1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Spence, Thomas

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SPENCE, THOMAS (1750-1814), inventor of a system of land nationalization, was born at Newcastle-on-Tyne on the 21st of June 1750, the son of a Scottish netmaker and shoemaker. A dispute in connexion with common land rights at Newcastle impelled him to the study of the land question. His scheme was not for land nationalization proper, but for the establishment of self-contained parochial communities, in which rent paid to the corporation, in which the absolute ownership of the land was vested, should be the only tax of any kind. His pamphlet, The Meridian Sun of Liberty, which was first hawked in Newcastle, appeared in London in 1793; it was reissued by Mr H. M. Hyndman under the title of The Nationalization of the Land in 1775 and 1882. Spence presently left Newcastle for London, where he kept a bookstall in High Holborn. In 1784 he spent six months in Newgate gaol for the publication of a pamphlet distasteful to the authorities, and in 1801 he was sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment for seditious libel in connexion with his pamphlet entitled The Restorer of Society to its Natural State. He died in London on the 8th of 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.

See also Davenport, Life, Writings and Principles of Thomas Spence (London, 1836).