Declaration of Independence, of the Producing from the Non-Producing Class (1844)


Of the producing from the non-producing class.


When, in the course of human events, the producers of property have been reduced to the lowest state of degradation and misery by the almost universal usurpation of all property and power by a non-producing, tyrannical, and aristocratic class, a decent respect for the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to cease ultimately being tenants to land usurping and non-producing lords; in being journeymen to masters, shoppers, and manufacturers, to produce fabrics to which they are mostly entitled themselves, and in being electors to elevate officers of parties and cliques instead of those of their own classes.

We hold these truths to be self evident: That as the natural wants and powers of production of all men are nearly equal, all should be producers as well as consumers. That, as nothing but labor bestowed upon the natural elements and products of the earth can produce property, nothing else can give title to it; and hence every man is equally entitled, with the same exertion, to an equal share of the soil, water, air and light. That, to perpetuate an equality of property, life, liberty, knowledge and happiness, each man’s power of accumulating should be limited to his own manual and mental labor, and exchanged for that of another according to the time of production and value of material.

It is also self evident, that all the sovereign power of government resides in the whole people; that they cannot be bound by a law which has not received their consent: that they can at all times alter or abolish any law, government or alliance which has become oppressive, and substitute others; that the representative system of government does not seem to carry forward that extent of intelligence and reform which exist among the people; and that to effect this purpose, whoever can produce an undoubted credential that he has invented or discovered something, should become a member of an Areopagus, who should propose and digest all laws deemed necessary, and discussed, adopted, or rejected by a direct vote of the people in townships, or that size of district which will contain the proportionate number of agriculturalists and mechanics needful to produce an assortment of the necessaries of life.

But when a long train of legislation upon erroneous principles, has no other effect than to increase that irregularity of property which is principally produced by the monopoly of the earth; it is the right, it is the duty, of the producing class to arouse themselves in the majesty and indignation of their sense of justice, and reclaim the rights to which the God of Nature entitles them.

The history of the aristocratic class, is nothing but a continued series of usurpations of the produce of the laborers through all ages, all having the direct tendency of reducing them to the utmost degradation, want, and misery. To prove this let facts be submitted to a candid world.

The non-producers have in all ages usurped nearly all the property of the earth, and by military and manor services, feuds, rents, tythes, deodands, interest, dividends, profit, and personal slavery, compelled the producers to support them in idleness and extravagance.

The non-producers in the savage and first stage of society, in the character of chiefs, compelled their adherents to engage in cruel warfare to plunder the camps and hunting grounds of other tribes.

They then, in the next stage of society, compelled the laborer in the character of shepherd to herd their flocks.

They then, in the beginning of the next stage of civilization, reduced their dependents to the class of villeins, compelled them to cultivate the earth which they had monopolized, and to build their castles for a bare subsistence, and sold them along with the soil.

They then, as the manufacturing stage of civilization came on, made them, through the power of money, build towns, which have reduced them to a more extensive system of tenantry; and destroyed their healths, lives, and means of intelligence with too great a number of hours of labor, within the dusty wall of the factory, the suffocating smoke of the furnace, and the damp air of the coal pit.

Thus have they, in the character of land-lords and usurers, reduced the great body of the people in subsequent ages to a state of abject tenantry and vassalage. They have collected the most exorbitant rents, and lived in idle splendor while the tenant has seldom been able to raise himself from his hovel.

They have, in the form of government, levied another tax, and that upon consumption too, for the support of sinecures, that have only rivetted the fetters more strongly upon their necks.

They have, in the shape of priests, levied another enormous tax upon the industry of the producers, without giving adequate instruction of the duty of mankind to each other.

This non-producing aristocracy are still monopolizing more of the property of the country, making the difference greater between the immensely rich and the miserably poor.

They have not only monopolized the earth, but they have created estates out of annuities and stocks, thus further taxing the people with the interest upon them.

They have also monopolized the profit of labor saving machinery, which not only takes a competence from the laborer, but throws him out of employment.

Their thirst for speculation is such, that they are continually forming themselves into banking association, and becoming legalized to create millions of paper money merely with the labor of printing and signing strips of paper; and whenever a revolution of trade takes place by their expansion of the currency, they refuse to redeem them; and instead of giving relief are the first to cry out for relief.

These aristocrats, having more leisure to acquire information than the honest producer, have more power to form public opinion and control legislation in their favor.

They have erected themselves into what they consider a higher class, and treat with contempt and insolence the very class upon whom they depend for their existence as well as subsistence.

They have at length, in some countries, reduced the producers to a point beyond which they can no further go—to a state of miserable starvation, and to the infamy of the almshouse; where they are still made to labor for the coarsest food and clothing, so as to allow a revenue for government; and even their bodies add at death to the anatomist for dissection.

In every stage of these oppressions, we, the producers, have endeavored to show them the evils to which they were reducing us. But our entreaties have always been considered as an attempt to array the poor against the rich; when in truth it is the rich who are always oppressing the poor.

We have ever been warning them against their repeated one-sided legislation, by constantly granting themselves privileges that are making themselves “rich and the poor poorer.” We have continually reminded them that it is the lower classes, as they call us, who are the real honey producers of the hive of society. Yet, unlike those working bees, we have never destroyed those idle drones, though they have been deaf to the voice of justice and of common fellowship. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity which impels us to act in self defence, by establishing that system of economy in society whereby all can be placed in equal circumstances to acquire the goods of life, and hold them in the present bad economy of society, as our enemies, but in sharing in an equal portion of land and labor, friends.

We, therefore, producers and would-be producers, of the City of New York, appealing to the eternal principles of equality and justice established by Nature’s God, for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and in behalf of the pauperized producers throughout the earth, solemnly publish and declare, that the producing class shall no longer support, by the “sweat of their brow,” a haughty, unfeeling, and monopolizing class of non-producers. We further declare, that they should take measures to make all producers as well as consumers; that all division of society into high, middle, and lower classes cease; and that the most republican party should assume the name of producer and call the aristocratic non-producer. And for the support of this list of facts and Declaration of our Principles and Independence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.

Lewis Masquerier, “Declaration of Independence, of the Producing from the Non-Producing Class,” Working Man’s Advocate (September 28, 1844): 4.

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