for his defence. An anecdote about the Duke of Argyle taken from the Weekly Miscellany for 8 February, 1779 is appended, apparently just to fill up an extra page. Some pages which appear to be wrongly numbered were put together in the wrong order and the cul-minating protest and appeal which should have come at the end is inserted in the middle of the narrative. There is nothing about Spence's theories, but the pamphlet is an energetic vindication of the right to freedom of speech and press.
The Case of Thomas Spence ... to which is added the affecting case of James Maccurdy a native of Ireland who was committed toClerken-well Bridewell for distributing certain seditious papers where he died in a few days. London. 1793.
This is a second(?) edition of the preceding. The part relating to Spence's arrest is identical with the first. Both these pamphlets have usually been ascribed to Spence, although the style and the third person narrative cer-tainly suggest other authorship, possibly Mr. Hamilton. The second edition makes this possibility almost certain.
The two paragraphs headed Reflections (pp. 10, 11) which interrupt the narrative in the first edition, are placed at the end of both narratives under the heading Conclusions and are followed by an appeal which no one can imagine Spence publishing anonymously, since in that limited circle of radical publishers everybody would have know who had written it.
The author of the pamphlet writes:
"Britons! The two foregoing narratives will surely excite the indignat-ion and compassion of every friend to society . . . One of the victims is gone . . . but one remains — he has braved the storm with more firm-ness than commonly falls to the share of a single individual. He has combated the enemies of the Law and of the Liberty of the Press at the repeated hazard of his life and liberty. His cause is yours — his punishment will be yours. It is earnestly hoped you will not desert him, and though you may be branded with infamy by those who wish to loosen the bonds of society, you will have the happy recompense of being satisfied that you have struggled to preserve the law of your devoted country uncontaminated.
"Those therefore who feel an interest in the grand cause may have an opportunity of contributing towards Mr. Spence's defense and sup-port by applying to Mr. Hamilton, Bookseller, near Gray's Inn, Holborn, where a book for the purpose lays open".
There is no publisher's name or printer's imprint on either pamphlet. It will be noted that neither spelling nor language is typical of Spence's usage and that the ideas in the above quotation, for example, are not too clearly expressed. Had it been Spence writing, he would have found some equally telling argument without defending the sanctity of the existing laws. In what he himself said about the matter after his release, he merely shows the arbit-rariness with which the law was applied or broken.
1793 — 1795
One Pennyworth of Pigs' Meat; or, Lessons for the Swinish Multitude. Published in weekly penny numbers Collected by the Poor Man's Advocate in the course of his reading for more than Twenty Years. Intended To promote among the Labouring Part of Mankind proper Ideas of their Situation, of their Importance and of their Rights, and to convince them That their forlorn Condition has not been entirely overlooked and forgotten nor their just Cause unpleaded, neither by their Maker nor by the best and most enlightened of Men in all Ages. London:
Printed for T. Spence, at the Hive of Liberty, No. 8, Little Turnstile, High Holborn.
Pigs' Meat; or, Lessons for the People, alias (according to Burke) The Swinish Multitude. Published in penny numbers weekly Collected by the Poor Man's Advocate (an old persecuted Veteran in the Cause of Freedom) in the Course of his Reading for more than Twenty Years. Intended To ... Ages. Volume II. London: Printed for T. Spence, No. 8, Little Turnstile, High Holborn.
Pigs' Meat; or, Lessons for the People . . . Volume III.
Printed for T. Spence, No. 8, Little Turnstile, High Holborn.
Volume III began to appear after Spence's release from prison December 1794. The title page is similar to Volume II. The First and Second volumes have two different biblical quotations under the title. For Volume III these are replaced by the following verses:—
"The Pigs to starve, bad Men in pow'r. Their Feeder sent to doleful Gaol, And eager bent him to devour, Long time the Pigs did for him wail. But now the Storm is blown o'er, That drove him from his blest Employ; And to his Task return'd once more, He feeds them with his wonted Joy".
Pigs' Meat is a collection of articles, extracts and verses from the works of a wide range of about seventy different writers ancient and modern, issued weekly in penny numbers. These were afterwards bound together to form three volumes of 284 pages each with a list of contents at the end of each volume. The three volumes were also bound together in one volume. The complete work went into second and third editions, also in one and three-volume sets, with and without minor additions, including illustrations, and odd sheets headed "Loose Meat for Pigs" which had probably been distributed separately at irregular intervals. Detailed description of sets in libraries and the evidence relating to dates of publication have been adequately dealt with by Rudkin. The complete volumes were sold over a considerable period and were advertised in Spence's other publications and by other booksellers. It is impossible to say how many copies were printed but it is the only work of his of which many copies survived, thanks no doubt to the greater durability of the bound copies. However, within a few years of his death Pigs' Meat was already a collector's piece. A catalogue of 1818 (when there was still a Spencean organisation in existence) for example, describes it as "very scarce" and prices a copy at 16/-. Extracts from various authors which appeared in Pigs' Meat are also found in Chartist newspapers in the 'forties. The Chartist Circular acknowledges that an extract from Sinclair has been taken from Pigs' Meat, Vol. I, second edition. It must long have retained its value as a source book for popular political information.
Among the more substantial pieces are long extracts from Sprigges's A Modest Plea for an Equal Commonwealth and nearly the whole of Midon's History of the Rise and Fall of Masaniello. Both of these are given without the author's names, but the reproduction is so meticulous that it is possible to identify the editions which were used, both of which would have been available at Newcastle. Certainly some of the extracts belonged to a common stock of quotations frequently used by democratic and Whig authors at that time or to be found in radical works of the seventeen-nineties, but many of Spence's selections were not the most frequently quoted, and it would be more difficult to locate secondary sources than to suppose that in most cases he used the books in which they originally appeared. Spence called Pigs' Meat "the Political Bible", not perhaps in the sense of infallibility, but as a collection of various writers who have sought for truth. "The Honey or Essence of Politics" was another epithet which showed his inten-tions.
A number of Spence's own political tracts and poems were printed in Pigs' Meat, including the above-mentioned edition of his Lecture.
"The Rights of Man by Question and Answer". Pigs' Meat, vol. I, pp. 261-267.
This satirical dialogue appeared before the reprint of the Lecture, but gives prominence to the dividend of rents. "The people in every parish or district should appoint collectors to receive the rents; and divide them equally among themselves, or apply them to what public uses they may think proper".
"For the Swinish Multitude. The Rights of Swine. An Address to the Poor". Pigs' Meat, vol. II, pp. 97-102.
Most of the items in Pigs' Meat show author or source. Pseudonyms or book titles without other identification are or were easily recognizable (with the exceptions above mentioned and some of Spence's own verses). This item is signed in Pigs' Meat and in other copies "A Friend of the Poor" at the end. It is found also bound up in the volume of Spence's pamphlets which belonged to his friend George Cullen. This copy is not a separate pamphlet but consists of pages from a copy of Pigs' Meat.
Spence said in his letter to The Morning Post (reprinted in Pigs' Meat, vol. Ill) that he had completed volume II when he was arrested on 17 May 1794. As there were 24 weekly parts of 12 pages each, pages 97 to 102 should have been the 9th issue, and allowing for discrepancies this should have appeared in the third or fourth week of January. Now at the trial of Thomas Hardy and others in 1794 the prosecution included in evidence among papers seized from members of the LCS, a copy of The Rights of Swine dated "January 5, Stockport". It appears to be identical with the Pigs' Meat version and with that printed by Lee except for the word "Stockport". Unfortunately we do not know whether "Stockport" appeared as part of the original printed text and no other Lancashire copy seems to have been noted so far to confirm the existence of a Stockport edition. The Lancashire origin is suggested by the description of the textile operatives' distress and the tyranny of the millowners. It might be supposed that a copy was sent to somebody in London after 5 January in time to appear in Pigs' Meat in the second half of January.
The opinions expressed in The Rights of Swine are undoubtedly akin to Spence's. The style could also be his. The oracular conclusion could be compared with A Fragment of an Ancient Prophesy or with "A Dream" '" Spence's Songs.
"The Marine Republic". Pigs' Meat, vol. II, pp. 68-72.
"A further account of Spensonia". Pigs' Meat, vol. II, pp. 205-218.
These two articles make up the second, or third, Utopian fantasy developing the story of Crusonia. There are two important additions: the example of co-operative enterprise and partnership based on the division of labour, and the international character of the system.
Several brothers receive a ship called The Spensonia from their father who instructs them to keep it as their common property and inheritance and to run it as a brotherly partnership. They are to elect officers and pay everyone according to their work, but share the net profits of every voyage equally among all. After shipwreck on a desert island they found a new country to which they give the name of the ship and the constitution of their Marine Republic. The second article begins from the Crusonian incident of intercourse with mainland Indians, which leads to the rapid progress of the country. This theme is expanded in a number of ways. (1) The speech of the first Indian visitor is an eloquent, ironical criticism of European society and condemnation of colonial expansion by conquest, fraud and missionary hypocrisy. (2) The rights of strangers in Spensonia. (3) The universal equality of all races of man insuring peace and fraternity. (4) The uniting of savage independence with civilized progress. The second article is in the form of a dialogue between a traveller from Europe and a Spensonian, in which various objections to the Plan are answered and the Field Day or Jubilee celebrations are described. The main topics discussed are:
1. The land system and its effects in encouraging industry.
2. The reasons why landlordism cannot revive in Spensonia; thanks to the ballot which prevents political corruption and the arming of the peo-pie.
3. A general indictment of the landowning class and the need to destroy it.
4. Practical functions of the Parish authority.
5. A long concluding passage justifying the Spensonian system as in accordance with God's intentions, and showing the material benefits of the progress of knowledge, invention and medicine which flow from it.
In touching on the two highly topical points, the ballot and the militia, as the guarantee of political liberty, Spence does not fail to point out that fac-tionalism and a permanent "conflict of interest" are inherent in the system of private property. There must therefore be a radical change instead of futile "mending the constitution" and "the extirpation" of "your real monsters" who "toil (men) to death in their endless drudgery, harass and butcher them in villainous wars, and drag them from every social connection". Naturally it is landlordism not landlords that is to be exterminated but the whole tone of the writing shows that Spence had arrived at an uncompromisingly revolutionary position.
A Letter from Ralph Hodge to his Cousin Thomas Bull.
This is a 12-page tract without title page or cover, the text beginning on page 1. At the bottom of page 12 is an advertisement of complete 3-volume sets of Pigs' Meat giving Spence's address, showing that the Letter could not have been published earlier than the spring of 1795 and that it could not have been an extra number of Pigs' Meat, as has been suggested.
Spence does not deal here with any part of his special doctrines but with topical grievances — enclosures, low wages, ministerial corruption and pat-ronage, the national debt swindle, and so on, and above all the machinations of the Society for Preserving Liberty and Property against Republicans and Levellers. He appeals to those who earn "fourpence, sixpence or even a shilling a day" to understand their debased position in society and to be loyal to their own class. His appeal is more decidedly to urban journeymen and labourers. Taken together with The End of Oppression published in the same year, it might seem that Spence had gained more concrete understanding of the class struggle and that class interests not abstract principles determine the part that a man plays.
The Letter satirizes great placemen and their humble time-server, Thomas Bull, who are all alike worried about the safety of their jobs. Thomas Bull is very like the conservative working man of later Socialist satire and cartoon. After informing on fellow-villagers who tore down enclosure fences, he had been forced to leave home to escape their vengeance. His patrons found him menial employment in a public office of some kind, not at all the fine "situation" he had expected as a reward for his loyalty. But the story did not only satirize the system of patronage and its accompaniment of informers who repeatedly exposed themselves. The transformation from contented village blacksmith to down-trodden town worker without a proper trade was the typical case of many through no fault of their own. A contemporary writes:
"It is no uncommon thing for four or five wealthy graziers to engross a large enclosed lordship, which was before in the hands of twenty or thirty farmers, and as many tenants or proprietors. All these are thereby thrown out of their livings, and many other families, who were chiefly employed and supported by them, such as blacksmiths, carpenters, wheelwrights and other artificers and tradesmen, besides their own labourers and servants".
The Letter is followed by Questions on the National Debt, showing how sinecures are financed and an extract from Volney's Ruins which reinforces the class character of government.
The Letter is a parody of One Pennyworth of Truth from Thomas Bull to his Brother John. This was the first tract for mass distribution published by the Society for Preserving Liberty and Property. A number of other Bull "letters" followed by various hands, attacking or defending the Associators. Spence was not only satirizing the original but some of the moderate Reformers' answers, like Ann Jebb's Two Pennyworth of Truth for a Penny or a True Statement of Facts with an Apology for Tom Bull in a letter to Brother John (1793), which asserts that the French would have been satisfied with Reform without overturning the Monarchy, and particularly insisting that Reform should not and could not entail equality of property.
A Few Words But no Lies from Roger Bull to his Brother Thomas (undated) is an answer to this line of reasoning and to One Pennyworth of Truth at the same time. The writer claims to speak "for the labouring interest", and remarks that "the rich" (i.e. Whig and middle class Parliamentary Reformers — PMA) invite the starving people to rejoice with them over the French Revolution and the Rights of Man but "snivel" if they think their own wealth is menaced. — "Poor creatures! They are much to be pitied. They cannot work and to beg they are ashamed". 'Roger Bull' condemns 'Tom' for the same reasons as 'Ralph Hodge'. "A poor man who is an enemy to the interests of the poor is an unnatural monster". The original 'Tom Bull' created by the Association's writer was precisely the dimwitted crawler whom Spence addresses.
One Pennyworth of Truth concluded with a warning. John Bull shouldn't think that he has nothing to lose. "If thy body goes to the Gallows and thy soul to the Devil, won't that be a Loss John?" — a pessimism neatly expressed in a similar effort in verse by a clergyman called The Riot intended to be bought in quantities by charitable or patriotic gentry for distribution to the poor.
"And when of two evils I'm asked which is best, I'd rather be hungry than hang'd, I protest".
There were other angry replies to this cynicism besides Spence's. For example: Thomas Bently, The Poor Man's Answer to the Rich Associates, 1793, and James Parkinson's
Knaves' Acre Association. Resolutions adopted at a meeting of Place-men, Pensioners &c. held at the Sign of the Crown Knaves' Acre for the purpose of forwarding the Designs of the Place and Pensions Club lately instituted in London. Faithfully copied from the original minutes of the Society by Old Hubert. Dated 1793. (Copies of the last named exist with "Printed for T. Spence", and address on the title page, but Par-kinson's authorship is confirmed by the advertisement of his pamphlets in The Times for 15 DECEMBER), 1794).
1. The End of Oppression; or, a Quartern Loaf for Two-Pence; being a Dialogue between an Old Mechanic and a Young One. Concerning the Establishment of the Rights of Man.
Behold the grand, th' heav'n like simple plan, That soon will bring in use the Rights of Man. Then who'd be last such happiness to know? For hope of quick relief doth lessen half our woe.
Printed for the Author, and sold by T. Spence, No. 8, Little Turnstile,
High Holborn; Patriotic Bookseller and Publisher of Pigs' Meat.
2. The End of Oppression; being a Dialogue . . . Second Edition. London: Printed for the Author . . .
The title page of the second edition is the same as the first except for the omission of "a quartern loaf . . ." and the verses. There are a few minor changes in the text. The Jubilee Hymn is added under the heading: "A Song, to be Sung at the End of Oppression, or the Commencement of the political Millennium, when there shall be neither Lords nor Landlords, but God and Man will be all in all. First printed in the Year 1782". Neither edition specifies authorship or date of publication. A copy of the first edition has Ms. notes on the title page including "By T. Spence (Few issued)" beside the title. The title is given among other works by Spence on the title page of The Meridian Sun (1796) and in an advertisement in the second edition of Pigs' Meat vol. III. It is not certain when the latter appeared but probably in 1795 or 1796. A letter from a reader dated 17 May, 1796, printed in A Fragment of an Ancient Prophesy says that the writer bought a copy of The End of Oppression "a few days back". The probability is therefore that The Meridian Sun and the second edition of The End of Oppression both appeared in the spring of 1796.
Spence's Recantation of the End of Oppression
And he smote them Hip and Thigh with a great Slaughter. Judges XV. 8. London:
Printed for T. Spence, No. 8, Little Turnstile, High Holborn; Patriotic Bookseller and Publisher of Pigs' Meat.
There is no date, but must be taken to have appeared very shortly after The End of Oppression.
A Fragment of an Ancient Prophecy. Relating, as some think, to the-Present Revolutions.
(Being the Fourth Part of the END OF OPPRESSION). London:
Printed for T. Spence, No. 8, Little Turnstile, High Holborn, Patriotic Bookseller; and Publisher of PIGS' MEAT &c. 1796.
In spite of its fanciful form and its brevity (three pages), A Fragment is a serious statement of Spence's reading of the most important events of his time. It was intended to be read as the final part of The End of Oppression. The complete series is not now known in a single volume edition as adver-tised. A footnote on page 1 of the Fragment states that all four parts were on sale. Inside the title page appears a letter signed 'A Democrat', dated 17 May, 1796 saying that the writer bought a copy of The End of Oppression "a few days back" and hoping that unless Spence stops selling it, the book will be publicly burnt and Spence hanged. After The End of Oppression, or perhaps simultaneously with it, Spence had re-issued his Lecture, with the new 'Conversation' addressed to the same class of plebeian democ-ratic reformers as the two 'Mechanics' in The End of Oppression and the critics for whom the Recantation was written. I would suggest that The Meridian Sun, without which Spence's solution of the social problem would be incomplete, was to serve as the third part of the work, or perhaps the first part. However I have no other evidence to support this hypothesis.
When in real life there was speculation about a possible revolution among people like Spence's 'Mechanics', no doubt some reformer would ask "What about the French Revolution? Has it brought the people the Rights of Man as we conceive them?" To complete The End of Oppression it was therefore necessary to relate it to actual events, to define the revolution in France and examine the immediate prospects. He must also give a fuller answer to the question raised in The End of Oppression (page 5): "And what means the inveterate war commenced by the Aristocracy of the world against France?"
Spence's answer is that the French Revolution achieved "a mixed kind of Liberty", but the people having now aroused everywhere will continue to struggle for the full Rights of Man.
In contrast to the style of the Fragment, it is followed by two Odes. Resignation; An Ode to the Journeymen Shoemakers, who refused to Work except their Wages were raised by Peter Pindar (John Walcot), brings the reader back to the fundamental "quartern loaf for twopence". The other, Ode to Burke, is a reminder that the shortcomings of the French Revolution did not put the common enemy in any better light.
The Reign of Felicity, being a plan for civilizing the Indians, of North America; without infringing on their national or individual Independence, in a coffee-house dialogue, between a Courtier, an Esquire and a Farmer. London:
Printed for T. Spence, No. 8, Little Turnstile, High Holborn; Patriotic Bookseller, and Publisher of PIGS' MEAT, and the END OF OPPRESSION. 1796.
Inside the title page there is a short paragraph on the surplus revenue from the rents of the whole country that might be available as public prop-erty to "establish the Reign of Felicity". A note at the foot of the last page (p. 12) advises the reader to consult The End of Oppression in two parts, for further information about the Plan. This means that Felicity appeared before A Fragment and before part three of The End of Oppression.
There were two elaborate advertisements of The Reign of Felicity. A broadside headed The Contrast has a picture of an Ass laden with double panniers and two Indians, who say:
"Behold the civilized Ass. Two pairs of panniers on his back. The first with Rents a heavy mass, With Taxes next his bones do crack".
The Ass says:
"I'm doomed to endless toil and care. I was an ass to bear the first pair".
The design is signed 'W. Spence' (presumably Spence's son, William). The Rights of Man in Verse is given below in two columns, and finally
"Published 1 February 1796 by T. Spence, No. 8, Little Turnstile, Holborn. Publisher of a Plan to civilize the Indians".
A facsimile reproduction of the broadside is given by Waters.
A similar production, also signed "W. Spence" and dated 2 February, 1796, the Disappointed Missionary, is a more direct illustration of The Reign of Felicity. The Missionary exhorts the Indians as follows:
"God has enjoined on you to be Christians. Pay Rent and Tithes and become a Civilized people".
The Indians reply:
"If Rents we once consent to pay
Taxes on us you will lay
And then our freedom's passed away".
Token dies of the Ass and of the Indians carry mottoes similar to these broadsides. The theme of missionaries as "dangerous civilizers" who introduce the buying and selling of land, reappears in The Giant Killer (No. 1, p. 7). The ass with double panniers will be found as a metaphor in The End of Oppression and in The Rights of Infants.
The Rights of Infants; or, the Imprescriptable Right of MOTHERS to such a Share of the Elements as is sufficient to enable them to suckle and bring up their Young. In a Dialogue between the Aristocracy and a Mother of Children. To which are added, by way of Preface and Appendix, Strictures on Paine's Agrarian Justice. By T. Spence,
Author of the Real Rights of Man, End of Oppression, Reign of Felicity, Pigs' Meat, &c. London:
Printed for the Author, at No. 9, Oxford Street, lately removed from No. 8, Little Turnstile. 1797.
The title page has quotations from Peter Pindar's Ode to the Shoemakers and from Paradise Lost. The Preface is signed 'London, March 19, Tho. Spence'. The statement in a footnote to the Preface that The Rights of Infants had been written before the appearance of Agrarian Justice need not be doubted. Publication may have been delayed through Spence's bank-ruptcy (?) and removal from his shop in 1797 as seen from the title page.
The 'Preface' to The Rights of Infants ironically welcomes Paine's belated acknowledgement that the earth is common property. The 'Appendix' contrasts in parallel columns the different conclusions which the two authors draw from this common principle. A short 'Conclusion' elaborates Spence's theory of the claims of labour reinforcing the original right.
The Constitution of a Perfect Commonwealth: Being the French Constitution of 1793, Amended and rendered entirely conformable to the WHOLE RIGHTS OF MAN. Finis coronal opus.
The second edition. With a Preface, showing how to study politics. By T. Spence, Author and Publisher of that best Repository of sound and standard Politics, entitled PIGS' MEAT, and of several Tracts on the imprescriptable Rights of Mankind. London, Printed and sold by the Author, At No. 9, Oxford Street. 1798.
The first edition does not seem to be traceable, unless this is to be regar-ded as the unrevised translation in Pigs' Meat. A third revised and corrected edition advertised as being reprinted at the end of the 1801 edition of The Restorer is also not known.
The French (Jacobin) Constitution of 1793 was published in three parts in Pigs' Meat vol. I. It is identical with the English translation published together with the French text by J. Debrett and by J. Ridgeway. It is pre-sumed to be by Thomas Christie. Christie had published translations of the Declaration of the Rights of Man, the Draft and the final Constitution of 1791, together with his own narrative of the Revolution — a masterly account by an enlightened scholar and historian in answer to Burke's attacks. Christie, who was a friend of Home Tooke, was appointed by the Convention to assist in producing the multilingual versions of the new Constitution, which it was the intention to circulate to all countries. The project was overtaken by the war and the Constitution itself was suspended. Only the English and Italian versions appeared in Paris and the English came out in two practically identical editions in London.
By his consistent support of the French Republic, Spence recognized the world significance of the Revolution, and this was still evident in The Giant-Killer in 1814. He did not fail to present the new Constitution to the readers of Pigs' Meat at the first opportunity as an advance towards popular liberty. It is true that the Jacobin leaders having come to power through wider plebeian support, gave with one hand what they took away with the other, and while granting a universal franchise even reversed their previous policy as to the mandatory character of the representation and reinforced the law against workers' combinations. But their still-born Constitution remained the primary charter of plebeian egality, providing the slogan of "bread and the Constitution of 1793" for the popular demonstrations and the rising of 1795. It was the demand around which the old militants too late attempted to form a unity of the left and the Act of Insurrection prepared by the Babeuvistes declared "The aim of the insurrection is the re-establishment of the Constitution of 1793, of liberty, equality and happiness of all". Possibly the inner circle of the Conspiracy did not intend to operate the Constitution, or not in its original form, but many must have regarded it as Spence did. It was the first state document that had in words recognised a primary right to existence and principles which could be logically extended to mean a great deal more.
The English translation was meticulously literal, and kept a number of French expressions. The Constitution of a Perfect Commonwealth added and adapted to bring it into line with Spence's Plan without altering a single word that could be retained. The Spencean Declaration has 38 articles only 5 of which are completely new; the French has 35. The rest of the document follows the same arrangement of subjects with 120 as against 124 articles. Nevertheless it must be read with an English not a French context in mind.
The resulting patchwork is evidence that Spence could still only systemat-ize in the form of a priori generalities. It was always assumed that a con-stitution based on true first principles — "framed according to the exactness of Nature" (Restorer Letter XII) — must be universally applicable. Thus in taking over the prefatory Declaration, Spence appears to deduce economic rights from an abstract principle of liberty in spite of his repeated statemenl that liberty depends on or is equivalent to property relations. Similarly he accepts a large part of the original provisions regardless of their intention in the context and regardless of their local relevance, as though ready made for his purpose. He was not one to look an historic gift horse in the mouth. No doubt he wished to show that his sytem could be based on a coherent legal system which was not arbitrarily invented, but had a factual precedent in the decisions of a national legislature. In this adaptation he was no more naive than the revolutionary Secret Directory which discussed how the Constitut-ion could be revised and supplemented in order to create the institutions of a true equality.
This apparently formalistic adaptation was at the same time a critique of the bourgeois essence of the Republic. Spence begins by adding five entirely new points in the Declaration, with the appropriate changes in the other articles. Thus while accepting bourgeois democratic or egalitarian principles at face value, these innovations destroy the illusion of class harmony which was the precarious basis of the French Constitution. The more radical leaders had foreseen that the Declaration of Rights was bound to inspire demands for greater economic equality in contradiction to the vaguely for-mulated freedom for capitalist accumulation and private enterprise. This was strikingly expressed in the struggle for a controlled economy in 1793 when in petitions from the Paris Sections demands for requisitioning and the restriction of prices and wages, even including a ceiling on private wealth, appealed to the Constitution where the Jacobin bourgeoisie only saw the need for practical measures in immediate economic difficulties.
Spence naturally did not understand the French Constitution as a reflection of contradictions within the Convention or as a compromise between the bourgeoisie and their all-important allies the sans-culottes. He saw factional struggles and imperfect conceptions of liberty. In A Fragment he regarded the revolutionary leaders as a "party" or a number of "parties", that is personal factions, not representative of the people or of a class, but clever politicians who had seized power by a compromise between popular rights and property interests. The Jacobin leaders and their successors were alike intent on securing the plunder of the aristocracy for themselves. Nevertheless he never doubted the historical significance of the Revolution which had awakened "the Multitude". In the Preface to his Constitution it was this that he had in mind when he said that the nations would now never rest until the true solution had been reached.
The Preface illustrates the working of the dividend, parish finances and public works as applied in the concrete example of the village of Little Dalby described in Nichols's History of Leicestershire. The dividend paid to each individual out of net profits from the rents is given special prominence along with more detail about the way in which such a parish could develop its resources. In order to show how the plan will benefit the people at large, Spence here gives a definition of social classes and how they will be affected by the change to the Spensonian system.
From the Little Dalby statistics Spence calculated a hypothetical yearly dividend of £10 per head. This was a little more that half the salary he had once enjoyed as a schoolmaster. It might not have sounded very tempting to a well-to-do landowner threatened with expropriation, but the total that would have come to a family with several children would have seemed lux-ury to those large numbers of the labouring poor who lived from hand to mouth, seldom had work all the year round and thought in terms of poor relief standards.
The Preface became the best known version of Spence's Plan. Most of it was reproduced in the Biographies of Spence by Evans and Davenport. It was probably known to Malthus.
The Preface ends with an appeal for the earnest study of "the chief of sciences, the science of the Rights of Man" to solve the problem of "abject servile poverty" in civilized society. "The dark ages will never more return; wherefore then should we prolong anarchy?" All nations have now a smat-tering of the Rights of Man and are tormented by uncertainty; "the rich know not what to fear, and the poor know not how far their rights extend". Those who can think must go deeper into the matter to discover a practical system of social truth and justice. The way to study politics is as in any other science, to put aside all other considerations and only concentrate on finding the right answer, as an upright judge hears a case or a boy sits down "to work a question in arithmetic".
"This is undoubtedly the most likely way to arrive at the truth, and to make us adepts in the science we aim at. Surely you would not confine your pupil in arithmetic ... to such and such a result of your problem, whether in truth it can be so according to rule or right reason? ... If then we are not to sit down to politics in the same free state of mind as to our other studies, for God's sake, I say, speak out, and tell us to which side we are to incline at the expense of truth?
I say, are we at the price of our sacred rights and interests to do violence to truth in favour of cannibals? Are we to determine right or wrong, that we and our children shall and ought to be less in the scale of animal beings, than worms and caterpillars? . . . Detested by the mode of education that would confine us to believe so! Sophists come-forward! Speak out, and tell us how we are to study the Chief of Sciences, the science of the Rights of Man! Tell us how to think, ay, and likewise how to feel! Tell us whether we shall study as with the unpre-judiced minds of untainted youth, or with the determined, mercenary, warped sophistry of our critical literati?".
The Constitution therefore was presented as Spence's contribution to this search for a new system.
The Constitution of Spensonia. A Country in Fairy-Land, Situated between Utopia and Oceana. Brought from thence by Captain Swallow.
The fourth Edition. Finis coronat opus.
This edition was appended to The Important Trial of Thomas Spence, 1807, with which the pagination is continuous. It has a separate title page without place or date of publication. This is the same version which had appeared "printed in the Crusonian manner" in the phonetic edition of The Important Trial for private circulation in 1803, except for a different verse epilogue. There is a note inside the main title page in both these editions to the effect that The Constitution had been twice issued before the trial. As it was then out of print Spence could not produce a copy for which the Judge had asked and "it is therefore added to the Trial now". It must be concluded that the third revised edition advertised in The Restorer in 1801 had not yet appeared and its publication must have been postponed. As Spence says that this "fourth edition" was what he would have submitted in court had it been available, it may be understood that the third revised edition, while retaining the title The Constitution of a Perfect Commonwealth, did not differ from The Constitution of Spensonia. As in the case of the Supplement to the History of Robinson Crusoe's Island, the phonetic version of the Constitution, 1803, is to be regarded as the third and the 1807 edition as the fourth (normal spelling) edition.
The Constitution of Spensonia has no separate preface. The Restorer of Society serves as the enlargement or interpretation of the Constitution, or the Constitution can be seen as the codification of The Restorer.
This new version is considerably expanded and contains 155 articles. The parts taken from the French Constitution have been further adapted. 'Department' and 'District' taken over from the French in The Constitution of a Perfect Commonwealth are dropped and the only territorial — administrative divisions are the parish and the county. 'Republic' is everywhere replaced with 'Commonwealth'. Several additional articles clarify the concept of parish autonomy and its relation to county administration and to the national legislature and executive council. Minor changes in the wording adjust earlier inconsistencies and ambiguities. In the Declaration, Art. 7 of the old version is omitted and Art. 7 of the new edition (corresponding to the old Art. 8) is brought into line with Art. 5.
The most important changes and additions relate to:—
1. Powers and functions of the Parishes, including leases and tenancies, public works, provision of the means of livelihood (right to work) and settlement, public storehouses (to check speculation in provisions), Quarter-Day procedure and obligation to provide schools.
2. Status and rights of female citizens, children and foreigners. (Articles 5-10).
3. Citizenship. The triple citizenship (local, proprietory and general) in The Constitution of a Perfect Commonwealth is replaced by parish settlement (Articles 5-8).
4. Dividend rights (Articles 11, 12).
5. Holidays, five-day week, statutory past days. (Article 155, where for the first time animals are guaranteed the right to rest by a constitutional act).
6. Finance (Articles 107, 108, 131).
7. Size of the national parliament and of the equal electoral constituen-cies. (Articles 47-49).
8. Colonies. (Articles 152-154). These points are an extremely import-ant addition although anticipated in previous writings. Better information as to French colonial policy during and after the Revolution and the course of the Anglo-French conflict in the East and West Indies must have brought the question of colonial possessions more sharply to Spence's attention (c.f. Restorer, Letter VII). The Draft Constitution of February 1793 (cap. XIII, arts. 2, 3) had renounced annexation by conquest (in Europe). Spence makes the necessary distinction between peaceful settler colonization in uninhabited territory and colonial conquest, peaceful or otherwise.
Spence had elsewhere attached great importance to the ballot to safeguard democracy. In the new version Articles 19 and 20 of The Constitut-ion of a Perfect Commonwealth have been omitted. It is left to the primary assemblies, the parishes, to decide what method of voting they adopt. The ballot came to be regarded as a major demand of parliamentary reform in the nineteenth century or even as an essential principle of democratic government, instead of an expedient necessary to protect voters under certain conditions from improper influence. In Spence's time many democrats still objected to the ballot on the grounds that honest convictions should and could be openly declared.
Spence's Constitution took over the Executive Council indirectly elected and appointed and separated in function from the legislature, which had been created by the first revolutionary government and retained in the Con-stitutions of 1791 and 1793. The aim was to strengthen administrative uniformity and central authority. Spence may have regarded it simply as a means of abolishing sinecures and corruption in administration or as a substitute for a permanent bureaucracy. In neither of his Constitutions is there a full definition of his concept of the federation of parishes. In The Restorer, (Letter I) an important function of county and national executives seems to be to adjust inter-parochial interests.
The later Spenceans always stated that a new constitution would be drawn up by a national convention. The "provisional Government" (the self-appointed revolutionary committee in The End of Oppression) would proceed immediately to make arrangements for elections. Having taken over the land, the parishes would call meetings to elect representatives to the convention. They would present their proposals for the reform of society to the convention, expecting that truth and reason would prevail among disinterested delegates of the people. Exactly what plan would be adopted how-ever was left to the delegates' deliberations.
Spence's Constitution broke new ground. It rejected the basis of a purified or 'corrected' or 'restored' English constitution identified by some with the Bill of Rights and by others with a Saxon original, together with the pro-cedures and institutions elaborated by Harrington, or later by Cartwright whose "Saxon" organisation of the population was to serve as a model for a new electoral and parliamentary system and for a radical party at the same time. Spence swept aside all the arguments about the alleged perfection of the English system, and all the hallowed traditions of the True Whigs which had provided much of the ammunition for Parliamentary reform polemics. Such old shibboleths as 'no taxation without representation', the right of petition, the Habeas Corpus and so on became meaningless. Spence wanted to show that it was possible and indeed necessary to start as he said from "clear ground", and the French Constitution provided a concrete precedent arising out of the dissolution of the old order of aristocracy. The triple hierarchy — King, Lords and Commons — being abolished, new laws require the approval of nine-tenths of the parishes in more than half the counties. So little is left of the system which was supposed to enshrine 'English Liberty' that not even the word 'Parliament' is to be found in docu-ment. Most public offices are elective for short terms. Magistrates are annually elected, criminal judges are appointed for short terms by the national Executive and arbitrators in civil causes by the County Assemblies. This machinery is not without interest, for it foreshadowed some of the con-stitutions of later working class organisations.
Sharing some of the egalitarian ideal of the French sans-culottes and "attributing to the revolutionary demands of the bourgeoisie a meaning which they did not have",50 Spence attempted to resolve the contradiction by basing equality on common property. At the same time he reversed the centralizing aim of the French Constitution by restoring a more Rousseau-like concept of universal democracy such as the Jacobins on coming to power has so decisively rejected. In taking over almost literally the French state machinery, Spence began by equating his parishes to the primary assemblies. There was of course an important difference which was further underlined by the wording in The Constitution of Spensonia. The parishes were not merely deliberative bodies or electoral constituencies through which in theory the popular will controlled the central government. Local autonomy and popular will were based on proprietorship. Hence the parishes were organs of economic power, representing citizens not only politically but as producers and as owners of property. Collectively as producers and as planners of local agriculture and industry, parishes appeared as independent economic units regulating mutual interests with other communities through county and national representation. The concept is perhaps understandable before the existence of great national industries or system of communications. Vague as it may be, there is no doubt that Spence had in mind the voluntary planning of resources related to consumption on a national scale.
Radicals generally in some degree shared a suspicion of all central or remote government. In The End of Oppression Spence asked ironically how working people were going to be able to watch what their representatives did in Parliament. This was in reply to various middle class Parliamentary reformers who argued that universal suffrage would be quite safe because the masses would naturally choose their representatives from among their superiors, who have time, money and education.
In Spensonia all proceedings and accounts of all public bodies were to be printed and circulated and all draft legislation distributed throughout the country. As in the French Constitution, national deputies were not mandatory or subject to recall (a matter hotly contested in the Convention in 1793). In England it was generally agreed that annual Parliaments would be sufficient guarantee, and make unnecessary the mandate which certain bodies of constituents had attempted to operate in the form of election pledges and Instructions to Members of Parliament. Spence thought that the popular will must be given power where people live and work. He repeatedly showed that parish autonomy was the way in which ordinary people and an increasing number of them could participate in public life, and laid it down that sovereignty should be not national but parochial (Restorer, Letter VII). Although it is not stated in his Constitution it is prob-able that Spence supposed that the parishioners would choose their rep-resentatives from among themselves. They would therefore know what was expected of them. In The Restorer the expression used was a "convention of parochial delegates".
The Constitution does not lay down how the parish runs its internal affairs. It is not said whether it should elect an executive committee or what officers should be appointed or whether they are to be paid. The functions of the parish are defined. It administers the common property, collects the rents, sends in the national poundage to the central government, divides the surplus on Quarter Day, provides its own police, annually elects Justices of the Peace, and is further obliged to provide a school, to provide work or the means to produce, and continually to extend its economic and social activities. Quarter Day proceedings and celebrations are prescribed in detail. Electoral Assemblies of parish delegates regulate inter-parochial matters, nominate to the National Executive Council, carry out various adminis-trative functions, including county schools, hospitals and judiciary.
Taking the words of the Declaration of Rights at face value, Spence gave them positive force by defining property relations. The ambiguous property clause in the French Declaration could apply to any system. Spence first copies this clause exactly as it stands, since, as he put it, the aim was not to abolish property but to make all proprietors. He then added other articles which make the intention of the first precise. The citizen is guaranteed his right to two kinds of property — personal effects, earnings, movables honestly acquired which he can dispose of at will, and his parochial property which he cannot alienate "being eternally incorporated with that of his fellow citizens". This parochial property consists of land, its appurtenances and natural products including man-made "fixtures" (cf. Rights of Infants). It is clear from other parts of the Constitution that public property includes anything acquired in the name of the parish such as grain stores, tools and animals, materials for building, provisions and clothing supplied to parish deputies (Restorer, and so on).
As The Constitution only systematised and added more machinery to the basic plan, in 1793 Spence was further on the road to a socialist theory of property than any of his contemporaries. At that date Babeuf accepted Robespierre's rejected draft of Article 17 of the Declaration as his "manifesto". In this draft the absolute right to private property was only qualified but a vague statement indicated that it should not be to the damage of others and that society is obliged to provide work or the means of subsis-tence for the destitute. Full freedom to accumulate and employ capital is not in any way limited. The vague undertaking |to assist the poor could have technically been satisfied by the English Poor Law as it then was or by the claims of liberal governments in the nineteenth century, although usually claiming poor relief to be humane charity rather than a right. The motive was stated almost cynically by Marat, who after the usual interpretation of natural right concludes that work or maintenance for the poor must be pro-vided in order to secure respect for property and public order. In these debates it was not suggested that there should be any substantial change in the distribution of wealth.
It is true that a number of rank and file leaders in the revolutionary period began to move from an egalitarian to a more communistic position, the main left wing tendency in the plebian sansculottes did not go further than to demand some control of free enterprise and usury. A well known programme proposed a ceiling for almost everything including, prices, profits, wages, number of workshops and workers. This was an anti-capitalist demand in order to perpetuate small scale private production in which competition was to be regulated by government. Spence's constitution sets limits only to the amount of land and other means of production which individual may rent temporarily for his own use, in order to prevent the accumulation of large fortunes. Neither wages nor profit from individual labour are limited. These and wealth accrueing to the community will increase. Tenancies will continually change hands to allow as many people as possible to enjoy the best sites. How this scheme would work in the case of industrial sites and buildings is not shown. Possibly large workshops, factories and other enter-prises in Spensonia would be run as co-operative partnerships or public works as suggested in The Restorer. Whether voluntary partnerships were to be treated like other tenants or as public works is not explained. Evidently a general levelling up process is envisaged. In The Constitution of Spensonia as the leases of large farms fall in after 21 years the land will be divided into smaller holdings, while public enterprise will continually extend to raise the standard of all and more town workers will be settled on land.
The middle class defined in the Preface to The Constitution of a Perfect Commonwealth evidently included small manufacturers and those on their way to becoming capitalist entrepreneurs. Spence foresaw the danger of a new wealthy class arising from among small producers. The measures by which he hoped to prevent disproportionately large accumulations were strengthened in The Constitution of Spensonia. In addition to the above mentioned 21 years lease without renewal and the gradual division of large estates, large amounts of land are in the meanwhile only let to tenants who are prepared to build under parish supervision. Arrangements between parishes and local development boards (Restorer) were intended to counter-balance differences in natural resources. A separate clause enjoins on parishes the special responsibility for the efficient regulation of prices, by establishing public stores to counteract hoarding and speculation in pro-visions and fuel. Apparently Spence believed that control of essentials would automatically stabilize all commodity prices. In addition it is laid down that leases are only granted to those who do not harm public interest in any way, so that the highest bidder would not automatically be entitled to the tenancy without collective approval. In The Rights of Infants it was emphasized that the collective landlord, that is the majority of lesser husbandmen and wage workers, always control access to "every species of revenue from lands and fixtures".
The productive "middle class" would employ labour. But since none are compelled by poverty to work for a wage and there will be no more unempoyed surplus labour wages will be high. The farmer or manufacturer depending on the goodwill of fellow parishioners for his use of the means of production, can only expect to employ a helper who shares in any increased profit which he helps to produce. The relationship which Spence evidently had in mind was in the nature of personal service in simple commodity production where the master himself works. The prototype would have been farmers and artisans who used the additional labour of their families, or independent millwrights, blacksmiths and masons who employed one or two journeymen and apprentices; or small farmers who supplemented farming with handicrafts and hired skilled seasonal workers and extra help at harvest time. Article 22 in The Constitution of Spensonia reproduced word for word a pious formulation in the French. "The law does not acknowledge ser-vitude, there can only exist an engagement of care and gratitude between the man who labours and the man who employs him". This together with the other article taken from the French guaranteeing individual freedom of choice as to occupation and to engage in trade, established free contract. In the English context "servitude" could denote the legal apprenticeship, the yearly or indefinite binding of miners and farm servants, the whole Master and Servant Act and so on. That is no doubt why Spence included this clause.
On the other hand these provisions taken together with the right of choice and change of settlement, articles encouraging trade, including the prohibition of all local or national tolls, taxes and excise would seem to provide two important prerequisites for capitalist development — a free commodity market and free and mobile labour force.
In addition to the dividend the main rights which are given specific guarantees in The Constitution of Spensonia are:—
1. Right of settlement after a year's residence, backed by the Parish's obligation to assist newcomers and strangers.
2. The right to work secured by the parish obligation to find work or tenancies and strengthened by the right to education and by the duty of the Parish to build workshops for rent, extend agriculture, fishing, forestry, mining, public works and to assist artisans and farmers with equipment.
3. The right to leisure by instituting the five-day week, public festivals, weekly markets, cultural facilities.
4. The right to the weekly cash payment of wages on the fourth day of the week.
5. The right of each parish to select students for the university.
6. The right to aid in any kind of misfortune and to medical care in sickness, with the provision of hospitals. (Spence's ideas about the duties of hospital doctors and the notification of infectious diseases are found in The Restorer).
7. The right of voluntary association and meeting and the freedom of publication.
8. Universal male eligibility for all public office.
9. The obligation on the parish to build dwelling houses apart from farms, and single rooms for rent with the prohibition of sub-letting, taken together with other rights, implies the right to a dwelling at reasonable rent.
There is no positive right to work in the French Constitution, only a per-missive clause which guarantees free enterprise and contract. The right to existence read into but not expressly defined in the Declaration was not supported by practical provisions. The right to work already concretised in The Constitution of a Perfect Commonwealth is reinforced by various other provisions in The Constitution of Spensonia. It is further backed up by chan-neling resources into public works and enterprises. The right to existence is distinguished from the right to work, since it applies to all ages and conditions in all circumstances. The Spensonian state "honours the unfortunate". The right to work is treated primarily as the right of access to common property in the means of production. This is further secured by the planning of local economy and the functions of the parishes (in The Restorer) as boards of agriculture, fisheries and coal. The right to work can obviously only really exist in a controlled economy. The regulation of com-mon resources, planned development, and some supervision of how land is used by individuals which appear in The Constitution and in The Restorer provide this condition at least in an embryonic form. These proposals also show that Spence's ideas were based as much on actual material needs and demands of working people as on any abstract principles of justice and equality. In fact the practical needs are given priority over the theoretical right of the individual to free self-determination.
The Restorer of Society to its Natural State, in a Series of Letters to a Fellow Citizen. With a Preface, countering the objections of a gentleman who perused the manuscript, and the answers by the author.
By Thomas Spence.
Printed for the author and sold by J. Smith, James Street, Covent Garden. 1801. A. Seale, Printer, Fitzroy Place, New Road.
The Preface is dated "London, February 5th, 1801". In one copy it is signed in handwriting T. Spence'. Spence was prosecuted for this pamphlet and the date of publication given in the Indictment was April 10th.
Dhe Restorr ov Sosiete tu its nateural Stat.
This appears without separate title page in the phonetic version of Dh'e Imp'on'ant Tri'al ov T'om'is Sp'ens, 1803.
The Restorer of Society to its Natural State; In a Series of Letters . . .
This appears as part of The Important Trial of Thomas Spence, 1807. There is an inside title page similar to that of the first edition but without the author's name, date or printer. The text is identical with the first edition but with the addition of Spence's comments and explanations made in court which are given in footnotes.
The Restorer is Spence's longest and most complete work consisting of fourteen letters under dates between July and December 1800. It is essential for a full understanding of the implications which Spence drew from his Plan. It adds to the descriptive detail of the future society begun in the Preface to The Constitution of a Perfect Commonwealth. There are many suggestions as to the way in which the people might use their power to introduce practical reforms. These are generally given as optional, emphasizing freedom of choice in the spirit of Rousseau's absolute democracy, but certain changes are stated as inevitable and others as probable. Here is foreseen an increasing spirit of mutual aid or mutual dependancy which will result in higher moral standards and readiness to serve others.
The title of the book has sometimes been misunderstood to imply the aim of restoring a past golden age. On the contrary, it is markedly concerned with the idea of a material and intellectual progress which has never yet existed. The natural state did not mean some former time, but the condition of society which functions according to the laws of nature and not perver-ted by an unnatural inequality. 'Restore' is used here in the meaning of 'repair', 'restore to health'. Spence made it quite clear that in his opinion it was impossible to bring back the small proprietors who were then being pushed out, much less to reinstate the primitive hunting park. It is in The Restorer particularly that he speaks of the conflict between increasing wealth and increasing poverty which must ultimately force men to create a new order of society.
The Restorer does not contain fundamentals that have not already been put forward in other tracts. The rejection of illusory hopes of Parliamentary Reform is more incisive. Revolutionary direct action is proposed and the "Mutiny on Land" is put forward as the model.
Dh'e Imp'ort'ant Tr'al ov T'om'is Sp'ens For a P'ol'it'ik'al P'amfl'et 'entitld "Dhe Restorr ov Sosiete tw its nateural Stat", 'On Ma 27th 1801, 'at W'estm'instr H'o'ol, b'efor L'ord K'ene'un and a Speshal Jwre. London:
Printed by A. Scale, Tottenham Court Road, for T. Spence. 1803.
This report of the trial was produced after Spence's release from prison not for sale but to present to friends who had contributed to his defence or fine. The work contains a table of the Spencean alphabet with examples; the Defence; The Restorer of Society (as part of the Defence), The Constitution of Spensonia, and a verse Epilogue. The Indictment was not printed in the phonetic script but as a separate pamphlet in ordinary orthography, by A. Scale, Printer, 15 Terrace, Tottenham Court Road, without a date.
The Important Trial of Thomas Spence for a Political Pamphlet entitled "The Restorer of Society to its Natural State", on May 27th, 1801, at Westminster Hall, before Lord Kenyon and a Special Jury.
Printed by A. Scale, Tottenham Court Road. 1807.
This includes the indictment, the Defence, including The Restorer of Society with its own title page, The constitution of Spensonia, and a new verse Epilogue. There are two copies in the British Museum, and one in the Goldsmiths Library. All have Scale's imprint inside the title page, but only the Goldsmith's copy in 8-vo gives the date. The type of all three copies is identical with the same minor irregularities and spacing. It is unlikely that the undated copies belonged to an earlier edition published in 1803 (as Rudkin suggests) since the type would hardly have been kept intact for four years. The Indictment in all three copies is identical but has been entirely reset since the first printing. No doubt the phonetic version is to be regarded as the first edition, as in the case of The Supplement to the History of Robin-son Crusoe's Island. Spence sent Charles Hall a copy of the phonetic version in the summer of 1807. Hall complained that he found it difficult to decipher. Presumably the normal spelling version was not yet available or it may be that Hall's caustic remarks persuaded Spence that he should bring out a new edition. On the last page there is "A Serious Caution" to preserve the book in case it should be suppressed.
At the end of this note the author "Takes his leave". This sounds as though Spence now felt that he had completed his work of expounding his Plan, as is also shown by the "Finis coronal opus" on the title pages of both Constitutions. While by "former edition" he meant the phonetic one and no other first edition in normal spelling can have been issued, the note also hints that being familiar through his token trade with the ways of collectors, he may have had the first edition printed in phonetic script in order to give his friends something that might later have a scarcity value. Even during his lifetime, it is said, his publications were bought up by curiosity hunters.
On the title pages of both editions there is a quotation from Milton — "A forbidden Writing is thought to be a certain Spark of Truth that flies up in the Face of them who seek to tread it out", and one from Isaiah, 29. There is also the following note:
"As nearly the whole of that offensive Book with suitable remarks by way of Defence, was read by Mr. Spence to the Jury, the whole of it therefore is reprinted herein, as a Warning to poor Old England. 'And all the People shall hear, and fear, and do no more presumptuously'."
Spence's address is not given anywhere in this book. In the first edition of The Restorer it is given with the advertisement of the third edition of The Constitution of a Perfect Commonwealth as "No. 3, Great Castle Street, Oxford Market, and keeps a Book-stall near the Pantheon, Oxford Street". A single sheet headed Something to the Purpose giving extracts from The Constitution of Spensonia, has "Printed for T. Spence, Number Carrier and Bookbinder, No. 15 Princes Street, Soho, London" (bottom right) and "Seale & Bates, Printers, Tottenham Court Road" (bottom left), and is evidently later than 1807.
The Giant-Killer, or, Anti-Landlord
No. 1. August 6, 1814.
No. 2. August 13, 1814.
This is a small 8-page magazine described as a weekly miscellany. The two issues only survive in the Place MSS. The third, mentioned by Place, is not, known. The printers were A. Seale & Bates, 160, Tottenham Court Road. The first issue gives the address of "The Proprietor" at 71, Castle Street, Oxford Market. The second has "Proprietors" in the plural. This could be a misprint or it might indicate that several people were financing the paper. Spence's own name is not printed either as editor or proprietor, and actually is not mentioned anywhere in the two issues except for the single signature "T.S.". Correspondents address the editor as "Mr. Giant-Killer". A medal wrapped in a song is offered free to purchasers of the first number. The contents are various literary and general interest extracts, letters, verses, articles, several items on American and West Indian slavery. An unfinished article headed "Of the Nobility" is found in the Place MSS (Add. 27809 f. 332). It is in Spence's handwriting. Part of it is printed in The Giant Killer, No. 2. It traces the origin of the nobility to wars of conquest aided by the encouragement of the Church fathers, and shows conquest as the origin of private property and servitude. The matter owes much to James Murray's Lectures on Genesis and possibly to Sprigge.
The Marine Republic
The Giant-Killer. or Anti-Landlord, Nos. 1 and 2, August, 1814.
These two instalments in The Giant-killer form the last version of Spence's Utopian romance. The second instalment is signed 'T.S.', but it breaks off abruptly with a relatively unimportant detail, unlike the way in which Spence usually rounded off a pamphlet or article with some eloquent peroration or striking sentence.
The first part repeats almost exactly The Marine Republic and part of A Further Account of Spensonia published in Pigs' Meat, vol. II, but condensing the passage relating to the Indians. The second instalment gives a com-pletely new dialogue between a Spensonian and a visitor to the island. It illustrates a number of Spencean practices already touched on in The Restorer and The Constitution, and explains how poverty, unemployment, theft and envy have been abolished. The Parish provides newcomers or others in need, with employment on public works, or with land, tools and provisions in order to start as cultivators or tradesmen. Many visitors are attracted because the parishes hold their fairs on different days in order to encourage intercourse and increase festivity. The Quarterly Jubilee and Jubilee Fair stresses and describes the country's prosperity and inexhaustible resources.
Verse and The Coin Collector's Companion
Spence's Songs, Part Second. Spence's Songs, Part Third.
All the above are printed by Seale, or Seale & Bates. The first part adver-tises The Important Trial and The Constitution of Spensonia in one volume. The date of publication of the Songs cannot be earlier than 1807. None of the books are dated. The price of the first is twopence; the other two are a penny each.
Evans in his Life mentions that Spence published some cheap song books after he came out of prison. Possibly there was an earlier edition. There are two complete sets in the British Museum and the Goldsmiths Library, and the latter also has an incomplete set. In one set on the first page of the first song book a few words have been changed and a biblical text added, probably as a correction for a re-issue without breaking up the rest of the type. Possibly the third part was published after Spence's death.
These Spencean songs are to be associated with the Free-and-Easy meetings advertised on the 'Humerous Catalogue of Spence's songs' by Mrs. Evans' which is found together with 'A Suitable Companion to Spence's Songs' and a few other songs and slips bound up with the three song books. A slip headed Spence's Plan announcing the regular meetings of three Spen-cean sections is also among them. One set from Truelove's library has a note dated 1900 to the effect that the volume was the property of William Herbert. Herbert's signature is found on The Humorous Catalogue, and in the footnote announcing the Free-and-Easy meetings 'Tuesday' has been corrected to 'Monday'. William Herbert was probably a contemporary of Spence.
There are songs by Thomas Evans in the first part, showing that it must have been published after Evans had joined Spence's circle. Evans was released from prison, after three years all but a month, without trial (during the Suspension of the Habeas Corpus), about March 1801, so he could not have met Spence again until the latter was freed in 1802. Evans's business had been ruined and it was not until about 1811 that he was again on his feet.
Whoever bound the song books together was evidently following the advice in a prefatory note to Spence's songs.
"The Miscarriage of the Mighty Struggle made in our Day against Oppression, will astonish Posterity and stimulate them to discover the Cause. The History of our Times will be strictly scrutinized and our Opinions sought after with Avidity in order to weigh them in the Bal-ance, and find wherein they are deficient. Let us then gather up the Fragments that nothing may be lost, and let the Wellwishers of the Human Race, bind up such valuable Tracts as fall in their way, thereby giving them a Chance of Preservation to future Generations, who will doubtless profit more by them than we have done, and avoid our Mis-takes. The following Pieces containing Sentiments so singular, and what have never yet been acted upon, require no further Apology for collecting, and thus putting them in a way to be preserved".
In the first Spence's Songs there are 12 pages, containing 7 pieces by Spence which had already appeared in Pigs' Meat and/or separately, here unsigned; one by Thomas Evans, and "The Spencean Jubilee" by W. Tilley. Part Second (8 pp.) has 3 by Spence and 4 by Evans, and concludes within Address to All Mankind, in prose which stresses the need for meetings as the primary means of spreading and discussing Spencean teachings and for mutual encouragement. Part Third (8 pp.) has no songs by Spence. There is one song by Evans; The Dream in prose; and A Suitable Companion to Spence's Songs containing A Fable (later used by Benbow in his Grand National Holiday) and Most Important Queries for the Serious Consideration of all Mankind. These questions are like radical debating club and lecture formulations of those days, that is to say. really statements of a foregone conclusion. They cover the main principles and arguments of Spence's Plan with some reference to the current problems of the working classes. The last question, No. 35, coincides with the last of Murray's 'Queries' to the New-castle Philosophical Society.
Some of Spence's songs were also included in Evans's Life and odd verses are scattered in his pamphlets and title pages. Spence's broadsides included many of his own compositions and political verse or songs by others. The first English translation of the Marseillaise, generally attributed to Holcroft and performed at Sadler's Wells, appeared in Pigs' Meat and in a Spence broadside. It is impossible to estimate either how many broadsides were published or how many have survived. One sometimes comes across an odd Spence item by chance in miscellaneous collections and albums of broad-sides and ephemera.
Spence's verse falls into three categories. (1) The topical political, generally satirical, ballad; (2) Serious lyric poetry like "The Peasant's Lament" published in Pigs' Meat or a pair of apocalyptic poems found on a broadsheet "The Triumph of Tyranny" and "The Triumph of Freedom". (3) Spencean Songs or Hymns like these in the Songbooks and later similar compositions by some of his followers. These are devoted to the themes of his principle theories, often echoeing images and ideas in his pamphlets and making use of biblical and traditional figures and symbols. They are mar-kedly millenarian and have a style and tone of their own. They might be said to pioneer a special genre of popular verse, the political hymn. The distinc-tive character of the Spencean songs may be better appreciated when they are compared with the songs associated with the meetings and festivities of the Corresponding and other political societies of the late eighteenth cen-tury. The latter when not literary and in the manner of elevated sentiment, could be lively and colloquial, but seldom expressed their ideas through that particular poetic quality of the best traditional simple verse.
It is quite possible that Spence's own songs, which resemble both old popular ballad and sectarian hymn, were influenced by his Glassite connections. The Glassites were the pioneers of congregational hymn singing. Hitherto church singing by the congregation had been limited to the metrical psalms. The Glassites introduced a variety of popular verse forms and the more lively metres of secular songs and set them to traditional tunes rather than ecclesiastical music. The only collection of Glassite hymns known to me is in standard English, but decidedly in the ordinary language and vocabulary of the common people. There may have been others such as Scottish hymns. Although these hymns are naturally full of references to scripture, they are not in a special kind of language reserved for sacred subjects; the biblical expressions are those which were a normal part of the common language. This peculiarity is very striking when these compositions are compared with, say, Watts, who aimed to write simple verse but produced something that sounds pious and not everyday in tone. Following the Glassites the singing of other poor sects like the Bereans introduced near-vernacular speech forms and traditional airs. The importance of the Glassite innovation for the history of Protestant hymnology is recognized, although church historians do not rate the quality of their contribution very highly.
Both John Glas and Robert Sandeman wrote longer songs expounding key doctrines in a very simple and direct style, as Spence did in his Rights of Man. The Glassites sang at their weekly meetings and at the Love Feast. Later accounts of the sect sound gloomy and their enemies called them "acrimonious", but the prevailing note of the hymns is warm and cheerful. They tell of the second coming when all men shall possess all things, and shall "reign on earth as kings", "Nations all shall broken be" and "Anti-christ head o'er much land" shall be utterly destroyed. It is this social feeling of the poor and confidence in ultimate justice that is striking in the hymns, not the theology. Indeed the hymns rather ignore the doctrine of a narrow basis of divine election (perhaps because the hymn singers were presumed to be all elect). The positive assertion and the uncompromising destruction of tyranny in the shape of antichrist or landlord are common characteristics of both Glassite hymn and Spencean song. Taken at face value the Glassite hymn was an affirmation of equality, in as much as "the kingdom of this world" and its man-made hierarchies and pride had nothing in common with the true church. If poverty in itself was not a virtue it was certainly a neces-sary mark of a righteous man, since all hoarding for the morrow was positively sinful. These were the songs of poor men. When the "brother sinner" enters their humble meeting house he will see there "nothing finer . . . than the guilty clothed with grace" — the man himself.
Ultimately the Millenium was expected to take an entirely material form on the earth, when all the redeemed are naturally all equal, and there is no government because god and man are perfectly at one. The 'Epilogue' to The Constitution of Spensonia may be compared with the picture of the future by William Leighton, a Newcastle elder:
"No hurtful beasts shall then annoy,
All jarring feuds shall melt away.
The child shall with the viper toy,
The lamb with lions frisk and play.
Then he shall set the poor on high,
And part the righteous from the vile ..."
Meanwhile if the Glassite doctrines did not offer anything but hardship and contempt on earth until that general restoration took place, at least it did not justify the oppression and pride of the worldly rich, or teach that the poor should be resigned to a proper and unalterable inequality as did the other churches. The poor could not expect better under the rule of anti christ.
"When you see the world's disdaining
Pouring forth the serpent's rage; Then, companion, think of reigning
When you leave this mortal stage. Twas in this world Christ was rejected
He no place — no quarter had; Say then, can it be expected,
We should loll on downy bed?"
If 'the Jubilee Trumpet' were substituted for 'the Church of the First-born' and 'Tom Spence' for 'Jesus', the following lines by John Glas might easily be change into a Spencean Song like "The Propagation of Spensonian-or Tilley's "The Spencean Jubilee".
"And there 'tis declared, the help of distress'd,
The hope of the hopeless, the ease of oppress'd.
The church of the first-born, with angels of light, Shall sound forth its praises in endless delight.
But fully unfolded it could be by none
But Jesus among them, who knew it alone".
The Coin Collector's Companion, being a descriptive list of the modern provincial political and other copper coins. London. 1795.
Spence's token dies and his coins and blanks punched with his slogans are well known to collectors. Spence issued and dealt in tokens between 1794 and '96 as a sideline in connection with which he issued the above 'Companion', describing his own dies and explaining the meaning of the designs. He was reported in 1796 to have sold his stock and gone bankrupt. Mr. Thompson, of the Numismatic Society, remarks that Spence's finances were probably never sufficient to place him in bankruptcy.
Spence's token dies have been repeatedly studied and listed mainly by numismaticists not interested in his ideas or with any special knowledge of the history of early socialism. But thanks to Spence's singular ability and ingenuity in'finding designs and wording which make their meaning unmistakably clear, what he intended to convey, if not its political significance or historical associations has always been well understood. This fact is in itself evidence that their message would have been even more obvious and more striking for his contemporaries.
Not that this always indicated approval. Thompson has given some amusing quotations from early writers who warned that Spence's tokens were unworthy of the collector's attention. More extraordinary is a modern numismatist who calls Spence "a minor — and crankier — Tom Paine" and takes all the trouble to defend XVIII century enclosures as allegedly good for employment. The reliability of this author as to Spence's biography is as dubious as his economic history. He says for instance that Spence "was never able to enjoy the publicity of a trial". He must have read Water's book with his eyes shut.
Spence developed a form of propaganda which was also used by the vari-ous corresponding societies. Several coins or medals were struck for the LCS, for example, to commemorate the acquittal of Thomas Hardy and others. Some, like the one commemorating Baton's acquittal 14 March, 1794, showing a cock crowing with the names of the jurymen on the reverse, were stamped "struck by order of the London Corresponding Society". Others no doubt were contributions to the cause struck by individual supporters, among whom were many small manufacturers and tradesmen who handled tokens in the way of business. Mr. R. Thompson was, I think, the first to notice that Spence muled his dies in order to give different aspects or particular emphasis to his principles. Token specialists are seldom informed on the history of political thought and historians of socialism are not acquainted with the technical side and generally regard Spence's tokens as of minor importance and not as possible sources of ideas that supplement his writings.
Several designs advertised Spence's publications such as Pigs' Meat, with and without a pig or a book, and with various mottoes. Waters describes a farthing die having a Cat on the obverse and a Book on the reverse, with the inscription "Hark how the trumpet sounds". The Book is described in the Companion as "the Political Bible" i.e. Pigs' Meat. The Meridian Sun is depicted as a disc with radiations. The End of Oppression is symbolized by men dancing around a bonfire of title deeds. An Indian, with the legend "If rents I once consent to pay, My liberty is past away", embodies the ideas on the broadside advertisement of The Reign of Felicity. The Ass with double panniers, inscribed "I was an Ass to bear the first pair"; Balaam's Ass, with "Am I not thy Ass?", and the Bull with Ass's head ridden by George III, are all variations on the theme of the taxed and exploited but passive people. The burdened Ass occurs as a metaphor or similie in many pamphlets, including the Letter from Ralph Hodge which ends with the announcement of Parson Bull's next Sunday sermon, the text of which was doubtless taken from Murray's first "Lecture on Genesis". All editions of Murray's Sermons to Asses have a fine engraving of the indolent Ass resting with the panniers labelled 'Polities' and 'Religion' (i.e. Taxes and Tithes) on the title page. Spence put another pair of panniers on the beast to illustrate his contention that Taxes were an additional imposition resulting from the exaction of Rent by landlords. This Ass with double panniers is the subject of the illustrated broadside, 'The Contract', signed by W. Spence, 1 February, 1796. The Ass who is saying "I'm doomed to endless toil and care; I was an ass to bear the first pair", represents civilization contrasted with the figures of two Indians. A facsimile is given by Waters.
Another die showing a man on all fours with the words "If the law requires it we will walk thus" is also linked with an illustrated broadside by W. Spence found in one of the British Museum copies of Pigs' Meat. It was probably sarcastic reference to falling away of a number of leading reformers during 1795 and 1796, and the general return to the Sedition Act.
The subject of many of Spence's tokens was connected with the French Revolution. "Before the Revolution" depicts a man gnawing a bone chained to a block in a dungeon, presumably the Bastille. "After the Revolution" shows men feasting and dancing under a Tree. There are several variations of the Tree of Liberty, some of them satirical. A Lion with a Cock perched on its rump is inscribed "Let Tyrants tremble at the Crow of Liberty".
There are also Spence tokens in support of the LCS, in honour of Hardy, Thelwall and Home Tooke. One in commemoration of Gordon is again an association with James Murray and a reminder that Spence must have known Gordonites among the members of the LCS.
A soldier and two citizens holding hands inscribed "We also are the people" illustrates the extract from Volney's Ruins printed at the end of the Letter from Ralph Hodge. Three armed men with the legend "Who knows their rights and knowing dare maintain" connects with Sir William Jones's Ode in imitation of Alcaeus", reprinted in Pigs' Meat.
The Plan itself is the subject of several different dies. One has 'Spence's Plan, November 8, 1775' with radiations, a design similar to the Meridian Sun, with an inscription running round the edge in two circles — "Spence's Glorious Plan is parochial Partnership in Land without private landlordism". On the reverse is a hand holding an olive branch, seals, and a cornucopia with "This just plan will produce everlasting peace and happiness or in fact the millenium". Waters noted a token celebrating the Glorious Plan struck at Newcastle, but was in error that it was struck in 1775, the date given as the origin of the Plan, i.e. the date of the Lecture. In fact it is not clear when Spence first used the phrase "Spence's Plan" or "Plan" in this way.
The token designs, then, are a visual record of many of Spence's favourite images, quotations, titles and ideas. Fortunate in the engraver, Charles James, who executed them, they are miniature political poems — lyrical, like the peace and happiness of Spensonia represented by a shepherd on a hill, or satirical, like Pandora's breeches or Pitt's head impaled on a tree of liberty. These designs contributed to a traditional symbolism of early socialist literature and art, and the figures would have conveyed similar associations thirty and forty years later. The themes and images were not all invented by Spence but were derived from many sources. He gave them a fresh meaning and often a humorous twist.
Typical of an old motif to which he gave a special meaning and which lasted long after him, was the murder of Abel, with the legend 'The Beginning of Oppression', i.e. the first crime of violence, the robbery of the land, which had divided society. It was a symbol of the unending war on the working people. "Abel seemed to resemble the Commonalty, Cain the Nobility, who being according to the Flesh, proud and cruel and a persecutor of him that was according to the spirit, meek and gentle, slew his brother". The Adam and Eve design was also given a complex significance. Standing for the innocence of the earthly paradise, the pair correspond to natural man or the condition of natural right, but they also by association recall the Fall of Man, and Milton's words, which are used for the legend, "Man over Man made he not Lord", affirm that the natural or desirable state is social equality.
Spence's head in profile appears on several tokens with different inscriptions, referring to his imprisonment for High Treason and signed 'James'. A number of copies of an engraved portrait survived in some copies of his works and separately. A specimen in Newcastle Public Library signed 'T. Spence, April 2, 1810' seems to be identical with the one owned and described by Waters. It is similar to the portrait on the tokens except that the head faces in the opposite direction. Hence it does not represent Spence as he appeared in 1810 at the age of sixty, but as he was 15 or 20 years earlier, round about 1795. Edwards, the government spy who brought Thistlewood and his companions to the gallows, sold plaster casts of Spence's bust. None of these are known to have survived.
Spence supplied his brother Jeremiah with tokens or with dies from which the latter had tokens made, e.g. a sailor with the legend 'J. Spence Slopseller Newcastle' signed 'James', with a man in a keel and 'Coaly Tyne' and the date 1795 on the reverse. Several halfpenny and farthing dies made for J. Spence have been described.
Spence also supplied himself with punches cut with short phrases which could be combined to form a variety of slogans. With these he countermarked current coin or stamped blanks specially supplied for that purpose, pro-ducing remarks like 'War is starvation', 'Read Spence's Plan. Small Farms', 'Landlords and starvation', 'Full bellies, fat bairns. No landlords and 'War or Spence's Plan'.
While The Coin Collector's Companion shows that Spence wished to sell to collectors, the dies themselves and the punched slogans show that the main purpose was political instruction. It is said that he produced large quantities of tokens and that he sometimes threw handfuls out of the win-dow for passers-by to pick up. A medal was given free to purchasers of the first number of The Giant-Killer and tokens were distributed at his funeral, but whether these were old stock or newly cast is not clear. It does not necessarily mean that he had large stocks left over. The tokens then merely underline his persistent single-minded and single-handed endeavour to make known his discovery to the world by every means within his power.
P.M. ASHRAF 1983
LET TYRANTS TREMBLE AT THE CROW OF LIBERTY
[French cock and British lion]