IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Henry George, Private Property and The American Origins of Rerum Novarum


  • Liggio Leonard P.

    (George Mason University)


Rerum Novarum, the papal encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, has had a major impact on Catholic thinking. Issued in 1891 it immediately received much public attention. This was especially the case in the United States where it was seen as the response re-affirming the sanctity of private property long sought by the American bishops in the public debates with Henry George and his supporters. George was a central public figure in the United States, England and Ireland, whose speeches and writings supported free market ideas, especially free trade. But, George's main idea was that the sole tax should be a singletax on land values.His justification seemed to place the sanctity of private property in doubt. Since some Catholics were strong supporters of George, the Catholic bishops were anxious that the Pope clearly state the morality of private property. Rather than condemn the writings of George directly, Leo XIII prefered to reaffirm the sanctity of private property in a positive form. The American origins of Rerum Novarum had not been appropriately recognized.Rerum Novarum, lencyclique papale de Léon XIII, a eu un impact majeur sur la pensée catholique. Publiée en 1891 elle reçut immédiatement une très grande attention. Ce fut spécialement le cas aux Etats-Unis où elle fut prise comme une réponse réaffirmant le caractère sacré de la propriété privée longtemps recherchée par les évêques Américains dans leurs débats publics avec Henry George et ses partisans. George était un personnage public central aux Etats-Unis, en Angleterre et en Irlande, dont les discours et les écrits étaient en faveur des idées du libre marché et notamment celles qui concernent léchange libre. Mais, lidée majeure de George était que le seul impôt qui devait exister était celui sur la valeur des terrains.Sa justification semblait émettre des doutes à légard du caractère sacré de la propriété privée. Alors que quelques Catholiques étaient de forts partisans de George, les évêques catholiques tenaient beaucoup à ce que le Pape se positionne clairement sur la moralité de la propriété privée. Plutôt que de condamner directement les écrits de George, Léon XIII préféra réaffirmer le caractère sacré de la propriété privée de manière positive. Les origines américaines de Rerum Novarum nont pas été reconnues à leur juste valeur.

Suggested Citation

  • Liggio Leonard P., 2003. "Henry George, Private Property and The American Origins of Rerum Novarum," Journal des Economistes et des Etudes Humaines, De Gruyter, vol. 13(2), pages 1-21, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:jeehcn:v:13:y:2003:i:2:n:7

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: For access to full text, subscription to the journal or payment for the individual article is required.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bpj:jeehcn:v:13:y:2003:i:2:n:7. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Peter Golla). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.