Thomas Spence The Political Works

ISBN 13: 9780907977025

The Political Works

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A collection of pamphlets, broadsheets, poems, songs and periodicals written by Thomas Spence during the awakening of democratic movements in England from 1775 to 1815. Inclusion of such a full range of pamphlets emphasizes how wide-ranging and advanced were Spence's ideas, reaching more closely towards the concept of the welfare state than better known figures such as Thomas Paine. Spence advocated the public provision of housing, assembly rooms, schools, libraries, hospitals, theatres, granaries and swimming baths, public assistance for the aged, sick and unemployed. He was one of the few men to consider that suffrage should be extended to women and children as well as all men. At the same time he was unique in recognizing the fallibility of basing a radical revolution only upon political measures such as the secret ballot or parliamentary reform. He saw that economic change was equally necessary. The editor reveals that Spence rarely supported violence as a means of change and yet was more fundamentally dangerous to the order of things than his more famous contemporaries Place, Watson or Thistlewood.

Frequently imprisoned, nevertheless he remained outspoken even to the extent of reprinting upon his release a text which had brought him a year's servitude in 1801. He became the centre until his death of those who continued radical opposition after the repressive measures of the late 1790s and his disciples were to form the most violently disposed group during the crisis after 1815, culminating in the Cato Street conspiracy of 1820.

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