Agrarian Justice

Thomas PAINE

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"AN ARMY OF PRINCIPLES WILL PENETRATE WHERE AN ARMY OF SOLDIERS CANNOT": EXCEEDINGLY SCARCE FIRST AMERICAN EDITION OF PAINE'S AGRARIAN JUSTICE, 1797

PAINE, Thomas. Agrarian Justice, Opposed to Agrarian Law, and to Agrarian Monopoly, Being a Plan For Meliorating the Condition of Man, By Creating in every Nation, a National Fund… Philadelphia: Printed by R. Folwell, For Benjamin Franklin Bache, (1797). Slim octavo, period-style blue-gray paper wrappers; pp. 32. $3800.

Preferred first American edition of Paine's bold expansion of economic principles introduced in Rights of Man Part II, qualifying the economic approach of Adam Smith by arguing the need for a "republic with a new idea of 'moral economy,'" with Jefferson possessing a copy of this Philadelphia edition in his library.

Seen as the father of Social Security, Paine "was an admirer of Adam Smith and believed in economic liberalism, but his belief was inseparable from the idea that some kind of compensation should be granted by the community to those who were victimized by the system of property accumulation… This compensation was the price to pay for social peace" (Vincent, Transatlantic Republican, 128). Agrarian Justice contains "one of the first arguments in favor of government policies to promote a redistributive 'stakeholder society.'" Insisting civilization comes with both costs and benefits, Paine proposes a "stake" of 15 pounds be given at the age of 21; those above 50 and the disabled would be paid ten pounds a year (Bronstein, Two Nations, 12).

Paine's work notably appealed to Jefferson by reconciling "economic liberty and republic with a new idea of 'moral economy.' It was within this that Paine developed the main points of a welfare policy, which was to be one of the chief objectives of a republican state, and which he had introduced in the second part of the Rights of Man" (Albertone, National Identity, 218). It was written when most believed laborers without property should be denied the right to vote because dependence on others made them unable to think freely. "Paine stood this old argument on its head. Instead of denying the franchise to those who currently depend politically on the rich, the dependents should be granted monetary independence. That universal guarantee of a right to a basic citizen's income would then require… a universal franchise" (Keane, Tom Paine, 427). On reading it, William Blake likened Paine to Jesus Christ as "a worker of miracles" (Erdman, Blake, Prophet Against Empire, 277). First issued in Paris, 1797, with text in French; the first edition in English was published in London in the same year. "This edition does not contain the Address to the Legislature, but does have the Preface of the London edition, with its deletions" (Gimbel-Yale 112). Jefferson had a copy of this Philadelphia edition in his library. This preferred American edition published along with same year's Baltimore edition, no priority established. ESTC W31709. Evans 32630. Howes P21. Sowerby 3187. Gimbel-Paine, 38-39. See Evans 32629. Title page with small upper excision removing early owner signature, not affecting text: containing inscribed date of "July 1st, 179["7" or "9"].

Text generally fresh with light scattered foxing, very faint occasional marginal dampstaining. An extremely good copy of this highly elusive Paine work.

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