Thomas Jefferson–Letter to James Madison – October 28, 1785

25 Oct

Wondering how Paul Ryan would spin this. Because there’s really only one concept that I, personally, can take from it.   (I’m sure both Beck and Ryan could be creative with it, though— it’s what they do)

Refreshing to read something from a man that was concerned with the well-being of all.  Disturbing to know that he would be labeled a socialist, or worse, by the republican/conservative/bagger leadership today.

The whole letter

“The property of this country is absolutely concentered in a very few hands,
having revenues of from half a million of guineas a year downwards. These employ
the flower of the country as servants, some of them having as many as 200
domestics, not labouring. They employ also a great number of manufacturers, and
tradesmen, and lastly the class of labouring husbandmen. But after all these
comes the most numerous of all the classes, that is, the poor who cannot find
work. I asked myself what could be the reason that so many should be permitted
to beg who are willing to work, in a country where there is a very considerable
proportion of uncultivated lands? These lands are kept idle mostly for the aske
of game. It should seem then that it must be because of the enormous wealth of
the proprietors which places them above attention to the increase of their
revenues by permitting these lands to be laboured. I am conscious that an equal
division of property is impracticable. But the consequences of this enormous
inequality producing so much misery to the bulk of mankind, legislators cannot
invent too many devices for subdividing property, only taking care to let their
subdivisions go hand in hand with the natural affections of the human mind. The
descent of property of every kind therefore to all the children, or to all the
brothers and sisters, or other relations in equal degree is a politic measure,
and a practicable one. Another means of silently lessening the inequality of
property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the
higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they rise. Whenever
there is in any country, uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear
that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right.
The earth is given as a common stock for man to labour and live on. If, for the
encouragement of industry we allow it to be appropriated, we must take care that
other employment be furnished to those excluded from the appropriation. If we do
not the fundamental right to labour the earth returns to the unemployed. It is
too soon yet in our country to say that every man who cannot find employment but
who can find uncultivated land, shall be at liberty to cultivate it, paying a
moderate rent. But it is not too soon to provide by every possible means that as
few as possible shall be without a little portion of land. The small landholders
are the most precious part of a state.”

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Posted by on October 25, 2011 in Uncategorized


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