Utopian Society Thinkers Thomas Spence Part 2

About the famous utopian thinker Thomas Spence and history of his planned utopia Oceana.


THOMAS SPENCE (1750-1814)

Not long after his arrival in London, he was again put in jail--this time for selling Thomas Paine's Rights of Man. That was the first of several London jail terms, all for political activities.

In 1814 Spence died of a bowel complaint. Riding before his coffin in the funeral procession was a pair of scales with dirt in each balance (to represent the justice of his ideas on land reform), wrapped in white ribbons (to represent innocence).

His utopian works are A Description of Spenconia (1795) and The Constitution of Spenconia (1801).


Spenconia was an island, on which a group of brothers were shipwrecked. The brothers divided up the land and determined proper rents for each piece; the rents were used partly to pay the expenses of government and partly for dividends to stockholders (all the citizens).

Each parish, a landholding unit of reasonable size, acted as a landlord, building and repairing roads and houses as well as planting hedges and trees. A National Assembly, consisting of delegates from the parishes, took care of overall concerns.

Spenconia differed radically from the England of Spence's time not only in land division but also in its custom of voting by ballot and in its recognition of the rights of women. Men were trained to bear arms to defend the parishes.

Spence's utopia represented a completely new beginning, which he compared to a pair of shoes: "Thousands of abortive schemes are daily proposed for redressing grievances and mending the constitution, whereas, the shoes were so ill-made at first, and so worn, rotten, and patched already, that they are not worth the trouble or expense, but ought to be thrown to the dunghill; and a new pair should be made, neat, tight, and easy for the foot of one that loves freedom and ease."

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