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Opinion | How to Imagine a Different America


His plan is very simple. The people of New York, to whom he primarily wrote letters, would pass a new Constitution that would abolish all debts and give up most private property. The state will then “order the equal distribution of all this property to its citizens, of age and over adulthood, in an undirected manner.” Through an idea Paine explored in “Human Rights,” Skidmore also called on the state to provide “a more convenient monthly payment or installment, equivalent to insurance maintain their fullness and decency, according to their age and condition; and the parent or parent, if alive and free from a disability or bad habit that makes them unsuitable for the upbringing of their children, shall be the authorized recipient. In short, a universal basic income.

Throughout the book, Skidmore repeatedly refers to “all people” and “all native citizens” and that is what he means. He wrote: “Eternal and inalienable rights exist for all. “The Negro’s right to vote, being an individual right, is as perfect as the right of the white man; and so are his property rights.” Women, he writes, are entitled to “equal voting rights” and equal property rights.

Skidmore also questions the right of English settlers and their descendants to claim large swaths of native land because they happened to have made a profitable trade hundreds of years ago: “The people We have demonstrated that the race of Indians living at that time had no right to sell, or transfer, what belonged to their fellows, as a nation, who would pursue them. For it clearly belongs to the latter as much as to the former.

Skidmore ended his argument with another simple statement. “It has been pointed out that, throughout these pages, I trust to please the reader that property ownership exists for everyone; and for all alike; not because others were; nor because they were not; not because they have a certain creature to their parents, rather than another; not because they appear later or earlier on the stage of life than others; not for purchase, for conquest, for preoccupation, or whatever; but BECAUSE THEY ARE: BECAUSE THEY EXIST.”

Nearly 200 years later, Skidmore’s book is still a powerful rebuttal to the twin idea that some Americans deserve it while others don’t and that some are more equal than others. to create a phrase. It also stands out as a prominent call for racial unity in a nation divided by racial hierarchy. Skidmore argues, legal scholar Aziz Rana notes, “that instead of becoming political enemies, poor whites shared basic interests with black slaves and dispossessed Indians, as each group was limited by the existing economic hierarchy in poverty and dependency.”

In other words, no matter what you think of Skidmore’s proposals, his vision of radical democratic equality resonates in the face of profound material and political inequalities and our persistence. Skidmore’s life and work is a reminder that freedom is not a single, narrow idea, and that generations of Americans, from the earliest days of our common history, have imagined images of a country that is less unequal, more inclusive, and freer than the country they once were. – and what we have.

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