Michael Zeleny (larvatus) wrote,
Michael Zeleny

the founding fathers on spreading the wealth

“The Description you give of the Company and Manner of living in Scotland, would almost tempt me to remove thither. Your Sentiments of the general Foible of Mankind in the Pursuit of Wealth to no End, are expressed in a Manner that gave me great Pleasure in reading; They are extremely just; at least they are perfectly agreeable to mine. But London Citizens, they say, are ambitious of what they call dying worth a great Sum. The very Notion seems to me absurd; and just the same as if a Man should run in Debt for 1000 Superfluities, to the End that when he should be stript of all, and imprisoned by his Creditors, it might be said he broke worth a great Sum. I imagine that what we have above what we can use, is not properly ours, tho’ we possess it, and that the rich Man who must die was no more worth what he leaves than the Debtor who must pay.”
Benjamin Franklin to William Strahan, Philadelphia, 2 June 1750

“Is it supposed that wisdom is the necessary concomitant of riches, and that one man worth a thousand pounds must have as much wisdom as twenty who have each only nine hundred and ninety-nine; and why is property to be represented at all? Suppose one of our Indian nations should now agree to form a civil society; each individual would bring into the stock of the society little more property than his gun and his blanket, for at present he has no other. We know, that, when one of them has attempted to keep a few swine, he has not been able to maintain a property in them, his neighbours thinking they have a right to kill and eat them whenever they want provision, it being one of their maxims that hunting is free for all; the accumulation therefore of property in such a society, and its security to individuals in every society, must be an effect of the protection afforded to it by the joint strength of the society, in the execution of its laws. Private property therefore is a creature of society, and is subject to the calls of that society whenever its necessities shall require it, even to its last farthing; its contributions to the public exigencies are not to be considered as conferring a benefit on the public, entitling the contributors to the distinctions of honor and power, but as the return of an obligation previously received, or the payment of a just debt.”

“The great object should be to combat the evil: 1. By establishing a political equality among all. 2. By withholding unnecessary opportunities from a few, to increase the inequality of property, by an immoderate, and especially an unmerited, accumulation of riches. 3. By the silent operation of laws, which, without violating the rights of property, reduce extreme wealth towards a state of mediocrity, and raise extreme indigence towards a state of comfort. 4. By abstaining from measures which operate differently on different interests, and particularly such as favor one interest at the expence of another. 5. By making one party a check on the other, so far as the existence of parties cannot be prevented, nor their views accommodated. If this is not the language of reason, it is that of republicanism.”

“Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, & to tax the higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they rise.”
Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, Fontainbleau, 28 October 1795

“You ask my opinion of the propriety of giving publicity to what is stated in your letter, as having passed between Mr. John Q. Adams and yourself. Of this no one can judge but yourself. It is one of those questions which belong to the forum of feeling. This alone can decide on the degree of confidence implied in the disclosure; whether under no circumstances it was to be communicated to others? It does not seem to be of that character, or at all to wear that aspect. They are historical facts which belong to the present, as well as future times. I doubt whether a single fact, known to the world, will carry as clear conviction to it, of the correctness of our knowledge of the treasonable views of the federal party of that day, as that disclosed by this, the most nefarious and daring attempt to dissever the Union, of which the Hartford convention was a subsequent chapter: and both of these having failed, consolidation becomes the fourth chapter of the next book of their history. But this opens with a vast accession of strength from their younger recruits, who, having nothing in them of the feelings or principles of ’76, now look to a single and splendid government of an aristocracy, founded on banking institutions, and monied incorporations under the guise and cloak of their favored branches of manufactures, commerce and navigation, riding and ruling over the plundered ploughman and beggared yeomanry. This will be to them a next best blessing to the monarchy of their first aim, and perhaps the surest stepping stone to it.”
Thomas Jefferson to William B. Giles, Monticello, 26 December 1825
Tags: america, communism, exceptionalism, history, politics

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