Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER I.: TO THE EDITOR OF THE SCOTS CHRONICLE. - Letters of Sidney, on Inequality of Property. To which is added, a Treatise of the Effects of War on Commercial Prosperity
Return to Title Page for Letters of Sidney, on Inequality of Property. To which is added, a Treatise of the Effects of War on Commercial Prosperity
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
LETTER I.: TO THE EDITOR OF THE SCOTS CHRONICLE. - John Millar, Letters of Sidney, on Inequality of Property. To which is added, a Treatise of the Effects of War on Commercial Prosperity 
Letters of Sidney, on Inequality of Property. To which is added, a Treatise of the Effects of War on Commercial Prsoperity (Edinburgh: the Office of the Scots Chronicle, 1796).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE SCOTS CHRONICLE.
August 5. 1796.
There is perhaps no circumstance which can so materially affect the morals, government, and general welfare of a nation, as the state of property. The influence which it possesses over men’s manners, opinions, and actions, is highly important; and, although we should not be disposed to admit superior riches among the just grounds of inequality of political power, we must confess that opulence is attended with such weight and authority, as will always render complete equality unattainable. But though the state of property is so very interesting, all parties at present seem to have shrunk from any inquiry concerning the regulations on this subject most conducive to the public welfare. One party have affected to treat all their opponents as enthusiastic levellers, and by misrepresenting the meaning of the word equality, which, except by themselves, was never understood as extending beyond equality of rights, they have, unfortunately for the community to which they belong, succeeded in raising an alarm in the minds of the rich, and in propping their own corrupt power by means which threaten ruin to their country. The opposite party, sensible that their expressions may be misrepresented, and afraid of increasing that alarm which has already produced such disastrous consequences, have stood aloof from the subject. It appears to me, however, that their caution is unnecessary, that a full discussion of the subject may defy the utmost malignity of misinterpretation, and that, by fairly unfolding what are probably the farthest views entertained by any persons of this country, it may be possible even to diminish the exaggerated fears of the rich.
If, Sir, you join in this opinion, I intend to communicate to the Public, through the medium of your very useful Paper, those observations which have occurred to me respecting the State of Property. I mean to consider the disadvantages which are necessarily attached to excessive inequality of fortunes, to point out the still greater evils which would result from a system of complete levelling, and to conclude, by suggesting some regulations, equally just and simple, by which it appears to me that the present inequality might be greatly diminished.
Great inequality of property is one of the most striking features of the present state of society. In the same nation, in the same town, even in the same street, part of the inhabitants riot in an abundance, with which the most resined luxury can scarcely keep pace; while their brethren, oppressed with want, worn down by labour, diseased and wretched, can scarcely procure enough to satisfy the most urgent demands of nature. The hovel of the beggar adjoins to the palace of the prince; and we are presented, in the same picture, with the extremes of want, and of profusion. Does it require argument to convince us that this state of property, from whatever circumstances it may have arisen, is destructive and unjust? One might reasonably expect that the slightest view of such inequality, the mere proof of its existence, would be sufficient to excite the most universal and unqualified reprobation; but all appeals to the sentiments of humanity, on such a subject, are now treated as idle declamation, and therefore I shall proceed, in my next letter, to point out the numerous evils which this state of property inevitably occasions. The chief difficulty, in this part of my subject, arises from the multiplicity of matter; to whatever side we turn, whether we consider the condition of the rich, the sufferings of the poor, the general state of morals and government, the effects on commerce or on population, arguments start up in such numbers, that it will be no easy task to condense my thoughts. But on a subject of such importance and extent, I trust in the candour and indulgence of your readers, should some of the views, which it will be necessary to present, appear either deficient in that novelty which commands attention, or of a nature so abstruse as might require a length of investigation unsuitable to the limits of your Paper.
I am, Sir,