The rights of infants; or, the imprescriptable right of mothers to such a share of the elements as is sufficient to enable them to suckle and bring up their young in a dialogue between the aristocracy and a mother of children. To which are added, by way of preface and appendix, strictures on Paine's Agrarian justice. By T. Spence,:
Spence, Thomas, 1750-1814.
Page  [unnumbered]


AT last Mr. Paine has thought fit to own, with the Psalmist, and with Mr. Locke, that

God hath given the earth to the children of men, given it to mankind in common

This is a truth so indisputable, and which I always thought of such vast importance for mankind universally to understand and acknow∣ledge, that I have indefatigably embraced every opportunity, from my youth up, to publish it, together with the most consistent plan that I could form thereon.

I am glad that Mr. Paine has, even though late, made this acknow∣ledgement, because his celebrity will procure him many readers, and greatly add both to the investigation of this great fundamental truth, and of such philosophical superstructures as may be built on the same. But as to the plan that lie has laid down in his AGRARIAN JUSTICE (where he first acknowledges this principle) it does not appear to me to be in any measure just or satisfactory. The principle is without doubt incomparably grand, and the very first maxim in the law of nature, and in the science of right and wrong, and is fraught with all the blessings that can render mankind happy on earth. But, O dire disappointment! Behold! Mr. Paine, instead of erecting on this rock of ages an everlasting Temple of Justice, has erected an execrable fabric of compromissory expediency, as if in good earnest intended for a Swinish Multitude.

The poor, beggarly slipends which he would have us to accept of in lieu of our lordly and just pretensions to the soil of our birth, are so contemptible and insulting, that I shall leave them to the scorn of every person conscious of the dignity of his nature, not detaining the reader from the perusal of the following little tract on the Rights of Infants, where men who dare contemplate their rights, may see them pourtrayed boldly at full length.

The more I contemplate human affairs, the more I am convinced that a landed interest is incompatible with the happiness and indepen∣dence of the world. For as all the rivers run into the sea, and yet the sea is not full, so let there be ever so many sources of wealth, let trade, foreign and domestic, open all their fluices, yet will no other but the landed interest he ultimately the better.

In whatever line of business, or in whatever situation the public observe men thrive, thither every one presses, and in competition bid over each other's head for the houses and shops on the lucky spo, Page  4thereby raising the rents till the landlord gets the whole fat of their labours. It is the same in respect to the farms; for if a profitable market, foreign or domestic, spring up for the produce of the earth, then farming will be the rage, and every one will over bid another for farms, till they can hardly live by them. Nay, even abolish the tythes, and the rents of the farms will immediately so advance that the whole advantage shall center in the landlords.

Thus all things work togethe for good to those who love God, which seems to be fully accomplished in the landed interest, who are the visible elect. Yes, for theirs are all things whether the sta••, the government or the dignities; the principalities, or the powers. All dominion is rooted and grounded in land, and thence spring every kind of lordship which overtops and choaks all the shrubs and flowers of the forest. But take away those tall, those overbearing ariflocratic trees, and then the lowly plants of the soil will have air, will thrive and grow robust. Nevertheless, take care you leave not any roots of those lordly plants in the earth, for though cut down to the slump like Nebuchaduezzar, yet if any vestage of the system remain, any fibre of the accursed roots, though ever so small lie concealed in the soil, they would sprout again and soon recover their pristine vigour, to the overshadowing and destruction of all the undergrowth. Thus do philosophy and the purest philanthropy compel us to cradicate this baneful order from human society.

Whether my plan of enjoying man's rights, which I have been publishing in different ways for more than twenty years, be objecti∣onable or no, it is certain it has never been answered; neither have I seen or heard of any arguments on the subject, but what have only more effectually convinced me that no system can be more universally just even to those it seems most to militate against; more easily estab∣lished, because it is the interest of every one not to oppose it; nor of course more likely afterwards to be more peaceful and permanent.

If I am wrong, let me be confuted; and if I am not, let mankind for their own sakes, pay attention to what I say. They ought at least to give me credit for my disinterestedness in this scheme, for according to it I can have no private landed estate, no tenants to work for me, nor claim any privilege above my fellow-citizens. Wherefore, before any be so ungenerous as to condemn me as presumptuous, I hope they will candidly weigh my several arguments which they will find in the various little things I have published, which are neither many nor dear, and in the following Rights of Infants.


LONDON, March 19th, 1797.