Private and Personal Property

Private and Personal Property

During the first half of the seventeenth century, different thinkers raised issues on ownership of private and personal property. This was within the English political thought, and several thinkers came forward in support of these arguments. James Harrington was a significant supporter of the land debate and was known to support the Republican government. His primary concern of property focused on equal distribution of wealth among children in a family to avoid future conflicts. The Puritan Revolution was one of the first perpetrators to raise issues on property rights and wealth. Harrington’s case inspired other groups to join hands in bringing up issues dealing with land and property. Some of the contemporary groups that extended the Agrarian Law included the Levellers, the Fifth Monarchy Men, and the Diggers.

The Diggers

The Diggers were led by Gerard Winstanley, whose appeal was more of nature than Biblical theories as it was the foundation of Digger thinking. This was an untypically radical group that focused on the natural right to shared ownership of land. They argued that property was, in ancient times, that it was shared. They also believed that the accumulation of land by the few made some wealthy while others suffered. They, therefore, thought that the legal system was unfair in letting the rich accumulate more property while others hurt in the hands of the few privileged ones. Furthermore, the reason why the political and the legal system could not help those unfavoured because it was created by those owning these properties.

According to Winstanley, he believed that natural law was a perfect way of life. Also, he wanted to eradicate poverty among his people and therefore came up with an Agrarian scheme that was to get rid of labor wage. This way, there was not to be any purchase of land, and all rich sources were to be commonly owned. Acquisition of property and goods was an offense of treason, commerce was not allowed, and thus money was banned. Moreover, his plan omitted the institutional church, and it explains more why the Diggers were violent anti-clericals. Regarding these demands, there was no way some people would be wealthier than their counterparts. This group, therefore, was in collision with the ruler, James 1, because it seemed they were going to overthrow the government with their demands and laws.

The Levellers

They were a more substantial group of thinkers who focused more on constitutional and political reforms. During this regime, a fraction of Leveller writings concerning the Agrarian issue came up at heady times. They raised the argument that land which was to be used for universal benefits of the poor individuals had been fenced or otherwise enclosed. There was a need for its opening and be left to be used by the poor people in the community. The Levellers were spreading radicalism and equality that would lead to the abolition of private property.  According to the Levellers, creating a common ground for all individuals, whether rich or poor, was the critical goal. In this way, the rich would stop acquiring wealth each day as the other people suffer in their faces. This group, therefore, was in the middle of the Agrarian issues. It was setting a level ground for all people in society to promote equality.

Furthermore, requests were made concerning the tiring burden of tythes. The Large Petition made the applications of 1647 and the Humble Petition of 1648. About the claims, there was a decree that slavery and any form of oppression of the underprivileged should be eradicated. It was therefore, put forward that homage fees and fines should be taken away to enable new rates to be set. Following this, the high prices will allow the landowners to have peace and avoid conflicts with their fellow landlords. Also, this was to help in eradicating poverty and thus upgrading people’s lives. Landowners would, therefore, treat their workers with respect and, in turn, end the oppression to the poor.

The Fifth Monarchists

The Fifth Monarchy Men was a predominant group among the Europeans that focused mostly on bringing reforms to the godless clergy and landowners. Their main focus was shown by their speaker, John Rogers, who insisted that they believe in revolution and transformation. They, therefore, were not to make reforms nor change the rules and laws that were in existence. Notably,it is a religious group that makes references to the holy book and its stated requirements. They needed to bring rules that God gave Moses and cause a social revolution that would bring change in the issue of land and property ownership. In regards to one of the Monarchists, Lloyd Morgan had visualized a significant shift in land distribution. He thus saw it best that this change would ensure that no rich person has much nor the poor have very little for their survival. Just as the Levellers, the group proposed abolition of homage, fines, copyholds, and customary tenure.

Since the Monarchists were religious, they adhered to their Biblical laws and demanded the implementation of Mosaic judicial laws. The drafting had been done earlier on in Massachusetts but failed to get approved for adoption. This was to incorporate both the Mosaic laws and the current legal practices for the purposeful uses in society. It, however, seemed that it was addressing more of social and moral offenses than economic measures. Consequently, they would dictate the laws from the Bible and would reform the land tenure system. According to the ruling government, this group was regarded as violent revolutionaries. They had been accredited a higher power on land reforms, which was unjustified because they were considered in fear. A standing committee for the poor was established during the reign of Cromwell. As the Lord Protector, he had promised to purpose a revolution dealing with the tedious burden tithes. Having said all these, the rising demands on the changes in land ownership posed a massive threat to the godly landowners, thus no change ever took place.

Reasons for arguments between James 1 and the Diggers

During the ruling of James 1, he was in constant conflict with the parliament and the thinkers. One of the reasons why the issues on land ownership arose during his time between him and the Diggers was that he had little contact with the English middle-class individual. Unfortunately, his qualities and experience failed to equip him with the necessary skills to deal with such situations. Considering his upbringing, he had less or no contact with people of low life status. Therefore, he could not relate to the grievances that the Diggers brought forward in issues of tenure systems and the abolition of feudal fines. This group of thinkers promoted equality in the use of common land, thus disapproving of personal and private property.

Moreover, The Diggers do not approve of his actions of placing new custom duties on merchandise without the consent of the parliament. Also, he exchanged the king’s feudal revenues for a certain amount of money by the parliament. He indulged in these actions because the parliament refused to pay for his extravagances. By doing so, he was making the people pay high taxes and high rates of interest to cover for his expenses, and it was unfair. People would toil hard for their wages to obtain money to pay their rents and other debts, but they fall into traps of paying more since they would be contributing to other people’s expenditures.

In conclusion, the issues of land ownership led to more conflicting ideas among the great thinkers. These thinkers include; the Diggers, who supported land as their central focus, the Levellers who supported equality of land ownership, and the Fifth Monarchist Men, who helped the incorporation of Mosaic judicial laws into the legal system. However, all these thinker groups supported a common goal, which was the abolition of private property. They also demanded the elimination of feudal fines, homage fees, and high customs duties for their merchandise. Eradication of class status and poverty were the key roles that these people played. They disapproved of situations where the rich would have too much while the poor have too little. Although these issues were brought to light, none of them ever got resolved and thus caused conflicts between the ruler and the parliament. James 1 wanted complete control of his territory, but it became impossible due to the presence of the parliament that has to be involved. He, therefore, had a constraint relationship with the Diggers.

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