The Unfinished Revolution: Freedom and Property in Nineteenth Century Republicanism
36 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 1 Sep 2011
Date Written: 2011
The republican tradition, especially as inherited from Roman thinkers, is sometimes seen as an inegalitarian and conservative tradition. In particular, it is thought that the commitment to republican liberty or ‘independence’ leads to a defense of private property and a resistance to schemes of redistribution. Through a re-reading of the leading figures of the workingmen’s movements of the 1820s and 30s in the United States, this essay contests the current reading. It argues that a powerful argument was made for redistribution of property in the name of republican liberty. At its most radical, these worker-intellectuals and labor reformers argued that each citizen’s independence could only be realized through an equalization of property. Thus, while it may be true that the dominant strand of modern, neo-Roman republicanism was hostile to the redistribution of property, that only tells us who the victors were in the struggle over a complex tradition.
Keywords: republicanism, republican liberty, property, freedom, american political thought
JEL Classification: B1, B14, B15, B30, B31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation