SKIDMORE, Thomas (1790-1832)
The Rights of Man to Property! Being a Proposition to Make It Equal Among the Adults of the Present Generation...
New York: Printed for the Author by Alexander Ming, 1829. 405, pp.
Contemporary calf, original gilt stamping on covers, gilt morocco spine label. Moderate edge wear, center vertical crease in spine, spine ends frayed. Early bookplate remnants on front pastedown, hinges a bit tender.
First and only edition of this very rare and early American radical work, and one of the seminal works of the American Left.
An early American radical work by a solitary crusader. It is an important early example of American progressive economic philosophy, calling for the rights of workers, redistribution of property, and universal education. Skidmore was a co-founder of the Working Men's Party, which emerged in 1829 and sought to abolish debtors' prisons, reduce the length of the workday and establish a lien law for building laborers, and the Agrarian Party in 1830, after being ousted from the former party by moderates. His three books were self- published in sparse numbers, and his early death during the cholera epidemic of 1832 prevented any furtherance of his radical writings. In his 1939 address to the Grolier Club, entitled "Radical Literature in America," Frederick B. Adams, Jr. wrote that "Skidmore's experiences as a working mechanic brought him personal knowledge of the position of the propertyless worker in an industrialized society. To achieve common ownership of the means of production, he proposed that the State take over all property and divide it equally." "Wealth to be equally divided, with its equal transmission to later generations on the maturity of each individual. An early Townsend plan" - Howes. "Unlike the reform literature mass-produced by the comparatively well-funded abolitionist and temperance societies, most of these labor publications are today scarce because they were financed and produced by solitary crusaders and so were printed in a few copies distributed locally...Seth Luther's "An Address to the Workingmen of New England" (Boston, 1832) and Thomas Skidmore's "The Rights of Man to Property!" (New York, 1829), to mention only two characteristic and interesting examples, were both published by their authors and are today known in only a handful of copies" - Gilreath. In addition to the Errata, this copy contains a final leaf explaining to the subscribers the novel innovation of stamping the title in gilt on the covers, in lieu of decoration. An exceedingly-rare and important American radical work.
Howes S530, "aa." Kress C2364. Egbert & Parsons I:230, II:237. AAS, "A Society's Chief Joys," p.38. Sabin 81584. Shaw & Shoemaker 40435. Frederick B. Adams, Jr., Radical Literature in America (Stamford, Ct.: Overbrook Press, 1939), p.41. James Gilreath, "Labor History Sources in the Library of Congress" in Labor History, Vol. 25, no. 2 (Spring 1984), pp.247-48.