“Whatever presses men together…”

The words of radical orator and writer John Thelwall, 1796:

“The fact is that the hideous accumulation of capital in a few hands, like all diseases not absolutely mortal, carries, in its own enormity, the seeds of a cure. Man is, by his very nature, social and communicative – proud to display the little knowledge he possesses, and eager, as opportunity presents, to encrease his store. Whatever presses men together, therefore, though it may generate some vices, is favourable to the diffusion of knowledge, and ultimately promotive of human liberty. Hence every large workshop and manufactory is is a sort of political society, which no act of parliament can silence, and no magistrate disperse.”

“Now, though every workshop cannot have a Socrates within the pale of its own society, nor even every manufacturing town a man of such wisdom, virtue and opportunities to instruct them, yet a sort of Socratic spirit will necessarily grow up, wherever large bodies of men assemble. Each brings, as it were, into the common bank his mite of information, and putting it to a sort of circulating usance, each contributor has the advantage of a large interest, without any diminution of capital.”

Rights of Nature, Against the Usurpations of Establishments.  A Series of Letters to the People, in Reply to the False Principles of Burke. Part the Second. London, 1796.

More follows.

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