Saturday, September 30, 2006

From the Unique Bookstore

Anyone who has used Google Books much is used to the odd scans of binding, covers, fingers, etc. Occasionally, we get something really special from their rather odd scanning methods. Check out this nice bit of Benjamin R. Tucker memorabilia, from the online edition of Proudhon's Contradictions Politiques.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

More from the 1826 "Mutualist"?

More proof that "full text" translates to something like randomly indexed. While searching for something else, I came across this letter from A MEMBER OF A COMMUNITY, the name used in the first few "Mutualist" letters, in the New Harmony Gazette, a week before the first of those appeared. The letter asks most of the questions answered in THE MUTUALIST, Or, Practical Remarks on the Social System of Mutual Cooperation [see pdf, intro], so it seems quite likely that the author is indeed the same. The question of which community the Mutualist was a member of has occupied some of my time lately. The references to John Gray and the timing of the letters lead me to believe that, if it was an Owenite community, then it was probably the Valley Forge group. There were several Owenite communities which started in 1825-26, but the Valley Forge group were based in Philadelphia, where the American edition of Gray's Lecture on Human Happiness was published, and were known as the Friendly Association for Mutual Interests. The Kendal, Ohio community also used that name, but evidence from the New Harmony Gazette makes it appear that the latter community was not well under way by the time these letters were published. So far, I haven't found any mention of this interesting set of letters in the literature on Owenism, beyond the mention in Bestor's "Evolution of the Socialist Vocabulary." A large number of the Valley Forge colonists eventually joined the Shakers, and I have a very interesting narrative covering that which I will post soon.

For the New Harmony Gazette.
Several friends of the social system would be much gratified, if Mr. Owen, or any other member of your community, could answer explicitly and with perspicuity, the following practical questions on the system; which they deem of great and vital importance. They have perused in vain the writings of Mr. Owen, and Mr. Gray, and the essays in your Gazette, and found no where any explanation relating thereto. The advantages of the social system, the defects of the opposite selfish system, the utility of cooperation and mutual indulgence, have been unfolded with; ability: while the abstract principles of Mr. Owen's peculiar tenets on moral agency, and combinations of circumstances, have been insisted upon, although they do not appear to be essential thereto, since philanthropic individuals could cooperate, whatever might be their ideas on the moral principle of action. The essential and practical operations (and difficulties) of the system have not been clearly stated and examined, their place being occupied by those abstract disquisitions upon which it is hard and needless to convince. But essays on the following operations of active social life would be acceptable to; all, understood by all, useful to all, and would remove many doubts suggested by practical friends of the mutual system.

I. What is to be the stimulus or encouragement to superior industry, activity, and ability in the communities, where no merit is to be ascribed to any one laboring better, quicker, or longer than others? What are to be the inducements to superior exertions, or discoveries in the arts and sciences, or inventions having a beneficial influence and extensive results on the communities and mankind, if such exertions and discoveries are entitled to no reward nor praise? And what are to be the means used or adopted to restrain and meliorate the idle, the petulant, the proud, the vicious, the intemperate, the libertine, &c. if they are to deserve no blame for the injures and unhappiness they may produce? These opposite effects of excellence and depravity are to be expected, more or less, in all communities or aggregation of individuals. If promotion and expulsion are to be the result, are they not rewards and punishments? Is not approbation a kind of praise or reward? Is not admonition equal to blame? How are ambition, jealousy, and vanity to be checked, indolence and neglect to be prevented?

II. How are the communities to stand towards general society and the laws of the land?. Even in the United States, the freest of all countries, a series of laws, results of ages of legislation on individual property, will act as checks and restraints on the mutual system, unless special laws are enacted for their benefit, and this it is doubtful whether selfish legislators will do. If the property of the communities is to be held in trust, what guarantee will bind the trustees? Are the members to be termed children or minors before the law, or what? Are they not to be deemed partners, since they labor for mutual benefit? As partners, the perplexing maze of laws on partnership will bear upon them, each being liable for each in all cases, and bad members might injure or disturb the communities: declarations and expositions will not avail in many cases. Widows and orphans have peculiar rights by law, which may perplex, or be used by enemies. How is all this to be avoided, how is it contemplated to act in common, and in spite of the bad laws forbidding special partnerships or cooperations?

III. Money is to be rendered useless, but how? Is not money or any other medium a conventional sign of a value, as much as cattle or cloth? Is not money wanted to buy the land, to settle upon, to hire additional workmen for the great buildings, for materials and tools, of trade or science, to pay the tax, &c. &c.? Are not money or values to be borrowed in and out the society, a stock created, and an interest paid thereon? All this requires money or the equivalent, whence will follow, as in every other concern, financial scheme, book., accounts, &c. If a community does not sell to general society a sufficiency to pay taxes, interest of stock, materials wanted, &c.—How are the difficulties that will follow to be overcome, and money to be dispensed with?

IV. A great hollow square is proposed, as the most efficient and useful mode of building a convenient village? Why has not the square been described, and engraved? Are we to go to Washington, or New Harmony, to see the models thereof? The journey may be long and expensive. Let us have good diagrams, elevations and explanations of a single side of the square, and we may then judge for ourselves, even at a distance. How are the halls, kitchens, rooms, stairs, doors, windows, &c. to be distributed? How are the steam stoves, chimneys, pipes for conveying warm and cool air or water to be contrived? What would be the cost of such a palace or single side, if built by contract, or by the members? What are the superior advantages of a hollow square over parallel sides at a convenient distance, or hollow triangles, pentagons, hexagons, or octagons? How will the unevenness of the ground be avoided? Are the sides to have cellars and garret—two or three stories? What kind of roofs? Are they to be made incombustible, and how?

Such, and many more, are the practical details which many have wished to know and are now asking to be informed upon.


The Teddy Bears' House Underground

Teddy Bears, and squatting and police violence, oh my! Maybe you're wondering what this particular title is doing here. Once upon a time, when I was pamphleting more than blogging, I very slightly detourned an old teddy bear title which was already pretty anarchist-friendly. Since teddy bears were initially prone to stirring up mischief, it didn't take more than some very slight changes to make the bunch in The Teddy Bears' House Underground into the cuddliest squat collective you're likely to see. In full color. Enjoy!

Monday, September 25, 2006

A Poem on Equitable Commerce

[The New Harmony Gazette published the following in December, 1827.]

From the Saturday Evening Chronicle we copy, for the amusement of his friends, the following jeu d'esprit, on the Magazine kept by a late fellow-citizen at the corner of Elm and Fifth streets, Cincinnati, wherein a subscriber may receive, for one day's labor, a similar amount of the labor of any other subscriber,—or may purchase articles at a wholesale price, adding thereto the value of the time necessarily consumed in the sale of the article.

For an equal exchange of Labor, as valued by Time, now in successful operation, at the corner of Elm and Fifth streets, Cincinnati.


All hail to the era of knowledge divine!
When the value of Labor by Time is displayed,
When money, the bane of mankind, must decline,
Since time, peerless time, forms the medium of trade.

Oh, where? for these thousands of years, has been kept,
This science which now, for the first time, is known?
Where! where but in Error's dark kennels has slept,
This true source of wealth which a Warren has shown.

By a medium of Minutes this traffic sublime,
Displays an Elysium among us begun;
Where labor buys labor for that sum of time,
(from one to another) in which it was done.

Now the teacher of youth, or the master of arts,
The skiful physician, or votary of trade,
Asks but the same time, for the time he imparts,
By those who he serves, in return, to be paid.

A 'Bill of All Wants,' ever posted to view,
As rated by time, at all times may be seen;
And those who who supply them, receive as their due,
Notes in Minutes and Hours on the Time-Magazine.

These hours and minutes, so willingly lost,
In the earnings of dollars and cents, or mere cash!
Are now so much valued they purchase at cost,
The Goods which were bought with the obsolete trash.

Then "Ho every one" that's in want, or is not!—
Here's a treasure which no one beside us has seen,
Where all sorts of Goods may be readily got,
For just what they cost, at the Time-Magazine.

Then hail, thou great era of knowledge divine!
When the standard of labor by time is displayed;
When the value of money shall surely decline,
Since Labor and Time are the Medium of trade.
[New Harmony Gazette, Dec. 26, 1827. Vol. 3, No. 12, p. 94.]

Robert Owen's Letter to America, 1826

I'm currently working a lot on the years 1825-27 in America, the high-water mark period for Robert Owen's influence in the U.S., as well as the period out of which the "Mutualist" of 1826 emerges. My search for clues to the identity and location of that early critic of Owen and contemporary of Josiah Warren was one of the things that convinced me to pursue the Distributive Passions project. Expect a sort of miscellany of period pieces here over the next week or so.

At Sea—New York Packet, October, 1825.

Americans—I am again hastening to your shores, and I return with a fixed determination to exert all my powers for your benefit, and through you for that of the world at large.

In your industry, mechanical knowledge, and general enterprise; in the quality and cheapness of your soil; in the extent and variety of your climate; in your liberation, in part, from the prejudices of the old world, but more particularly in the freedom of your government, you amply possess the means to secure immediately the most important private and national benefits to yourselves and to your posterity, and to give them to other nations still more in want of them.

It is true you have derived many advantages from your European ancestors; but it is equally true, that you have transplanted a very large portion of their errors and prejudices: you cannot, therefore, enjoy, to their full extent, the benefits to which I refer, until these errors of the old world shall have been removed.

The greatest and most lamentable of these are the notions, that human nature has been so formed as to be able to believe and disbelieve, and to love and hate, at pleasure, and that there can be merit or demerit in believing or disbelieving, and in loving or hating. These false notions are the origin of evil, and the real cause of all sin and misery among mankind; yet they are received and continued in direct opposition to every fact known to the human race. Every one may easily ascertain for himself that they are errors of the imagination. Let any one endeavour, by his own will alone, to compel himself to believe what he disbelieves, or has been taught to think he disbelieves. For instance, let any one who is a sincere christian, endeavour, with all his powers, to compel himself to believe that Mahomet was a true prophet; or a devout Jew that Jesus was the true Messiah, and only Son of God; or a conscientious Musselman, that Mahomet was a cheat and an impostor. Or again, let any one endeavour to dislike that which by his nature or education he has been made to like.

This experiment, if fairly and honestly made, will be sufficient to convince every one, that belief and disbelief, love and hatred, are not under the control of the will. It is therefore irrational in the extreme to maintain, that man can be accountable for either, and unjust and injurious to force any such absurdity into the infant mind.

Yet all religions and laws have been hitherto founded on this error. Hence their want of success; hence the present irrational state of the human mind in every part of the world; and hence nearly all the evils, except those of climate, which afflict the inhabitants of the United States.

When these errors shall have been removed there will be no obstacle to great improvements in education, rapid advances in valuable knowledge of every kind, the creation of wealth, and the arrangement and government of society for the well being and happiness of the inhabitants of every state in the union.

But this change cannot be effected until society shall be remodelled on principles in strict accordance with our nature, nor until men shall be taught the facts upon which these principles are founded, viz. that no infant ever formed any part of itself—that no two infants are alike—that infants from birth are gradually formed into the characters which they afterwards become, by the circumstances which exist around them acting upon the peculiar combination of faculties, qualities and propensities which has been given to each infant at birth.

A knowledge of these facts will develope the real nature of man, and show the importance and necessity of well directing the circumstances which shall form the characters of the next and future generations, and which may materially amend those of the present. Having devoted many years to acquire a knowledge of the various circumstances by which men have been hitherto formed and governed, and in applying this knowledge to practice, I am induced to think that the experience thus obtained will enable me to explain to the world the science of the influence of circumstances, through a knowledge of which society may be in future so arranged and governed, that it shall almost always produce happiness, and scarcely ever produce misery.

It cannot be expected that a subject so comprehensive in practice, and so new to the world, should be readily understood by a verbal or written explanation, except by a few superior minds. I have therefore had a model formed explanatory of the proposed new arrangements, under the influence of which the character and condition of each individual, and of society, cannot fail to be entirely changed and incalculably improved. This model I bring as a present to the general government of the United States, that the individual government of each state may have an opportunity of obtaining a copy of it, and that all, if they choose, may be equally benefitted, should the plan be found to comprise all the extraordinary advantages which long experience has taught me to think it possesses. The model, and all the knowledge which experience has imparted to me on the various subjects connected with it, I freely give, without the expectation of any return. You possess nothing which I desire to obtain, except your good will and kind feelings; and these you cannot avoid giving, it circumstances shall be created to produce them; and if not, you cannot bestow them. Your wealth, places and honours I could not, with my views, either value or accept. Your praises would be no praises to me, and the principles which I entertain lead me to estimate fame less than an infant's rattle. I come to you with a fixed determination to make no-pecuniary gain in-your country—I come to you, therefore, with no sordid, nor with any interested motive, unless it be one to desire-to see so many of my fellow creatures enjoy the happiness which I believe this change of your system will produce. If you do not make the change, I cannot, in the slightest degree, blame any of you; but I shall attribute the want of success of my views to the deficiency of power in myself to explain them in such a manner as to make it appear to be your interest to adopt them All I ask is, that you will fully and honestly examine the subject. Your friend,
[The Universalist, Jan 2, 1826, Vol. 1, No. 19, p. 300.]

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Distributive Passions: Mutualist fiction blog

My notebooks are full of leading, if perhaps unanswerable, questions and what-if's regarding radical history. At one time, when my focus was on the tag-end of antebellum utopian socialism movements in the postbellum era, I began to work out some of my ideas in the form of speculative fiction: The Old Dispensation is a story of socialism in decay and disrepute, following a rag-tag caravan of old school radicals, who probably should have found new tricks, off to Oregon, where they ride their hobby-horses into an obscure and unexpected glory. I'll be dusting off my accounts of Lanquist's Exodus, Solly's Town, and Vobo, the Alwaso Boy sometime soon for a new project, The Distributive Passions, which will rework episodes from radical history. Butterfly Labor, the chronologically first set of episodes, begins with this conceit:
Imagine that, in the early 19th century, the various libertarian currents, particularly mutualism, had met with just a little less resistance, that co-operation had dug its roots in just a bit deeper, particularly in American soil. Imagine there was a bit more to the ubiquitous social-sciences-of-everything than just hyperbole and wild metaphysical speculation. . .
and begins to run with it. It is essentially a one-sided epistolatory novel, consisting of letters from "Cabalist" to a number of the usual suspects of individualist anarchism. The first two sections are Sovereigns and Doctrines of Life. A bridging narrative, Across Golden Seas, set during the 2010 Intergalactic Encuentro, mixes Fourierist fantasy with more topical stuff.

This will undoubtedly be a fits and starts affair, but I intend to work on it fairly steadily, incorporating into it much of my current speculation about radical history. Much of the fiction will be keyed fairly closely to the material I'm posting here, to the more general intellectual history work at The Very Idea!, and to the material on Christian social justice that I'm working up for my new church gig. Ultimately, it's all a tribute to the sometimes astounding ambition and range of interests of figures like Fourier, Proudhon, Greene and Andrews, written for the comrades and colleagues most likely to get the jokes. You know who you are.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Josiah Warren Project

Crispin Sartwell has launched the Josiah Warren Project, an archive and collection of resources by and about Warren. There are some very rare items already in the archive, including material from the Peaceful Revolutionist and The Quarterly Letter. Crispin is apparently working on a book about Warren. Many of you will be familiar with The Exquisite Rebel, the Voltairine de Cleyre collection he edited with Sharon Presley.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Notes on "The Index," etc.

I've now worked through six of the first eight volumes of the free religionist paper, The Index, and it strikes me that we're going to have to revise somewhat our sense of what the important periodicals of the late 19th century were, for individualist anarchists. At the very least, we're going to have to add one to the list.

A few surprises:

  1. Tucker's translations of Proudhon's "The State" and "The Malthusians" both appeared in The Index in 1877, prior to their appearance in Liberty (which began publication in ).
  2. Following the end of the Tucker-Andrews debate on Proudhon in 1876, Stephen Pearl Andrews began a series of articles on "The Science of Universology"—a series which continued on a more-than-monthly basis through at least 1878. That 32 entries and counting. . . more than one hundred pages of new universological material, including responses to William B. Greene on his "doctrine of life" and his work on Herbert Spencer.
  3. The prosecution and imprisonment of Ezra H. Heywood for circulating "obscene" materials through the mail, occupied much of the attention of the free religionists as they formed their "liberal leagues," and led to a split in the movement. The 1878 volume of The Index contains extended debates over the Heywood case, and "obscenity" in general.

Dyer Lum wrote about buddhism (of all things) in the pages of The Index, and many other names are familiar from Tucker's Radical Review, and from later periodicals like Liberty and Lucifer.


Speaking of Heywood and the Comstock prosecutions, Google Books has the Proceedings of the Indignation Meeting Held in Faneuil Hall, Thursday Evening, August 1, 1878 in its collection. It also has The Persecution and the Appreciation: Brief Account of the Trials and Imprisonment of Moses Harman (1907), which was compiled in part by Herman Kuehn. Unfortunately, both texts are corrupt, either lacking pages or containing pages so badly scanned that they are unreadable. The Harman text is available on the same microfilm as the American Journal of Eugenics (which followed Lucifer, and is a whole other topic...) Here are a few more Heywood-related items there:

As contextual material for The Index, the Index-Word and Index-Liberty feuds, and the debate over Heywood and obscenity, Harvard University has the Papers of Francis Ellingwood Abbot, which looks like it might be full of interesting stuff.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

How To Escape the Coin Monopoly (1895)

It's a good week for currency cranks. I was working through some microfiched pamphlets from John Zube's Libertarian Microfiche Project, trying to work my way through this "roll call" phase of my researches on mutual banking. I consider John a kindred libertarian-packrat, and I'm always finding little gems, usually with his notes attached, on fiche I picked up for some other text. How To Escape the Coin Monopoly (1895), published anonymously by the Equity Publishing Company of Oakland, California, is just such a gem. I won't speculate right now on the authorship, but the sources are obvious and explicit. The short pamphlet rewrites Alfred B. Westrup's revision of William B. Greene's mutual banking plan, introducing the "product cheque" in place of the mutual bank bill. Equity Publishing Co. seems to have been affiliated with Egoism, a journal to which Westrup was a contributor.

The pamphlet contains the nth version of Greene's proposal for a mutual bank. We really now have a pretty remarkable sample of such proposals. I'm contemplating a return to pamphlet publishing this fall, and the possibility of an anthology of these proposals is tempting.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

What Mutualism Was-III: "A Mutualist" of 1826

This is the third in a series of explorations of the mutualist tradition—or, perhaps more appropriately, traditions. The particular perspective they present is, as I've said, somewhat revisionist. It has been some time since I've posted in this series. My decision to tackle some of Proudhon in the original French has created productive delays. In the meantime, allow me to present...

Or, Practical Remarks on the
Social System of Mutual Cooperation.

In the first entry in this series, I mentioned this series of five letters to the New Harmony Gazette, which Bestor notes as the first published use of the word mutualist. It took some time to transcribe the material, and a bit more to mentally process it. It's significance for the genealogy of mutualism is that it confuses a rather perplexing history just a bit more—and delightfully so. The work begins with a quote from John Gray's Lecture on Human Happiness, which had just been published. Gray is supposed to have talked about mutualism, although so far I have not found the references. But it appears that the term mutualist had some currency in circles not far removed from him. And while the assimilation of Warren to the mutualism of Proudhon and Greene may still be largely retroactive, we can now at least place Warren very close to an even earlier debate using the term.

Look for a time-labor currency scheme in bare bones form. Again, the early history of the labor note still requires elaboration.

In any event, it is very nice to have this early and interesting text online. Read it in pdf form now.

Monday, September 04, 2006

On Lysander Spooner's tummy

As it turns out, physician and temperance reformer Diocletian ("Dio") Lewis (1823-1886) was a friend of Lysander Spooner, and Spooner features in Lewis' book, Talks about People's Stomachs (1870). I was unfamiliar with Lewis until yesterday when, as fate would have it, I dug up both his account of Spooner's eating habits and a biography of Rev. Jesse Henry Jones (who debated William B. Greene in the pages of The Word) which also mentions him. Anyway, without further ado, here is the first of two sections related to Spooner:

One Meal a Day.
The Greek and Roman armies ate but once a day, and so important was the habit regarded in the Roman army, that they made it the subject of special thanksgiving. One of their most frequently repeated prayers closed with these words:—

"And we thank the gods that our soldiers eat but once a day."

So general was the habit in the days of Hippocrates, that the "Father of Medicine" says in one place:—

"When a man so far forgets himself as to eat more than one meal a day, he soon becomes thirsty and stupid."

A Roman traveller tells us of certain "beastly tribes who were not satisfied with one meal a day."

Catlin assures us that the Indians, when on the hunt or war path, never eat but once a day.
The big teamsters in Pennsylvania, from time immemorial, have fed their horses but once a day.
The best and the hardest worked horse I ever owned was driven two years in the practice of my profession in the country. It was more than a quarter of a century ago, and before I had ever heard much about one meal a day. I fed Robin only once a day because it was inconvenient to feed him oftener. He seemed to do well, so I continued. On putting him up at night, I poured twenty quarts of oats into his trough, and put a lock of hay into the rack. A box of salt was left near him, to which he might resort at pleasure. In the morning a good grooming, and he was ready for another day. He did wonderfully well, and accomplished more miles than any other horse I have ever driven.

Lysander Spooner, referred to in another place, is now sixty-two years of age. Up to fifty he ate three meals a day, then for nine years two meals, and now for three years one meal a day. Mr. Spooner has suffered a good deal from stomach troubles during his life, and, indeed, until the adoption of the one meal system. Now he is bright and cheerful as a boy, and has a skin like a baby's. I do not know another man of his age so youthful in spirit.

I scarcely know a better thinker than Mr. Spooner, while his honesty has passed into a proverb. After his complete experiment, he is warm and explicit in his testimony. He is confident that if workers of all classes would rise early from an eight hours' sleep and digestion, they would be ready for a day's work without further eating. An evening came on he would have them rest for an hour; perhaps drink a glass of water, and then quietly and slowly fill the stomach with plain, substantial nourishment. Then sleeping and digesting, they again prepare themselves for a day's work, without any division of force between the brain and muscle and the stomach. During the day the stomach asks for nothing, the brain and muscle have it all their own way.

I have myself begun an experiment with this one meal system, and after a year or two will report progress, and either ask to be excused from further service on the committee, or, on the other hand, I shall ask leave to introduce a resolution, that we all live in this way.

Ezra Heywood vs. Elizur Wright: The "Family Bank" Debate

I've resumed my work extracting significant debates from The Index with an 1876 exchange between Ezra H. Heywood and Elizur Wright on the "Family Bank." Heywood takes the standard anti-usury line, while Wright, who was an important reformer in the insurance business, takes what he believes is a more practical tack. There is plenty of work to be done in fleshing out the context of this debate. I would also be unsurprised to find a continuation in the volume for 1877. Stay tuned. . .

Other collected Index debates:

Sunday, September 03, 2006

New venue

After a long, complicated set of negotiations and near-misses, I've scheduled a first seminar at the local progressive campus ministry. Initially, we had talked about something focusing on William B. Greene in his role as Christian minister, but the pastor has asked me if I would do something with a broad, ecumenical appeal—while still drawing largely from my work on religion and liberty. In the end, we came up with "Models of Christian Charity," a seminar starting with Winthrop's "Modell" and working forward. I'll post details as I get them worked out, but this is a potentially very interesting line to follow, and I'm excited about the possibilities. Serious discussions of charity very often seem to juggle, more or less comfortably, a strong emphasis on self-help with an equally strong emphasis on unconditional love and radical forgiveness. It will be fun to see where the discussions take us.

Google Books downloads

If you've been putting off taking a look at some of the goodies on Google Books because of the inconvenience of paging through volumes, there is some good news. Many of the "full view" titles are now downloadable as pdf files. That doesn't mean the scans themselves are any better, alas, but it is much easier to deal with what's available. I'll be compiling some "user's guides" to the anarchist material available, as I get time to check over the pdfs and see what is and isn't usable.