Saturday, November 26, 2005

Sarah Orne Jewett Text Project

In the course of doing some research on Bessie Greene, I ran across the excellent Sarah Orne Jewett Text Project. The archive contains a large number of Jewett's texts, from Country of the Pointed Firs to much more obscure articles, as well as some works by Annie Adams Fields and Celia Thaxter. If you search down through the text of Celia Thaxter's letters, you'll find the following:

To Annie Fields. Shoals, May 20, 1874.
I am full of sadness and of sympathy over this terrible disaster. Hardly can I think of anything else, and those two dear people haunt my little room, the sunny piazza, the little garden; I see and hear them everywhere. How gentle they were, how sweet and good and noble. How can we spare them, and fools and knaves are cumbering the earth! I have such a letter of sorrow from S. C., who grew so attached to them here: "That dear, splendid little doctor! To think of the cruelty of her tender body being beaten on the rocks!" Ah, I wish the sea would stop its roar, so soft and far from rim to rim of this great horizon! It makes me shudder when I think of them and how it sounded in their ears! How brave Mrs. Greene is, sure that all that is must be best! glad for them that they could go in the midst of the joy of life, with all their enthusiasm, spared all life's disappointments, safe from any suffering like hers! She is a marvel. Yes, dear, she sent me the little paper, writing my name on it and hers with her own hand. And I must write to her, but hardly dare to speak.

This is almost certainly a (misdated) reference to the loss of Susan Dimock, the "splendid little doctor" of the New England Hospital for Women and Children, and her friend and companion Bessie Greene, in which case Thaxter is referring to Anna Blake Shaw Greene. Annie Fields knew the Greenes, and mentions both William Batchelder Greene and his mother, Susan Batchelder Greene, in her account of John Greenleaf Whittier in Friends and Authors.

Anyway, check out this fine archive, and if you can contribute, please do. Guidelines are posted on the site.

William B. Greene, Equality (1849)

I've finally got Equality, the first of Greene's mutual banking books online. This is the 1849 work largely based on those still-elusive Worcester Palladium articles. Here's the index:


EQUALITY, NO. II. To the Philosophers and Politicians.

Readers of any of the later editions of Mutual Banking should recognize the 2nd, 4th and 5th sections of No. I, and readers of this blog will recognize the 3rd section of No. II, which I discussed recently in the context of the works on transcendentalism. The 4th section of contains the (in)famous indictment of Socialism as "the only political system which presents no good points," but Greene is not consistent in his use of the terminology, and ultimately always returns to some balance between opposing philosophies. To Brownson, he said, for example, "my conscience suggested to me, when I was reading yourdescription of socialism as the ne plus ultra of heresy, that I belonged to the most abandoned wing of the socialist faction."

I'm about half way through the final proofing and XHTMLizing of the 1850 Mutual Banking, and might have that online tomorrow. The 1857 and 1870 works will follow shortly after.

Update on "Socialized Money"

I got a comment from Don at Current Observations, regarding his reprinting of Socialized Money, by Homer Orpheus Campbell. Apparently, the eight chapters he has scanned are only part of the work, which runs to 14 chapters, and which he will finish scanning once he gets a scanner problem fixed. Thanks, Don. I'm looking forward to seeing the rest!

Monday, November 21, 2005

A first go at Google Books

After reading all sorts of newspaper coverage about the conflict between publishers and Google over the intellectual property rights issues involved with the Google Books scanning project, I decided to see what the project amounted to so far. I had been getting the "invitation" to try my searches on the new service for awhile, but hadn't waded in. Having done so now, I have to say I'm underwhelmed.

You've probably heard about the plan. Google will scan all the books in a number of libraries, setting things up so that the full text is searchable, but only a fraction within the limits of fair use will actually be viewable. Publishers are objecting to the scanning process, since it involves making a complete copy. Google wants to argue that it's still fair use since nobody can get to the full copy. Some of the publishers simply want the right to say yes or no. I'm no big defender of intellectual property, but I may be leaning just a bit towards the publishers on this one.

In practice, what you get is, unsurprisingly, a big tease. More than that, you get a complicated tease, which requires you to sign into a Google account to some some text, although other pages are open to all and some are simply not readable at all. If by chance you get to view the information you searched for, you have no printing options beyond the Print Screen command, and windows are sized so that even that involves some awkward adaptations.

There's no way to gauge what you're not finding, but the text editing seems to be good and the search engine functions pretty much as you expect Google to function. I did a fairly careful set of searches using my keywords for the William B. Greene research. I came up with a dozen or so listing that looked like they might have new information in them. In about a third of the cases, the information was blocked, so all I got was a new citation to search down.

What's GOOD about what I got: more than half of the references I was eventually able to track down were not properly indexed in the volumes, and would have been nearly impossible to track down otherwise.

What's NOT SO GOOD about what I got: nearly everything I eventually tracked down was no more than a mention. I found one new letter by Greene, but it was in a source that my other search strategies would have found anyway. I also found a suggestion that Bessie Greene and Susan Dimock had been a couple, which wasn't substantiated at all seriously, but was a new one on me. I didn't find dozens of references I know are out there. The bottom line is that there are a lot of books in the world and if Google ever gets a fraction of them online, it may need a much better set of search tools.

What's REALLY NOT GOOD about what I got is that I couldn't tell whether the offhand mentions were simply that or whether they were more substantial, even though the whole text was right there.

I'm something of a special case, working on the sort of project where I can hardly afford to skip over any small reference to my subject. Some of my best bits about the Greenes have come in the form of offhand mentions. Theoretically, then, I might be the guy who, seeing that there is a mention of William Batchelder Greene on page 245 of a book I can search but can't read, might actually lay his money down and purchase something. My research library is, in fact, well stocked with books which only mention one of the Greenes a single time, but which provide valuable context.

I still won't buy blind. And I'm guessing not many other folks will either.

So does that mean the publishers shouldn't cooperate with Google? Is the whole scheme pointless? Elsewhere, I've noted that "the library" is going through a serious transition, as books on the shelf are replaced with full-text electronic copies and books in remote storage facilities. I've even had some journal articles stored remotely delivered to me in electronic pdf form. For serious researchers, the possibility of searching the full texts of full libraries is tremendous. And it looks like Google may be setting a higher standard for full text searchability. But there's an important difference between the technologies that are good for searching and those that are good for reading. Publishers, booksellers, and librarians have a product in hand that no "ebook" or pdf file is going to surpass anytime soon, at least when it comes to ease of use. There are plenty of sites which provided the texts of whole books, some recent and some in public domain. What they have in common is that it sucks to read books on a computer. And it really sucks when providers start trying to manage use, by forcing users to print single pages, etc. Harvard's Women Working Open Collection is probably the best online book source I have seen, at least in terms of readability, searchability and printability. It's still something of a pain in the tush to navigate, but that's largely just the nature of the beast with electronic texts.

If Google were to concentrate on works in the public domain, or if publishers were to cooperate on a large scale (figuring selling books might make up for the availability of texts), all the ingenuity of their programming teams could be aimed at making those texts accessible, rather than the current goal of. . .

I'm struck, really, by how unclear the goal of Google Books ultimately is. What are we to make of a search engine that won't really let you file anything?

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Other "Dial" biography of William B. Greene

One of the standard biographical references on William B. Greene is George Willis Cooke's Historical and Biographical Introduction to the Rowfant Club reprint of The Dial (Cleveland, 1902). The entry on Greene is surprisingly lengthy, given his single contribution to The Dial, but Cooke explains that "his life was of such interest, and so fully illustrates some of the tendencies of the time, that it may be told with some detail." The details in Cooke's account are pretty good. He shows evidence of having examined carefully a number of Greene's writings. He mentions details of Greene's Civil War activities after his resignation in 1862 which are not in other biographies, but which have been subsequently at least partially verified. There are a few questionable claims, and at least one text, "a large pamphlet on 'Consciousness as Revealing the Existence of God, Man, and Nature,'" which may or not actually have existed. But he is obviously right about enough things that others do not seem to have known, that it would be hard to pass over any other potential new facts from him without careful consideration at least.

That is the consideration which makes it so difficult to know what to do with an earlier version of the Dial biography, which appeared in the Journal of Speculative Philosophy in July 1885. Here is the section on Greene:

William Batchelder Greene was born in Boston in 1829, the son of an editor. He graduated at West Point, and did good service during the Seminole War. Leaving the army, he seems to have entered a Baptist theological school, but, becoming more liberal in his theology, entered the Cambridge school, though always claiming to be a Baptist. He was settled for several years over the Unitarian Church in West Brookfield, Mass. He was a zealous believer in social reform. At Brookfield he opened a cooperative store, and he made the pulpit a means of propagating his social theories. Finally abandoning the pulpit he removed to the vicinity of Boston, and there devoted himself to literary work. He had always been a zealous student of theology and metaphysics, mainly through the French language, with which he was very familiar; gave some attention to Oriental literature, translated Job, and published various essays on metaphysical subjects. Being in Paris when the Civil War broke out, he hastened home and was made a colonel of the Fourteenth Massachusetts Volunteers. He was stationed during the greater part of the war in the forts about Washington, and under Butler at Bermuda Hundreds. He was zealous, eccentric, arbitrary, and mystical, and very entertaining in conversation. In his latter years he became a communist in theory, and a labor-reformer of an extreme type. He was in 1873 an officer of the Boston Labor Reform League, a member of the Boston section of the Internationalists, and the associate of Benjamin R. Tucker and E. H. Heywood. He published a book on national banking, and in 1875 appeared his "Socialistic, Communistic, and Financial Fragments," consisting of his contributions to "The Word" and other radical journals. His earlier publications were an essay called "The Doctrine of Life," a theory which he claimed to have discovered, and essays on Edward's theory of the will, transcendentalism, consciousness as revealing the existence of God, and various cognate topics. In 1871 he published an essay on the "Facts of Consciousness and the Philosophy of Herbert Spencer," and in 1874 an essay in reply to Dr. Clarke's "Sex in Education." He also wrote on mathematical and Masonic subjects. He died at Weston-Super-Mare, England, May 30, 1878. Greene was well known to most of the transcendentalists, though his extreme views were not acceptable to many of them. In November, 1841, Margaret Fuller wrote to Emerson: "How did you like the military-spiritual-heroic-vivacious phoenix of the day?" This was in reference to Greene's essay in "The Dial" discoursing first principles.

I've highlighted in red a couple of real errors. There are also a number of statements that seem to contradict other accounts. Did the Greenes "remove to the vicinity of Boston" before they left the US for Paris? Did this "remove" amount to more than the establishment of the Jamaica Plain home where they lived after the war, and where they may have stayed on their visits home from Europe? There's a great deal as yet unknown about the Greene's travels and living arrangements during this period. For mutualists, however, the most interesting detail is in the sentence highlighted in green:
At Brookfield he opened a cooperative store. . .

If true, this is one of the few indications we have that Greene actually practiced the mutualism that he apparently quite literally preached. I've already got some follow-up queries out to the appropriate historical societies. We'll see if any further evidence turns up.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Mutualist Library and Blazing Star Library

Kevin Carson has announced a new project, a digital Mutualist Library:

I envisioned it as a CD-Rom reference library of the major texts of individualist anarchism, its precursors (Paine, Godwin, Hodgskin, etc.), and fellow travellers (Henry George, the panarchists, etc.). I'd also like to include as much of the late stuff as possible by members of the Tucker circle, like Yarros and Swartz. And of course, out of sheer vanity, I'll throw in a pdf of Mutualist Political Economy.
A number of active mutualists have been discussing an intensification of our archiving activities, and there is the constant frustration of having so many of mutualism's key texts scarce and difficult to access. And we are making progress in getting texts online. But there's still a lot that either isn't available electronically or is tucked away in places we haven't found yet. Kevin's post is a call to everyone interested in mutualism:

A project like this will require a distributed scanning network to fill in some of those gaps. I don't have a scanner, myself, although I'll probably be in the market for one in the next few months. In the meantime, I'm more than willing to put in the sweat equity editing the raw files from anyone else's scanning efforts.
I'll keep working away at the works of William B. Greene, and I'm contemplating trying to coordinate an online archive of The Word, the individualist anarchist paper published by Ezra Heywood. I have actually started in on some of Stephen Pearl Andrews' universological writings as well, but need to tackle some formatting issues before that can all be presented effectively. (Andrews and Warren both experimented with odd page layouts.)

I also want to announce a new line of limited edition, hand-assembled hardcover collections of mutualist material. The Blazing Star Library will begin, early in 2006, with a brief (150 or so page) biography of William B. Greene, tentatively titled A Rather Thoroughgoing Heretic, and a collection of Greene's early writings and related texts which I will be using in the first Mutual School course, starting in January. I intend to reprint as much of Greene's work as possible, along with the banking writings of William Beck, Edward Kellogg, and Alfred Westrup. I am also working (slowly, but working nonetheless) on some translations of Pierre Leroux's writings, and will make those available in a set of éditions inexactes. If there are interested parties out there really fluent in French and interested in translating some of the as-yet-untranslated works by Proudhon and others, that would be grand. In the meantime, we'll make do as best we can.

It seems to me that interest in mutualism is on the rise, and that it wouldn't hurt that trend at all if we made 2006 a sort of banner year for mutualist archiving and translation.

Greene, Whittier, Brownson

I've posted two new biographical tidbits in the Libertarian Labyrinth. The first is from Annie Fields Author's and Friends (1896), a collection of reminiscences. It tells the story of "the Bachiler eyes:"
Old New England people were quick to recognize "the Bachiler eyes," not only in the Whittiers, but in Daniel Webster, Caleb Cushing, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and William Bachiler Greene, a man less widely known than these distinguished compatriots. Mr. Greene was, however, a man of mark in his own time, a daring thinker, and one who was possessed of much brave originality, whose own deep thoughtfulness was always planting seeds of thought in others, and who can certainly never be forgotten by those who were fortunate enough to be his friends.

It also gives an account of the first visit to Boston of the young Quaker John Greenleaf Whittier—at the instigation of Susan Batchelder Greene, William Batchelder Greene's mother.
The connection of the Whittiers of Haverhill with the Greenes was somewhat closer than with other branches of the Bachiler line. One of the poet's most entertaining reminiscences of his boyhood was the story of his first visit to Boston. Mr. William Greene's mother was an interesting woman of strong, independent character and wide interests, wonted to the life of cities, and one of the first, in spite of his boyish shyness, to appreciate her young relative. Her kind eagerness, during one of her occasional visits to the Whittiers, that Greenleaf should come to see her when he came to Boston, fell in with his own dreams, and a high desire to see the sights of
the great town.

The account is short, but worth a look. It is particularly welcome for the light it shines on the character of Susan Greene, about whom very little appears to have been written.

The other piece is a bit from Henry F. Brownson's Brownson's Middle Life, the second of three volumes chronicling the life of Orestes Brownson. Included is the letter William B. Greene sent to Brownson in 1849, along with a set of unbound sheets of his Remarks on the Philosophy of History, together with an A Priori Autobiography. Brownson had by this time thoroughly abandoned much of the radical thought which he had helped Greene discover, and the two men were somewhat distant. Greene questions one of Brownson's present positions, but adds this humorous and revealing explanation/disclaimer:
But my criticism may very possibly come from my want of comprehension. As Webster says of Ingersoll: "He has not, as we would say, a screw loose, but is loose all over;"so I am afraid you would say of me that I am not a mere heretic, but heretical all over—for my conscience suggested to me, when I was reading your description of socialism as the ne plus ultra of heresy, that I belonged to the most abandoned wing of the socialist faction. In fact, I am a regular thoroughgoing heretic, for I accept all the doctrines of the church—as I explain them.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Taking Proudhon (and controversy) out of "Mutual Banking"

A funny thing happened on the way to the modern edition of William B. Greene's Mutual Banking. We know that with Mutual Banking, as was so often the case with Greene's work, the editorial refinement process over the years consisted largely of whittling away at his early works, Equality (1849) and Mutual Banking (1850), cutting down towards the kernal of occasionally sprawling explorations. The editors of Proudhon's Solution to the Social Problem, who gave us the modern edition of Mutual Banking, only continued that trend. The result is a bit peculiar. While modern critics have at times taken pains to make it clear that Greene was more than just a proudhonian imitator, and while he is still best known as an "American Proudhon," and while the mutual bank is obviously derived in part from Proudhon's "Bank of the People," there are only two references to Proudhon in the entire modern text. One of those is in a paragraph at the end of the text, which may not have been written by Greene at all. The other sits in the middle of the section on William Beck's Money and Banking:

"Mr. Beck thought out a Mutual Bank" by generalizing credit in account; Proudhon, by generalizing the bill of exchange."

All of the editions published in Greene's lifetime included, in the section on "Mutual Credit," a long excerpt from Proudhon, on the functioning of the People's Bank, followed by "Remarks" critical of some aspects of Proudhon's plan. When Proudhon's Solution to the Social Problem was compiled, the editors included a much larger chunk of Proudhon's plan, and deleted the now-duplicated text in Greene's work. Unfortunately, the deletion is unmarked and the critical material was deleted as well.

These are small details, in some ways, but unfortunately they work to make even more obscure elements of Greene's work that have been badly understood. Greene was not only not imitating Proudhon in much of what he wrote--he was repeating some of the criticisms of philosophical opponents such as Pierre Leroux. I hope to post soon a translation of an 1849 open letter from Leroux to Proudhon, in which Leroux criticizes Proudhon's bank scheme, his individualism and his atheism. The letter sheds some light on the complexities of the position that Greene eventually took, drawing important elements from both Proudhon and Leroux. To a large extent, Greene sided with Leroux in all three of his critiques, without in any way compromising his basic anarchism, just as he sided (more or less) with the non-anarchist Leroux on the question of women's suffrage.

We are in deep waters. . .

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Lord Acton on William Batchelder Greene

I just read through Acton In America (Shepherdston: Patmos Press, 1979; S. W. Jackman, ed.). It's a delightful, predictably opinionated read. It describes Lord Acton's visit to the US in 1853, with entries covering New York, Boston and Emmitsburg, Maryland. Naturally, he met many of the prominent citizens of the cities. He seems to have liked Orestes Brownson as well as anyone he met. Richard Henry Dana took him to see the workings of the Massachusetts State Constitutional Convention, where he met William B. Greene. He apparently did not see Greene give the speech on the qualification of voters which I wrote about some time ago, but we know exactly to what use he put the passages from Aristotle which Acton mentions.

These are the men, [Dana] says, who made the Revolution. A shoemaker who has made 100,000 dollars was heard with attention though a bad speaker, for he has some influence as a man of business: one half-madman made a loud speech for the equality of all things. Another man shouted a violent speech. Mr. Greene, a doctrinaire, a horrid-looking fellow, shewed Mr. Dana the passages in Aristotle about slavery, which he had copied out of the translation. He advocates women voting and such like.

The official journals tell a slightly different story, but perhaps, in another post, it would be fun to try to identify the "half-madman" and such.

Homer Orpheus Campbell and "Socialized Money"

The Current Observations blog recently featured the entire text of a 1933 bit of money crankery called Socialized Money, by Homer Orpheus Campbell.

The work is presented as "the evidence of a crime, displayed neatly for everyone to see." "If you ever wanted an inside look as to why things are the way they are, read on." It's probably not so bad as that, although the work is a bit hard to follow, so some varieties of misunderstanding are probably to be expected. Campbell, it seems to me, is sufficiently anti-Soviet, anti-Federal Reserve, individualist and explicitly pro-private property to satisfy the audience this was likely republished for.

What caught my eye was Campbell's use of
William Batchelder Greene's Mutual Banking, apparently through the 1927 Vanguard Press collection, Proudhon's Solution to the Social Problem, which included an edition of Mutual Banking nearly identical to the 1946 Modern Publishers (or 1975 Gordon Press) edition, along with Charles Dana's Proudhon's Bank of the People, and some material by P.-J. Proudhon himself. Campbell's solution varies considerably from that of Greene, being a state-bank scheme, but parts of it are clearly in the same tradition as Edward Kellogg's work, which Greene adapted to his own libertarian ends. There is a bit of tax crankery to go with the money crankery. Socialized Money was published the year after
A New Economic Principle: Introducing the Net Worth Tax, Having for Its Object the More Equal Distribution of Wealth and Incidentally the Democratizing of the Capitalistic System, and although Campbell's money appears to be tied to "net worth" in much the same way similar currencies have been tied to real estate or other capital, there is a rather obscure "deferred taxation" scheme included with which I think I'll wrestle a bit more before I venture to comment more fully.

Campbell appears to have written only three pamphets, the third being Our Unused Resource, published in Seattle in 1960, just a few years before his death.

Give this stuff a look.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Edward Kellogg in "The Word"

I was printing out a couple of issues of Ezra Heywood's The Word, and ran across a listing of books available from the Heywoods' Co-Operative Publishing Co. in 1873. William B. Greene's then-newly-published The Blazing Star tops the list, followed by Mutual Banking. Then come two by Heywood: Yours and Mine and Uncivil Liberty. Josiah Warren's True Civilization (the 1869 title; see Ronald Creagh's great Warren bibliography for that convoluted publishing history), Lysander Spooner's No Treason, and Joshua King Ingalls Land and Labor round out the list-along with one other, Edward Kellogg's A New Monetary System.

Kellogg's work is an interesting inclusion. Initially, his state-bank solution had him in a somewhat different camp than Greene, Spooner and the folks we're accustomed to thinking of as individualist anarchists and mutualists. But recall that this is the phase of individualist anarchism's development where affiliation with organizations like the IWA and the various Reform Leagues was common. Heywood's advertisement includes this description of the work: "Being the original statement and an elaborate exposition of the financial principles now proclaimed by the National Labor Union." Mary Kellogg Putnam was one of four female delegates to the 1868 conference of the NLU. It's likely that Heywood and Putnam had some direct contact.

There's a good deal more that should be said about this connection between mutualism and "greenbackism." But not tonight. . . .