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AUGUST & NOVEMBER, 1830.
ART. I.-1. Popular Political Economy. By THOMAS HODGSKIN. 268 pages. 8vo. London. 1827.
2. Observations on the sources and effects of unequal Wealth. By L. BYLLESBY. 167 pages. 8vo. New-York. 1826.
3. The Rights of Man to Property: being a proposition to make it equal among the adults of the present generation; and to provide for its equal transmission to every individual of each succeeding generation on arriving at years of maturity. By THOMAS SKIDMORE. 485 pages. 12mo. New-York. 1829.
4. Essays on Education, contained in the "Free Enquirer" of New-York. Edited by FRANCES WRIGHT and ROBERT DALE OWEN, (for the month of May, 1830.)
5. Same in the "New-York Daily Sentinel," for the month of May, 1830. Edited by ANDREWS, STANLEY & Co, and the Mechanics' Free Press, Philadelphia.
6. "The Friend of Equal Rights." A daily newspaper, edited at New-York by ALEXANDER MING, Senior, and THOMAS SKIDMORE. Motto" All children have equal rights to maintenance and education: all mankind at the age of maturity to equal property." First number published April 24, 1830.
IT is not by the size of a book that its importance in this country is to be estimated. There is no book published in the United States of equal importance in its effects upon public. opinion as a well conducted newspaper of extensive circulation. VOL. VI. NO. 11. 1
However objectionable to us, are the opinions propagated in the publications (newspapers included) above enumerated, they are propagated with the zeal of men who are in earnest; of men who are manifestly persuaded that they are well founded; who, however mistaken, have brought to the work great energy and undoubted talent. We are inclined to believe, that the next election in the city of New York will shew that the votaries of the doctrines advocated in the Daily Sentinel, will amount to between one-third and one-half of the voters of that city, forming a political party of and for themselves, and quite independent of the political parties usually before the public, whether as advocates of men or of measures.
In the tenth chapter of the first of these works, p. 236, there is an attempt to prove, that as all produce is the exclusive produce of labour-that as capital, in whatever form it may appear, is of itself absolutely useless and unproductive, as it is a mere instrument in the hands of the operative or labourer, the whole value of the article produced belongs to the latter, and the capitalist is not of right entitled to any share in the price or value of the production—that if he insists on dividing that price with the operative, it is a fraud and robbery committed on the latter, it is an injury to society by enabling the idle non-producer to live on the labour of those who produce--that no right whatever appertains to him who has saved or in any way accumulated capital, to transmit it to his posterity—that in fact, all capital saved, may be considered as saved and accumulated out of the fraud committed on the operative and producer, who is alone to be regarded as the source of all private and all public wealth, and to whom alone belongs the article produced, and the price it sells for. Hence the profit derived from capital, whether in the form of interest of money, of rent, or in any other way, is to be regarded as an unfair advantage taken of the producer, who is thus reduced in his emoluments, and deprived of the one-half of the fruits of his earnings.
All these notions are maintained also by Mr. Byllesby; who regards the invention of money, of banks, of labour-saving machinery, and of profits received by those who do not actually contribute labour for labour, as the sources of the widely extended misery now complained of in Great Britain and this country particularly. He adverts with commendation to a book we have not yet scen, “ Thompson's Inquiry into the principles of the distribution of wealth, most conducive to human happiness.” In this book, Mr. Thompson, it seems, among other complaints against existing evils, inveighs strongly against the privilege of directing the future distribution of property by will.
Messrs. Skidmore and Ming go further. They propose a convention to be held, which shall order (inter alia) pp. 137–144
An immediate abolition of all debts.
An inventory of all real and personal property within the State.
A census of all the inhabitants, white or black.
An equal division of all the property, real and personal, among such citizens, indiscriminately, as have attained the age of eighteen, without regard to colour.
An apportionment of a full share to every citizen as he shall hereafter arrive at the age of eighteen.
The abolition of all interest on money, and the right of making wills.
When any person dies, leaving a widow or widower, the survivor is to retain half the sum of their joint property; the other half is to go to the public administrator assigned to take charge of the effects of all deceased persons.
An annual dividend, forever, shall be made of such public property, among citizens who shall arrive at the age of eighteen.
Every such citizen may afterwards reside within the state or elsewhere as he sees fit.
There are eleven other provisions in this plan which we do not think it necessary to copy.
In p. 382, et seq. Mr. Skidmore discusses the benefits and evils of labour-saving machinery; and decides against their utility to society, inasmuch as they decrease the value of human labour, by superseding its necessity. He then proposes a remedy as follows:-"The steam-engine is not injurious to the poor, when they can have the benefit of it; and this, on supposition, being always the case, instead of being looked on as a curse, should be regarded as a blessing. If then it is seen that the steam-engine is likely greatly to impoverish or destroy the poor, what have they to do but to lay hold of it and make it their own? Let them appropriate also, in the same way, the cotton factories, the woollen factories, the iron founderies, the rolling mills, houses, churches, ships, goods, steam-boats, fields of agriculture, &c. &c. in manner as proposed in this work, and as is their right, and they will never have occasion any more to consider that as an evil which never deserved that character ; which, on the contrary, is all that is good among men, and of which we cannot, under these new circumstances, have too much. It is an equal division of property that makes all right; and equal transmissions of it to posterity, that keeps it so.”
These remedies for the evils of society, recommended by Messrs. Skidmore and Ming, appear somewhat too violent to