A Study Of Thomas Skidmore History Essay
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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016
This short paper examines the political thought of Thomas Skidmore from the late 1820s to the late 1830s. This paper is written in the light of Skidmore’s work, The Rights of Men to property, which was in response to the work of Thomas Paine, Common sense and the Rights of Men.
Thomas Skidmore (1790-1832)
Thomas Skidmore was a leader of the urban proletariat, who was born a half a century after the great American Revolution. He rose to prominence by refuting the views of Thomas Paine. He discredited, in his first great work, The Rights of Man to Property, the revolutionary credits given to Thomas Paine. In this, his first book aforementioned, he argued that there was no political common sense to the Thomas’s book, Common Sense and Rights of Men. His works centered on the political economy of America, post the revolution (Chants, 23). He is best known for giving a more complex political view of the American Revolution than the writers of his age. He was also active in politics, not only in writing dissenting political views. By the time The Rights of Man to property was released to the public, he was the leader of Workingmen’s movement of New York in 1829. This paper is a treatise on his political writings (Chants, 23).
Thomas Skidmore’s writings on the political economy hold that the laws that were in existence in his time, especially the laws on property were flawed. He argued that they ran counter to the democratic ideals that are the basis of the American public. He argued that the economic inequality in the American society was based on legal flaws that gave some people power to acquire property, at the expense of the poor (Chants, 23). Thomas Skidmore was of the political opinion that Thomas Paine was not a revolutionary hero, as seen in the American Revolution. He actively discredited the political and economic legacy of Thomas Paine. He said the political economic theories of Thomas Paine were not consistent with the economic realities in American political climate (Chants, 23). The Brunt of Skidmores’ political writings, were directed at the less known political treatises of Thomas Paine. These include works like Paper Money, Dissertations on Government and The Affair of the Bank.
According to Thomas Skidmore, the American Revolution that ushered the independence of the US from Britain forged a republic that had a democratic legacy, but one that birthed economic inequality. In his political economic theory, the formation of state and national financial institutions founded on the strength of the constitution, initiated a politically flawed process. Thomas argued that the formalization of a private credit system and public debt brought about the process of accumulation (Bouton, 105). This then established an economic system that favored the concentration of financial wealth, in the hands of the rich. These rich people were the ones who were in government. Thomas argued that this was a political wrong that needed to be redressed. It is useful to note that the times of Thomas Skidmore, allowed such writings to prevail. This is because; the country political system had been opened to criticism through the growing poverty. Another factor that made the writings of Thomas Skidmore to prevail was the expansion of suffrage (Bouton, 105).
Thomas Skidmore made biting critiques, to the economic and fiscal hierarchies that were instrumental in shaping the post revolution society. In his great masterpiece, Rights of Man to Property, he criticized enormous wealth as the greatest instrument that is used to extort from workers. He argued that great wealth was used by rich to take the property of workers, and also their efforts and personal qualities (Bouton, 105). In his writings, the interest paid by the debtor to the creditor, rent paid by the tenant to the landlord contributed to overgrown wealth. It is important to note that the writings of Thomas Skidmore were inspired by the hard economic realities for the laborers (Bouton, 105). This is because things were really hard for the common labor during the reign of Andrew Jackson.
There was an economic downtown that badly affected employers across the nation. To recoup from their losses and increase their profit margins, the employers began to lengthen the work day. They increased the working hours from ten to eleven. It is useful to note that Thomas Skidmore was a member of the journeymen. This was group of mostly white men, who were propertyless, and worked as carpenters, masons and tailors among other professions. He himself was a machinist. This group was active in social and political reform that was sweeping across America in the 1820s. It can be argued that this group informed the political writings of Thomas skidmore. He also grew up poor. The politics of the two main political parties of the time was mainly partisan. These parties are the Democratic Party and the Whig party. The paper has gone into these details because; they shed light on to the factors that shaped his writings (Foner, 124).
On the issue of the 1776 American Revolution, Skidmore adopted a remarkably complex vision. His view of the American Revolution went beyond the promise of liberty to a radical critique of the American constitution, and the apparent constitutional system that followed in the wake of the American Revolution. His main argument as per concerns the constitution and the revolution was that the federal government created a first appropriation of property. Latter the federal government had made possible a transmission of property after the first appropriation. Thomas argued that the two fold system adopted by the federal government had ensured that a certain class of people had the authority to ensure that ensuing generations could only acquire property wage labor (Foner, 124). This is, if the classes of people in discussion were able to gain wage labor at all. Taking a backward glance at the popular debates on property and debt that came in the wake of the revolution, Thomas Skidmore identified the exact moment when society in America was divided only into two distinct classes. These classes are the proprietor class and the non proprietor class; those that own the world and those that own no part of the world (Foner, 124).
Most of Skidmores’ writings are attacks on Thomas Paine’s work. That is the reason that has made him adopt a critically democratic language in reviewing the works of Thomas Paine. The language that comes with the political writings of skidmore testifies to the yearnings of a class of people to reinterpret economic democracy (Ferguson, 27). This is because the political writings of Skidmore raised the questions that the American Revolution has left unanswered for so long. There are the broad political questions that have not been answered for so long, because, nobody has dared ask of them. The writings of Skidmore attempt to revise and improve the revolutionary language of the American Revolution of 1776. The works are constricted to addressing issues of economic and political democracy (Ferguson, 27).
Thomas Skidmore is concerned in his political writings that Thomas Paine has shown support for financial institutions, like the bank of North America that work hand in hand with the federal government. His works challenge the framers of the constitution, for enabling the provision of private contracts and accumulation of private property (Ferguson, 27). Skidmore shows in his works that the Support of Paine for the bank of North America is flawed. This is because, according to Skidmore, the support for the said bank implied, support for the status quo that makes room for economic inequality. Skidmore aims to show in his works that Paine has blundered in attempting to put an equal government, upon foundations of inequality. He shows in his writings that the federal government has taken measures to perpetuate economic inequality in America. Skidmore argues that the founders of the nation, like Paine did not perceive that the system that they initiated practically brought with it inequality. This is because; it gives some individuals the privilege of taking much of the wealth of the preceding generation, so as to enable them to live in idleness (Young, 27).
The essence of this statement is that inheritance and accumulation are the problems that trouble America. Thomas skidmore wants the question of how long does a man own property answered. This is because he argues that the property law enshrined in the constitution, and championed by Paine, enables a small number of men to accumulate a disproportionate amount of wealth. The laws enable these men to pass the said wealth to their sons. This guarantees that the economic inequality wrought by one generation, would be continued by the next generation. Skidmore argues that the work of Paine, Dissertations, is an attempt to employ constitutional authority in sanctioning economic inequalities (Young, 27). Skidmore argues that the work prepares the stage for inequalities established in the federal constitution. These inequalities have structured property law to augment and consolidate the power of merchants politically (Young, 27).
Thus, according to Skidmore, Paine is a problematic writer. Paine is also a flawed revolutionary. This is because he condemns debtors, who were given to the accumulation of property without abandoning the democratic appeal of Common sense. Skidmore argues in his political writings that the property rights advocated by Paine to protect the fruits of men’s’ labour, goes contrary to the legal constitutional order, in which these same rights become the avenues of economic exploitation (Kaye, 67). In other words, the writings of Skidmore attack the political cum economic system of capitalism. Although, he does not propose another political and economic system, his attacks on capitalism are evident in his works. He is more concerned with political economic theories developed by Thomas Paine than any other theories. The issue of property and wages seem to be his chief preoccupation in his chief political writings (Kaye, 67).
What becomes evident is that he always seems to base his political theories on the works of Thomas Paine. This is especially so for those less known works of Paine, where Paine is at odds to defend the merchant class. It is therefore truthful to say that Skidmore is a reactionary to the works of Thomas Paine (Wilentz, 45). It is crucial to understand that he grew up reading the great works of the man he grow up to detract. All in all, his works reflect the hard economic realities of his times (Wilentz, 45).
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