Today we thought we’d start the week off right by posting the second-to-last portion of our foreword to the annotated edition of William Thomas Thornton’s A Plea for Peasant Proprietors. We should point out, however, that you can get the entire foreword in one piece, as well as all the added appendices and annotation, by purchasing the book itself. Still, to give you a taste for it, here’s the almost-final installment of the foreword:
The two and a half decades between the first and second editions of A Plea for Peasant Proprietors saw the rise and fall of the "Young Ireland" movement, the "Fenian" uprising of 1867, the "dynamite campaign" of terror, growing discontent over the continued failure of land reform and renewed agitation for the repeal of the Act of Union of 1800 and restoration of "Home Rule" to Ireland. Thornton's aim in his revision was to put before the public a "what might have been" scenario had his proposal been adopted in 1848 (1848 also saw the publication of Karl Marx's The Communist Manifesto, that advocated the abolition of private property and (unlike Thornton and Kelso and Adler) has not been ignored.) — thereby avoiding all the violence and discontent that shook Ireland in the latter half of the 19th century.
In his 1874 revision, Thornton did modify his stand somewhat. He expressed the hope that the new land legislation of the 1870s would remove legal disabilities from the Irish so that the broadening of ownership to all citizens could proceed naturally. As we note in Appendix VI on the "Irish National Land League," however, this hope proved ephemeral.
While things are not yet as bad in the world today as they were in Ireland in the 1840s, most people are as dependent on wage system jobs as the Irish were on the potato. The vast majority of today's citizens have no access to other sources of income (from, in particular, capital ownership), except government welfare. The fact is, as we explain in Appendix III, there are other barriers that inhibit or prevent universal access to the means of acquiring ownership of capital and the establishment and maintenance of a just, third way beyond both capitalism and socialism. A major barrier remains lack of democratic access to capital credit for financially feasible projects.