In his Advice to Young Men, the English Radical politician and journalist (among other things) William Cobbett said, “To be poor and independent is very nearly an impossibility.” As the “Apostle of Distributism” (as G.K. Chesterton called him), Cobbett had even stronger things to say about the necessity of widespread capital ownership:
|William Cobbett, "Apostle of Distributism"
Freedom is not an empty sound; it is not an abstract idea; it is not a thing that nobody can feel. It means, — and it means nothing else, — the full and quiet enjoyment of your own property. If you have not this, if this be not well secured to you, you may call yourself what you will, but you are a slave. You may twist the word freedom as long as you please, but at last it comes to quiet enjoyment of your own property, or it comes to nothing. Why do men want any of those things that are called political rights and privileges? Why do they, for instance, want to vote at elections for members of parliament? Oh! Because they shall then have an influence over the conduct of those members. And of what use is that? Oh! Then they will prevent the members from doing wrong. What wrong? Why, imposing taxes that ought not to be paid. That is all; that is the use, and the only use, of any right or privilege that men in general can have. William Cobbett, A History of the Protestant Reformation in England and Ireland, 1827, §456.)
So, did Cobbett have anything to say about life in the United States? Take a look at his 1829 classic, The Emigrant’s Guide —