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Spensonia : The Republic in Fairyland

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2017 10:53 pm    Post subject: Spensonia : The Republic in Fairyland Reply with quote




Spensonia is a fictional Utopian country created by the English author and political reformer Thomas Spence. Spence laid out his ideas about Spensonia in a series of literary works published in the late 18th century:

A Supplement to the History of Robinson Crusoe (1782)
A Marine Republic, or A Description of Spensonia (1794)
The Constitution of a Perfect Commonwealth (1798)
The Constitution of Spensonia: A Country in Fairyland Situated Between Utopia and Oceana (1801)
The Receipt to Make a Millenium or Happy World (1805).

Spence issued these works in several editions, creating a complex bibliography. Since he also developed and advocated his own scheme of language reform, he released his Spensonian works in both standard spelling texts and in his own Spensonian alphabet.

Spence's utopian writings are significant in that he was the first to apply Enlightenment ideas about democracy and majority rule to the genre, and also the first to attempt a utopian response to the Industrial Revolution. Spence's utopian works "were directed explicitly at the major institutions, economic and political, of the time. In so doing he provided the model of most future utopias."


Spence united these utopian writings with a frame story about shipwrecked English mariners. When a ship carrying English merchant brothers is stranded on a remote island, the brothers decide to take the arrangement they had aboard ship, the "Marine Constitution" given to them by their father, and apply it to their life on land; and so they create a commonwealth of collective ownership. The land of the island is the property of the collective, and individuals rent it for their own uses. They organize their own democratic government to manage their new social system.

Their society thrives and flourishes. Men and women are equal. Spensonia maintains cordial relations with other republics, and extends political asylum to refugees from tyranny. There is an official religion, a sort of vague deism, though all other religions are tolerated.

News of the island of Spensonia is brought back to England by a figure named Captain Swallow.



Thomas Spence ( June 21 Old Style/ July 2 New Style, 1750 – September 8, 1814 ) was an English Radical and advocate of the common ownership of land. ... Spence was one of the leading English revolutionaries of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Spence was born in poverty and died the same way, after long periods of imprisonment, in 1814. ... At the centre of Spence's work was his Plan, known as 'Spence's Plan'. The Plan has a number of features, including:

The end of aristocracy and landlords;
All land should be publicly owned by 'democratic parishes', which should be largely self-governing;
Rents of land in parishes to be shared equally amongst parishioners, as a form of social dividend;
Universal suffrage (including female suffrage) at both parish level and through a system of deputies elected by parishes to a national senate;
A 'social guarantee' extended to provide income for those unable to work;
The 'rights of infants' to be free from abuse and poverty.

Spence's Plan was first published in his penny pamphlet Property in Land Every One's Right in 1775. It was re-issued as The Real Rights of Man in later editions. It was also reissued by, amongst others, Henry Hyndman under the title of The Nationalization of the Land in 1795 and 1882. ...

... Spence may have been the first Englishman to speak of 'the rights of man'. The following recollection, composed in the third person, was written by Spence while he was in prison in London in 1794 on a charge of High Treason. Spence was, he wrote,

" the first, who as far as he knows, made use of the phrase "RIGHTS OF MAN", which was on the following remarkable occasion: A man who had been a farmer, and also a miner, and who had been ill-used by his landlords, dug a cave for himself by the seaside, at Marsdon Rocks, between Shields and Sunderland, about the year 1780, and the singularity of such a habitation, exciting the curiosity of many to pay him a visit; our author was one of that number. Exulting in the idea of a human being, who had bravely emancipated himself from the iron fangs of aristocracy, to live free from impost, he wrote extempore with chaulk above the fire place of this free man, the following lines:

Ye landlords vile, whose man's peace mar,
Come levy rents here if you can;
Your stewards and lawyers I defy,
And live with all the RIGHTS OF MAN."

... Spence explored his political and social concepts in a series of books about the fictional Utopian state of Spensonia. ... Spence left Newcastle for London in 1787. He kept a book-stall in High Holborn. In 1794 he spent seven months in Newgate Gaol on a charge of High Treason, and in 1801 he was sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment for seditious libel. He died in London on 8 September 1814.

His admirers formed a "Society of Spencean Philanthropists," of which some account is given in Harriet Martineau's England During the Thirty Years' Peace. The African Caribbean activists William Davidson and Robert Wedderburn were drawn to this political group. The Society of Spencean Philanthropists (including Arthur Thistlewood) were involved in the Cato Street Conspiracy of 1820.

[ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cato_Street_Conspiracy ]

Spence's angry defence of the rights of children has lost little of its potency. When his The Rights of Infants was published in 1797 ( as a response to Thomas Paine's Agrarian Justice ) it was ahead of its time. In this essay Spence proposes the introduction of an unconditional basic income to all members of the community. Such allowance shall be financed throughout the commonization of land and the benefits of the rents perceived by each municipality. ... Spence was a self-taught radical with a deep regard for education as a means to liberation. He pioneered a phonetic script and pronunciation system designed to allow people to learn reading and pronunciation at the same time. He believed that if the correct pronunciation was visible in the spelling, everyone would pronounce English correctly, and the class distinctions carried by language would cease. This would bring a time of equality, peace and plenty: the millennium. He published the first English dictionary with pronunciations (1775) and made phonetic versions of many of his pamphlets.


mmm ... The point about a bunch of people landing on an island together is that nobody has a better claim to own land than another - and they need each other's help to develop it so their common interest in the land is obvious as is how much work each puts in - healthy or sick or injured etc


Georgism, also called geoism and single tax ( archaic ), is an economic philosophy holding that, while people should own the value they produce themselves, economic value derived from land (including natural resources and natural opportunities) should belong equally to all members of society. Developed from the writings of Henry George, the Georgist paradigm offers solutions to social and ecological problems, relying on principles of land rights and public finance which attempt to integrate economic efficiency with social justice ... [ LOTS TO READ ABOUT THAT ]

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