Hodgskin, Thomas

1843 LS of the English "socialist" reformer inviting a prominent Chartist activist to his lecture advocating repeal of the Corn Laws

Price: $60.00

Description:
(1787-1869) English socialist (in the late 19th-early 20th centuries, "socialist" included any opponent of a political system built on privileges for the owners of capital), writer on political economy, critic of capitalism, defender of free trade and early trade unions. He joined the navy at 12 rising to first lieutenant. he ran into trouble with his superiors, was court- martialed and dismissal in 1812. This led to his 1st book, "An Essay on Naval Discipline" (1813), a scathing critique of the navy's brutal authoritarian regime. Entering Edinburgh University, he later came to London in 1815 and entered the utilitarian circle around Francis Place, Jeremy Bentham, and James Mill. After 5 years traveling and studying in Europe he wrote his 2nd book, "Travels in North Germany" (1820). After 3 years in Edinburgh, Hodgskin returned to London in 1823 as a journalist. His views on political economy diverged from the utilitarian orthodoxy of David Ricardo and James Mill. During the controversy around parliamentary acts to legalize then ban worker's "combinations", Mill and Ricardo favored the ban while Hodgskin supported the right to organize. He used Ricardo's labor theory of value to denounce appropriation of the most part of value produced by industrial workers' labor as illegitimate. He propounded his views in lectures at the London Mechanics Institute (later renamed Birkbeck University of London). He published these lectures and debates as "Labour Defended against the Claims of Capital" (1825), "Popular Political Economy" (1827) and "Natural and Artificial Right of Property Contrasted" (1832). His criticism of employer appropriation of the lion's share of the value produced by their employees influenced subsequent generations of socialists, including Karl Marx. In 1823, He co-founded the "Mechanics Magazine". In the Oct. 1823 edition, Hodgskin and Francis Place wrote a manifesto for a Mechanics Institute, more than a technical school, a place where practical studies could be combined with reflection about the condition of society. The idea was taken over by less radical people concerned about Hodgskin's unorthodox economic views, including Glasgow educator George Birkbeck. Despite his high profile in the revolutionary times of the 1820s, he retreated into Whig journalism after the 1832 Reform Act. He became a free trade advocate and spent 15 years writing for The Economist with founder James Wilson, and the young Hebert Spencer. Hodgskin viewed the demise of the Corn Laws as the first step to the downfall of government, and his libertarian anarchism was regarded as too radical by many liberals in the Anti-Corn Law League. He left The Economist in 1857, but worked as a journalist to his death. The Corn Laws ("corn" included any grain that requires grinding, especially wheat) were enforced in Britain 1815-46. The Corn Laws enhanced profits and political power associated with land ownership; their abolition saw a significant increase of free trade. They imposed restrictions and tariffs on imported grain, keeping prices high to favor domestic producers. The laws raised food prices and became the focus of opposition from urban groups with far less political power than rural Britain. The Corn Laws imposed steep import duties making it too expensive to import grain from abroad, even when food supplies were short. The laws were supported by Conservative landowners and opposed by Whig industrialists and workers. The Anti-Corn Law League was a national middle-class moral crusade with a Utopian vision. The first 2 years of the 1845-52 Irish famine forced a resolution because of the urgent need for new food supplies. Conservative Prime Minister Peel achieved repeal with support of Whigs in Parliament, overcoming opposition of most of his own party. The price of grain was central to the price of the most important food staple, bread, and workingmen spent much of their wages on bread. The political issue was a dispute between landowners (heavily over-represented in Parliament, who wanted to maximize profits by keeping prices high) and the new class of manufacturers and industrial workers (under-represented and wishing to maximize their profit from manufacture by reducing wages they paid their factory workers, but men could not work in factories if wages could not feed them and their families; in practice, high grain prices kept factory wages high). LS, 1-3/4pp (1st and 2nd pages (7 1/4 x 4 1/2) of folded black-bordered sheet, Islington (London), January 29 1843, to Mr. (William) Lovett. Hodgskin invites Lovett to attend Hodgskin's lecture "in favour of the total and immediate repeal of the Corn and Provision Laws" at White Conduit House on the 31st at 8pm. Hodgskin begs Lovett to use his "great influence with your friends and followers to induce them to attend and give me a fair hearing." WILLIAM LOVETT (1800-1877) British activist best known for his role in the Chartist movement, an 1838-50 campaign for parliamentary reforms to correct inequities remaining after the 1832 Reform Act. A self-educated member of the Cabinetmakers Society and later its President, he rose to national political prominence as founder of the Anti-Militia Association ("no vote, no musket") and was active in wider trade unionism through the Metropolitan Trades Union and Owenite socialism. In 1831, during Reform Act agitation, he helped form the National Union of the working Classes. After the passage of the Reform Act he campaigned to repeal taxes on newspapers. In June 1836 Lovett founded the London Working Men's Association with several radical colleagues. In 1838 Lovett and fellow Radical Francis Place drafted a parliamentary bill, the foundation of the People's Charter. In February 1839 the first Chartist Convention met in London, and unanimously elected Lovett its Secretary. A proponent of the idea that political rights could be garnered through political pressure and non-violent agitation, Lovett retired from overt political activity after a year in prison on the political charge of seditious libel 183940. While in prison he co-wrote "Chartism, a New Organisation of the People", which focused on Chartist Education. In 1841 he formed the National Association for Promoting the Political and Social Improvement of the People, to implement his New Move educational initiative through which he hoped poor workers and their children would be able to better themselves. The New Move did not generate popular support; membership never surpassed 5000, and education was limited to Sunday schools. He later devoted himself to the National Association for Promoting the Political and Social Improvement of the People, seeking to improve lives of poor workers and their children by means of a Chartist educational program. He believed in temperance and in teaching methods founded on kindness and compassion. Lovett wrote his autobiography in 1877 and died impoverished that year.

Condition: Very good, writing slightly light but legible, minor mount remnants at edge of 4th page verso
Type:Letter






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