Thomas Spence

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Spence, Thomas


Born June 21,1750, in Newcastle-on-Tyne; died Sept. 8,1814, in London. English Utopian socialist and economist.

Spence was influenced by the theorists of natural law. In his pamphlet The Real Rights of Man (1775), he supported the abolition of private ownership and the transfer of land to church parishes for free rental to parishioners. He considered it thus possible to create a new social structure—a free association of self-governing communities. Spence was repeatedly subjected to repression. His teachings influenced R. Owen.


Volgin, V. P. Istoriia sotsialisticheskikh idei, part 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1928.
Cherniak, E. B. Massovoe dvizhenie v Anglii i Irlandii v kontse XVIII-nachaleXIX v. Moscow, 1962.
Rudkin, O. D. Thomas Spence. New York, 1927.
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In the figure of Allen Davenport (1775-1846), given due weight here for the first time, the distance between the Spenceans as the first representatives of an "interventionist" poetry and their Chartist successors is effectively bridged.
Lintons Republicanism was as principled as Harney's, and he wrote poems no less anti-militaristic and hostile to economic liberalism than Wright, with a view of landed property that is thoroughly Spencean ("[the] earth, its mines, its thousand streams .
Jacobins and Spenceans, feminists and republicans were driven to silence.
We might say the same for the propensity of at least some would-be Spenceans for secret meetings and plots.
In The People's Farm (1988) he argues that, after Cato Street, the Spenceans returned to first principles and went on to help shape Chartism, Owenism and the co-operative movement.
Moreover, three years after his death an Act of Parliament was passed prohibiting 'All societies or clubs calling themselves Spencean or Spencean Philanthropists'.
In 1820 they became involved in the Cato Street Conspiracy, a threat to assassinate Government ministers which led to five Spenceans being executed for treason.
It was through this book that he developed the Spencean Philanthropy.
On the Spenceans, see Malcolm Chase, The People's Farm: English Radical Agrarianism, 1775-1840 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988); Thomas Spence, Pigs' Meat; 3 vols.
Whilst in practical terms, therefore, the history of the Spenceans is a history of failure, with events falling far short of their dreams of total revolution, at a discursive level Worrall can celebrate apparent success.
In a series of interconnected historical narratives, he introduces the reader to politically committed and frequently flamboyant figures, including not only Spence himself but also, for example, the black Spencean orator Robert Wedderburn, whose dedication to the cause of armed revolution was seen as a real threat to the political status quo during these turbulent years.
The complete failure of the reformed state to adopt Cobbettite prescriptions for remedying the dreadful plight of the rural working class, in favour of doctrinal laissez-faire solutions abolishing public make-work schemes, critical child-benefits and most other allowances in-aid-of desultory wages, with the notorious Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, drove Cobbett in the last year of his life into advocating fundamentalist solutions almost at one with the land nationalization advocated by the Spenceans, once a target of Pittite tyranny.