THE HIVE OF LIBERTY
Pamphlets were always the lifeblood of radical movements, so its good to see The Hive of Liberty back in print:
THE HIVE OF LIBERTY: THE LIFE & WORK OF THOMAS SPENCE (1750-1814)
Edited by Keith Armstrong, with an introduction by Joan Beal and a new essay by Malcolm Chase
This reprint from the Thomas Spence Tryst is a celebration of that noted pioneer of people’s rights, pampleteer and poet Thomas Spence, born on Newcastle’s Quayside in turbulent times.
Spence served in his father’s netmaking trade from the age of ten but went on later to be a teacher at Haydon Bridge Free Grammar School and at St. Ann’s Church in Byker under the City Corporation. In 1775, he read his famous lecture on the right to property in land to the Newcastle Philosophical Society, who voted his expulsion at their next meeting. He claimed to have invented the phrase ‘The Rights of Man’ and chalked it in the caves at Marsden Rocks in South Shields in honour of the working-class hero ‘Blaster Jack’ who lived there.
Spence even came to blows with famed Tyneside wood-engraver Thomas Bewick over a political issue, and was thrashed with cudgels for his trouble. From 1792, having moved to London, he took part in radical agitations, particularly against the war with France. He was arrested several times for selling his own and other seditious books and was imprisoned for six months without trial in 1794, and sentenced to three years for his Restorer of Society to its Natural State in 1801. Whilst politicians such as Edmund Burke saw the mass of people as the ‘Swinish Multitude’, Spence saw creative potential in everybody and broadcast his ideas in the periodical Pigs’ Meat.
He had a stall in London’s Chancery Lane, where he sold books and saloup, and later set up a small shop called The Hive of Liberty in Holborn.
He died in poverty ‘leaving nothing to his friends but an injunction to promote his Plan and the remembrance of his inflexible integrity’.
The Thomas Spence Trust has successfully campaigned for a commemorative plaque on the Quayside in Newcastle. It was unveiled on 21st June 2010, Spence's 260th birthday, with a number of talks, displays and events coinciding with it.
PRICE £5 ISBN 1 871536 15 4
ORDERS (ADD £2 POSTAGE PER COPY) TO: THE THOMAS SPENCE TRUST,
93 WOODBURN SQUARE, WHITLEY LODGE, WHITLEY BAY, TYNE & WEAR NE26 3JD, ENGLAND. TEL 0191 2529531.