1784 statute showed disdain for inherited wealth

“With Thomas Jefferson taking the lead in the Virginia legislature in 1777, every Revolutionary state government abolished the laws of primogeniture and entail that had served to perpetuate the concentration of inherited property….
“The states left no doubt that in taking this step they were giving expression to a basic and widely shared philosophical belief that equality of citizenship was impossible in a nation where inequality of wealth remained the rule.
“North Carolina’s 1784 statute explained that by keeping large estates together for succeeding generations, the old system had served ‘only to raise the wealth and importance of particular families and individuals, giving them an unequal and undue influence in a republic’ and promoting ‘contention and injustice.’ Abolishing aristocratic forms of inheritance would by contrast ‘tend to promote that equality of property which is of the spirit and principle of a genuine republic.’ “

— From “Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, and other fellow travelers” by at Sophrosyne (Oct. 14, 2010)

 

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