Monday, April 30, 2007

Tucker on Right and Rights, 1882

There have been a series of discussions / arguments / pointless pissing contests in recent months, revolving around the question of just what sorts of property, and what sorts of actions, are authorized by mutualist theory. Mutualism begins—literally, in Proudhon's What Is Property?—with a sense that "property" may be a problem without a really satisfactory solution. What, then, does that mean about the mutualist understanding of property relations, particularly in a setting where other property systems may be in place, or in competition. The short answer is probably that mutualism authorizes very little. If the best we can do is to determine workable conventions for the best title, it is not clear that we will always be able to clearly distinguish between competing systems on the grounds of equity and justice. In practice, the extension of rights is largely a matter of current convention. Of course, liberty, certainly the core value for any libertarian, will shape our practices in a very basic way—and sometimes it may shape them in unexpected ways. Benjamin Tucker, in all phases of his career, was sensitive to the ways in which even a "plumb-line" libertarian philosophy could set values at odds with one another, and pose problems in practice. In the essay that follows, he writes about the distinction between right and rights.

Benjamin R. Tucker, "Right and Individual Rights," Liberty, 1, 12 (January 7, 1882), 3.

Right and Individual Rights.

Until somebody shall have formulated and demonstrated a correct science of Justice, the way is ever open to constant confusion as regards the subject of right and rights. The column of a newspaper are not the place to develop such a science; nevertheless, the matter is so important that we have determined, reconsidering our previously-announced purpose to drop it, to once more re-state our position. On several occasions our editorials have been sharply criticised by parties who are supposed to know something of the principles of Liberty; not that they would differ from us, if they carried in mind the distinction that must necessarily be kept in view in discussing the bearings of Liberty upon human acts but simply that they have got into the habit of carelessly defining acts without reference to the sphere of the individuals acting.

The right to do a thing and the abstract right of a thing involve two essentially different principles. For instance, we have defended the right of individuals to make contracts stipulating the payment of usury, and should strike at the very essence of Liberty if we did not; but this defense of individual right by no means carries with it the defence of usury as an equitable transaction per se. In defending the right to take usury, we do not defend the right of usury. He who cannot see this has not mastered the A B C of social analysis. One of our critics, who has twice challenged our defence of individuals who voluntarily choose to be parties to usury, strenuously defends "free rum." Would he like to be accused of saying thereby that it is a right, as a matter of principle, to drink rum inordinately? No, he is a severe believer in the wrongfulness of excessive rum-drinking. But he believes that the rum-drinker and the rum-seller have the right to execute a contract involving a practice wrong in itself, and that no third party has the right to step between them by force and dictate the terms of their mutual and voluntary transactions. That is exactly, and no more than, what Liberty affirms with regard to usury. Wherein, then, have we so grievously sinned?

To say that it is absolutely right to do a thing is to say that to do it is to do that which will administer to the greatest possible good, when every possible element involved in the transaction is seen and weighed. But who possesses that sublime omniscience which can see and weigh every element, past, present, and future, that enters into a transaction? And even If one could, who I to vouch authoritatively that his weights, measures, and balances are correct? In this dilemma the theologians, of course, find an easy way out by setting up a pure fiction labelled "God" and stamped infallible. This trick, however, being "played out" with our critics, how do they propose to get at the absolute right of a thing? Is there, indeed, in practice, any absolute right?

Nor does it solve the matter at all to bring in the cost principle, and say that that is absolutely right which is done solely at the cost of the individual who act. There is no mentionable act, not even the dropping of a pin in the middle of the Desert of Sahara, of which It can infallibly be said that it is done solely at the cost of the individuals acting. The loss of that pin as a necessary surgical instrument to treat the disabled camel may cot its life and with t the lives of the whole party. We believe in the cost principle as a standard, and the best at our service, but its observance can never result in the universality of absolute right, since no man or set of men can over attain to the omniscience of foreseeing the entire bill of costs, or on which side of scales all the consequents will arrange themselves. In short, with our human limitations, absolute right practically has no existence.

The only way even to approximately solve the right and wrong of human acts is to leave every individual free to make such contracts with his fellows as to them seem good. The fact of how far given transactions are executed at the cost of others will soon be made evident in every case by the protest of those on whom the cost unjustly falls. If every individual is left free to make contracts and ever free to enter an effectual protest against transactions wherein the cast falls upon his shoulders without his consent, the consequent adjustments will reach the nearest possible approach to absolute justice. The monster that Liberty invites true reformers to help battle down and exterminate is the State, whoso purpose is, first, to enforce unjust contracts through forcible defence of monopoly, and, second, to make effectual protest impossible by defending ill-gotten properly from the natural retribution which attends tyranny and theft.

Liberty, therefore, must defend the right of individuals to make contracts involving usury, rum, marriage, prostitution, and many other things which it believes to be wrong in principle and opposed to human well-being. The right to do wrong involves the essence of all rights. Perfect liberty to contract for what is wrong is the shortest and surest way to abolish that wrong, provided the State can be made to step down and out and leave the wrong to it merits in a fair fight with no favors. The State, however, almost invariably takes sides with the wrong, and declares the advocates of a fair contest between right and wrong enemies of law and order. The right, losing its head in that most dangerous of superstitions known as patriotism, is stupid enough to take up arms against itself and everything goes to suit the oppressor.

Given the untrammelled right to take usury on the one hand, and the untrammelled right to protest that its cost shall not be shouldered by the innocent on the other, abolish all State interference, and then usury can work no harm to humanity. The minimum of its harm is measured by the total abolition of the State, and in the last analysis usury is wrong, in practice, solely because the State is suffered to exist. To those who cannot meet us on this ground as radical reformers we respectfully announce that we decline to waste any more time and type over their future shufflings.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

William B. Greene, Communism vs. Mutualism

[This is a repost, probably the first of several, highlighting some of the more important statements about the philosophy of mutualism. Long-time readers and students of mutualism should note, particularly as I did not note it myself before, Greene's apparent adoption of the "cost principle," and the linked principle of deferred and social profit: "so much as the individual laborer will then get over and above what he has earned will come to him as his share in the general prosperity of the community of which he is an individual member." That does not mean, however, that Greene had jumped onto the Warren-Andrews bandwagon. In language that demonstrates how much he was, even in the 1870s, still the Rev. Mr. Greene, and still in search of a "New Christianity," he describes individual sovereignty as "the John the Baptist, without whose coming the mutualistic idea remains void." I suspect there is still a good deal to dig out of the pages of The Word, which was the last forum (perhaps the only forum) where the major figures of antebellum mutualism in AmericaWarren, Greene, and Ingalls—were in direct communication and debate—with one another, but also with the heirs of the Edward Kellogg tradition.]

This chapter from William Batchelder Greene's Socialistic, Communistic, Mutualistic and Financial Fragments (1875), originally appeared in The Word. Greene's correspondent was apparently Jesse Henry Jones (1836-1904), a frequent contributor to The Word and a number of other reform-oriented or religious magazines, and author of several books. He prompted debates in a couple of the Oneida-related periodicals, and composed a song in support of the 8-hour movement. (I'll try to find some time to treat Jones separately, and dig up the immediate context for this exchange.) Greene is in his combatative mode here, happy to damn "communism," specifically in the sense of community of goods. Elsewhere, of course, like Proudhon judging property "by its aims," Greene was willing to admit that certain tendencies of "communism" were among those that would be balanced (against "individualism" and "socialism") in creating mutualism.

[From the Princeton "Word."]



COMMUNISM is the form which human association naturally assumes at its origin. It implies the absolute supremacy of the chief, the utter subordination of the associates, and has for its maxim the fraternal rule,—each is to work according to his ability, and each is to receive according to his needs. In human communistic societies, as in the societies of wild horses, cattle, or sheep, all individuality is concentrated in the chief, who is instinctively obeyed by the associates as something extra-natural, and ruling by a mysterious, inscrutable right. The individualities of the associates are, among communistic men, as among sheep, numerical only. Each individual is just like all the others, and does just what the others do. The first very marked step in human progress results from the division of labor. It is the characteristic of the division of labor, and of the economic distribution of tasks, that each individual tends to do precisely what the others don't do. As soon as labor is divided, communism necessarily ceases, and MUTUALISM, the negation of communism, and the reciprocal correlation of each to every other, and of every other to each, for a common purpose, commences. The march of social progress is out of communism into mutualism. Communism sacrifices the individual to secure the unity of the whole. Mutualism has unlimited individualism as the essential and necessary prior condition of its own existence, and co-ordinates individuals without any sacrifice of individuality, into one collective whole, by spontaneous confederation, or solidarity. Communism is the ideal of the past; mutualism, of the future. The garden of Eden is before us, as something, to be achieved and attained; not behind US, as something that was lost when labor was divided, tasks were distributed, individualities were encouraged, and communism, or the mere animal and instinctive social order, had the sentence pronounced against it, "Dying, thou shalt surely die."

Mutual insurance has shown, by practical exemplification, a little of what the nature, bearings, and workings of the mutualistic principle are. When the currency shall have become mutualized by mutual banks, and the rate of interest on money loaned shall have been brought down to zero per cent per annum, it will become possible to generalize mutual insurance, applying it to all the contingencies of life, so that men, instead of being, as now, antagonistic to each other, shall be so federated with each other, that an accidental loss falling on any one individual shall be a loss to be compensated by all other individuals, while a gain accidentally accruing to any one individual shall fall to the community, and be shared by all. Under the mutual system, each individual will receive the just and exact pay for his work; services equivalent in cost being exchangeable for services equivalent in cost, without profit or discount; and so much as the individual laborer will then get over and above what he has earned will come to him as his share in the general prosperity of the community of which he is an individual member. The principle of mutuality in social economy is identical with the principle of federation in politics. Make a note of this last fact. Individual sovereignty is the John the Baptist, without whose coming the mutualistic idea remains void. There is no mutualism without reciprocal consent; and none but individuals can enter into voluntary mutual relations. Mutualism is the synthesis of liberty and order.

[In order to more fully explain the doctrine of mutualism, we take the liberty to print the following correspondence, sent to us for our perusal. Since we have omitted all of a private or personal nature, we trust the authors will pardon our making public their valuable thoughts.—Editorial.]
NORTH ABINGTON, MASS., Sept. 28. 1874.
COL. WILLIAM B. GREENE. Dear Sir,—When I made up the essays on interest into a tract, I did so at a venture, i.e., I felt it to be so strong, that it ought to be so used, and I trusted that the means would be provided in due time. Well, now that it is made up, and you are pleased with it, it has occurred to me that you would be willing to share in the cost. It would be practicable, through a few labor reformers who are in the city, to sow a few hundred of these tracts, or, indeed, some thousands, if they were provided; and would not something of the kind be worth your while? The pamphlets you sent have been received. Thanks. There are some striking remarks about God as being alive, in that on the divinity of Jesus. As to banking—is not what men want, the willingness to work together, instead of to lend to each other? Does "The Equity" (newspaper) commend itself to you as of the right temper and strength, so that it ought to live?

BOSTON, MASS., Sept. 29, 1874.
REV. JESSE H. JONES. Dear Sir,—Your letter of yesterday, to me, has been duly received. Contents noted. Please find enclosed a check for the money called for. You say, "As to banking, is not what men want, the willingness to work together, instead of to lend to each other?" I reply, that, so far as my experience goes, the willingness of John to help Thomas and Peter in their work usually takes the form of a willingness to lend money to them to help them along. The application to me for help in any work, almost always, perhaps always, assumes the shape of a request for a loan, or, perhaps, a gift, of money. So long as services are estimated in money values, the man who lends money lends aid and service. Money honestly acquired is the representative of services performed, for which the community is still in debt; and the transfer of money from Peter to John is the transfer of claim for wages due, and not yet paid in kind. I don't believe in the Christian communism you advocate. I repudiate it. I believe in work and wages. The apostles tried Christian communism, and failed. We to-day are no better, to say the least, than the apostles were, and no more competent to command success.

Boston, Oct. 2, 1874.
REV. JESSE H. JONES. Dear Sir,—You ask me, in your communication of yesterday, this pregnant question, "As to methods, does it not seem as though the first thing should be a hearty brotherly union of feeling, and then such co-operation as can be accomplished?" I have to say, in reply, that the hearts of all living creatures are in the hand of the Almighty, who turns them whithersoever he will. God has put the associative sentiment into the hearts of cattle; for, otherwise, they would not go in herds: he has also put it into the hearts of wild and tame geese; for, otherwise, they would not go in flocks, and so on. In man, the associative instinct is, or ought to be, subordinated to reason. The Master says, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Sheep that go in flocks, regulating their motions upon those of their leader, and wolves that go in packs, instinctively organized under special wolves that are their rulers, know many things; but they don't know truth, because they take no cognizance of things supersensual. If you know any truth, state it. I have looked over the numbers of "The Equity," and find in it instinctive and sentimental ejaculations, but no clear statement of any truth. Tell me whether it is with the wolves, or with the sheep, that I ought to have "a hearty brotherly union of feeling," and why. The wild asses of the desert go in herds; but the lions dwell apart. Who furnish the correct ideal for imitation,—the wild asses, or the lions? And in what respect is either one of these ideals preferable to the other? and why? Ought not both of these ideals to be rejected? In every nook and corner of your question, there lurks, as it seems to me, the virus of a heresy not at all belonging to your theological environment. What is wanted at this time is not instinctive association based on feeling, followed by unreasoning co-operation, working disaster to the co-operators, but, first of all, that special knowledge which is possessed by men "who know, their rights, and, knowing, dare maintain," enabling them to act on Andrew Jackson's maxim, and ''demand nothing that is not clearly right, and submit to nothing that is clearly wrong." Gen. Jackson was an individual lion, and dwelt apart. It was his custom to say, "I take the responsibility." There is also wanted, at this time, secondly, a well thought out mutualistic organism in society, whereby, not animal and instinctive men, but twice-born, or spiritual men, may guarantee and insure each other against the assaults of the Devil's kingdom. The bees and beavers have wrought out the utmost possibility of instinctive co-operation. Sin comes before salvation, and is the condition of it: in like manner, individualism—the utter negation of the sentimental associative principle you celebrate, and the ground of the special social disorder that is of human, and not animal origin—is the indispensable prerequisite of mutualism. Mutualism, the ultimate outbirth of civilization, the triumph of the human element in man over the animal element, is the opposite of the communism which "The Equity" advocates. I go for mutualism, and am against communism and socialism.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Eliphalet Kimball—"Anarchy is a good word."

As promised, here's a bit more from Eliphalet Kimball. One of his early contributions to The Boston Investigator was "Law, Commerce, and Religion" (June 30, 1862). It may, in fact, be his earliest explicitly anarchist essay. And it's a doozy—a mix of revolutionary and primitivist elements, written in fine ranting style. There's something to amuse and/or offend pretty much any anarchist or libertarian. But, most importantly, there is the very existence of Kimball, a Yankee doctor calling for a very radical anarchy in the midst of the Civil War, as striking as he is unexpected. Here's a taste:
It is only by anarchy and violence that a great accumulation of social wrongs can be removed. Anarchy is a good word. In means, "without a head." Violence is the healing power of Nature applied to society. The violence which would follow from the abolishment of law, would be proportion to the number and magnitude of the wrongs that needed removal. There ought always to be anarchy, but there would be no violence where there were no wrongs.—Japan needs but little violence. Great Britain needs much. Nothing but violence could have accomplished the great French Revolution, the most beneficent and glorious even of modern times. Law and Religion are responsible for whatever was wrong in it.—Mob law is the right law. Mobs assemble to do justice, to punish bad men whom the law does not reach, and to remove wrongs. There is more reason and justice in a large number of men than in a small number, more in a mob than in a Senate, House of Representatives, judges, or juries. The government of a State, or nation, is a mob, the government of the majority is a mob, and they are the only mobs that ought to be put down. If mankind are not good enough to live without law, they are not good enough to vote for law-makers. Beasts and savages are not fools enough to believe in religion and law, and are good enough to live right without them. Christian and civilized men appear to consider themselves inferior in goodness to savages and beasts. In an uncorrupted state of society, mankind are inclined to do right.—If they were naturally inclined to evil, they would not make laws to prevent it. The fact that laws are made, proves that law is unnecessary.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Josiah Warren, "On Mobs" (1863)

Here's a two-part essay by Josiah Warren, from The Boston Investigator:
Other bits of interest from the Investigator in the early 1860s:
  • Add labor activist John Farrel, of Pennsylvania and then Sonora, California, to the ranks of those promoting the work of Josiah Warren.
  • And prepare yourself for more of Eliphalet Kimball (whose "Civilization—Anarchy" appears here and here.) Kimball turns out to have been fairly prolific, consistently entertaining, and, most significantly, he was unafraid to say that "Anarchy is a good word" in 1862, rather far ahead of the crowd. A New Hampshire physician, he seems to have had an organismic view of society, and as a result viewed the violence that would occur if all laws were eliminated as something like the expulsion from the body politic of "bad humors."

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Henry Olerich


One more for the Rogues Gallery: Henry Olerich, one of the occasional contributors to Liberty, and a more regular contributor to The Twentieth Century, is probably best known for his utopian novel, A Cityless and Countryless World, an Outline of Practical Cooperative Individualism. He wrote a number of other works, including Viola Olerich, the Famous Baby Scholar (which has just leaped to the top of my Weird Books by Libertarians must-see list) and Modern Paradise: An Outline Or Story of How Some of the Cultured People Will Probably Live, Work and Organize in the Near Future. Google Patents also has this patent, #1273652, for a Tractor.

You may notice that various of Google's services now make it more difficult to save or print text or images. Or you may not, as these issues seem to be in semi-constant flux. My sense, though, is that Google, like many of the companies providing online content, is looking for that state of minimal usability, which provides enough utility to users to keep them looking, but prevents them from making "too much" use of the material. I would feel better (though not much better) about Google using its partnerships with university libraries to amass a kind of property in public domain works if the work was not so unbelievably shoddy and error-ridden.

More on Henry Olerich in the near future.

Friday, April 20, 2007

From the Libertarian Library - the first wave

120 posts since I launched From the Libertarian Library on March 23! Not bad for a month's work. Here's an index of what's there so far:

Thursday, April 19, 2007

John Adams, mutual bank advocate

With two other researchers now working on Josiah Warren, I've been trying (as regular readers will know) to get notes together and sources archived. It's rather wonderful, I must say, to be working in a field so wide open that it's a relief to find that someone else can make use of your research. One less book to write. My notes on The Boston Investigator turned out to be a little less complete than I had hoped, so I've been taking another look at those microfilm reels—no hardship since each pass through a literature as rich as this tends to create leads that need to be followed up with more digging. I knew, for example, that there was more material by Peter I. Blacker, who became an advocate of equitable commerce and individual sovereignty following Warren's 1848 lectures in Boston, so collecting the rest of Blacker's contributions to the Investigator became something of a priority. Of course, pursuing Blacker beyond the debates directly related to Warren's influence meant introducing myself to a whole new cast of characters. Blacker wrote some pro-women's rights material in 1853, the year of the Massachusetts State Constitutional Convention, at which William B. Greene delivered a speech in favor of women's suffrage (the occasion for some unkind words by Lord Acton.) In the debate that followed, dragging on into 1854, a great deal hinged on the implications of T. L. Nichols' Woman in All Ages and Nations (to which Stephen Pearl Andrews contributed an introduction.) Blacker debated "Common Sense," a regular contributor, and was joined by "J. Adams" of Brookfield, MA. Brookfield was, of course, where Green had been a Unitarian minister from 1845 until about 1853. By 1854, the Greenes had probably moved to Paris, but a few years before the section of western Massachusetts where they lived had been the site of a currency reform agitation that inspired a number of petitions to the General Court. We know almost nothing about this movement, beyond the dates of a few petitions, and some tantalizing hints that Greene was preaching reform from the pulpit and may have been involved with a cooperative store in Brookfield. We do, however, have a few names of petitioners. The Massachusetts Ploughman and New England Journal of Agriculture for January 19, 1850 reports that on the 15th January the Senate received a number of petitions, including that of:
. . . John Adams and others for a Mutual Bank in Brookfield . . .
It appears that John Adams of Brookfield did not abandon currency reform on the Proudhon-Greene-land bank model after Greene left Brookfield. A search through the pages of the Investigator for more contributions by Adams has already revealed a three-part essay on "Social Reform" citing Proudhon and advancing Greene's project, though without use of the "mutual bank" terminology. "Social Reform, No. I" is now available online, and I'll be transcribing the other parts soon, as well as looking for more contributions to the Investigator. It's a particular pleasure to welcome figures like John Adams and Peter I. Blacker to the ranks of known mutualists, despite their relatively obscurity. Knowledge of their existence and activities makes it that much more likely that we will, at some point, be able to establish the extent and influence of the early mutual bank propaganda.

Coming attractions: the next couple of rolls of microfilm ought to bring me to the period in which early anarchist Eliphalet Kimball was active. His Thoughts on Natural Principles, an obscure entry in the very limited literature on anarchism pre-1870, was originally published in the Investigator.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

J. K. Ingalls, Woman's Industrial Subjection

Joshua King Ingalls was one of the most tireless of the radical writers of the second half of the 19th century, and one of those most interested in the "social problem" in all its aspects. Although land reform was his primary interest, he also addressed women's rights in several of his writings. The four parts of "Woman's Industrial Subjection" appeared in 1889 in The Woman's Tribune, an important woman's newspaper. They contain Ingalls' attempt at a historical or anthopological account of the origins of women's subjection to men, and an analysis of how this subjection paralleled the creation of modern economic systems. He depicts a pair of "inversions," by which women, once the very model of the "productive class," ended up doubly marginalized, and their labor doubly devalued.

On the question of "value," #4 includes some interesting observations, including the definition of "value" as "simply 'an estimate of the mind.'"

The four essays are now available From the Libertarian Library:

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Josiah Warren, Equitable Commerce, &c.

Here are four pieces, recently added to the archive, all relating to Josiah Warren.

Peter I. Blacker was a frequent contributor to The Boston Investigator, where his posts were frequently signed "P. I. B." He was also, from all indications, one of the most enthusiastic converts to the system of "equitable commerce" promoted by Josiah Warren in a series of lectures in Boston in 1848 and 1849. Blacker contributed a number of articles to the Investigator, and to other Boston papers, in support of Warren's efforts. This article, from 1852, announces the beginnings of the Modern Times experiment and lays out the basic principles of Warren's "equity villages."

This article, originally published in Warren's own Peaceful Revolutionist and submitted to the Investigator by Blacker, contains a very succinct statement of the principles of equitable commerce. There are some interesting elements here, such as the definition of "cost" in terms of pain, which is somewhat at odds with at least the more naive readings of just what Warren meant by "labor for labor exchange." The pain-standard opens "equitable commerce" to some very subjective interpretations of "cost," removing many of the objections raised by those opposed in principle to any labor theory of value.

Here is part of the story of Warren the inventor—desk-top publishing, 1830 style. Note both the very contemporary concern with individual access to media, and the comments of intellectual property rights.

This satirical piece is probably by Josiah Warren. There was at least one other writer who wrote for The Free Enquirer over the signature "J. W." This other J. W. appears to be the same Baltimore subscriber who later contributed to The Boston Investigator. This letter, however, strikes me as displaying a number of Warren's standard concerns, from a suspicion of government to a disdain for intellectual property rights. Perhaps Crispin or Jason will be able to confirm or deny my suspicion.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

From the Boston Investigator, 1848-49, Pt. 1

I was contacted this afternoon by a reader of this blog who is working on a biography of Josiah Warren. Taking that together with Crispin Sartwell's work on a Warren Anthology, Crispin's Josiah Warren Project archive, and the work that I've been doing digging through the archives, it appears that Warren's star is once again on the rise. Good news! I've been promising Crispin the results of my own work for awhile, so here's a start.

XVII, 49 (April 12, 1848) 3.

THE “ANGLO SACSUN,”—The publishers of the Phonographic paper, by this name, printed in New York, have issued a circular stating that their mail books and every thing tending to give them the least clue to the residences of their subscribers, have been stolen! The subscribers are therefore requested to forward their names and residences to the publishers, and to state the time, as near as possible, to which their subscription runs, This they are requested to do previous to May 1st, until which time the next regular number will not be issued. [Note: This was a publication of Andrews & Boyle—the Andrews being, Stephen Pearl Andrews, in his role as pioneer in the field of phonography and phonotypy.]

XVIII, 16 (August 23, 1848) 3.

Lecture by Josiah Warren.

PEOPLE'S SUNDAY MEETING —The usual discussion next Sunday will be suspended in order to allow Mr. Josiah Warren, lately of New Harmony, (Ind.,) an opportunity to deliver a lecture on the subject of "Equitable Commerce." This new mode of Social Reformation is one that Mr. Warren has paid much attention to for several years, and from the very favorable manner in which we have seen him noticed in Western papers, we have no doubt of his being a gentleman of considerable ability and well-qualified to give an interesting and instructive Lecture. His address next Sunday, which he has kindly volunteered to deliver gratis, will be of an introductory character, and followed perhaps by a course of Lectures, if such should be the wish of the meeting. Believing that the subject, as he explains it, is well worth the attention of all classes of society, but more particularly of the friends of Social Reform—such as the Associationists, Protective Unionists, Communists, or whatever other name the friends of Humanity may rally under—we would earnestly ask for Mr. Warren a large and prompt attendance. As proof of the idea that his system of reform is based on practical demonstration, we would state that the settlement of Utopia, (Ohio,) now in a flourishing condition, is founded upon the plan which he intends to make the subject of his proposed Lectures.

The place of meeting is Hancock Hall, 339 Washington street—time, quarter past 2 o'clock, P. M.

XVIII, 16 (August 23, 1848) 3

The People’ Sunday Meeting,

This Institution holds a public meeting every SUNDAY AFTERNOON, at Hancock Hall, 330 Washington street, commencing at quarter past, 2 o’clock. On Sunday afternoon next, a Lecture will be delivered by Josiah Warren, from Utopia, Ohio, Subject—Equitable Commerce. A New Mode of Social Reformation. The public, without distinction, are respectfully invited to attend

XVIII, 38 (January 24, 1849) 3

Mr. Warrens Lecture.

PEOPLE’S SUNDAY MEETING—The lecture delivered by My, Jostin WARREN on Sunday last, was very interesting, and well attended. We should be pleased to give an extended report of it, but horn the manner in which a great part of the lecture was carried on—namely, by questions from the audience and his answers thereto—we fear we should not be able to do it any thing like justice did we attempt a detailed report, and the whole subject being a new one in this quarter, we should regret very much to say even a word upon it that should tend to give an erroneous impression of its real character. Besides, we are not without hopes that Mr. Warren, before he leaves our city, will furnish us with a series of short articles for publication, detailing minutely the theory and practice of his new Social Experiment at Utopia. By this method, it will not only be well understood in this section, but by means of our circulation it will be spread over the country at large, and thus be ought to the notice of a great many liberal and enquiring minds who might not otherwise have an opportunity to acquaint themselves with its merits. Referring again to Mr. Warren’s mode of lecturing, we cannot well refrain from alluding to a very original feature, which strikingly exhibits his remarkable candor and fairness —and that is, his custom of inviting the audience to raise any objections they may deem necessary for the better understanding of any particular point he is illustrating. No more convincing test than this can be given of a Reformer’s sincerity and honesty; and were the honorable and candid example followed by the clergy, they would no longer have occasion to complain of empty pews, for the intelligent and enquiring would crowd their sanctuaries from floor to ceiling, and soon liberalize the whole church system.

But though we are not able to present in detail the lecture of Mr. Warren, we believe we can state correctly some of his general propositions, and thereby give a faint idea of his system. He took it for granted that the great problem of harmonious society was yet to be solved. His solution was comprised in Equitable Commerce, by which he included all intercourse between men. Equitable Commerce was based on individual interest; every individual is his or her own sovereign, and must always be above or superior to institutions; people (of whom there are twelve families in Utopia) do not sign any pledge, constitution, or regulation—there is perfect individuality there. Again, his plan included the just reward of labor Articles were not bought and sold at Utopia at a value, but at their cost, which cost was regulated by the amount labor bestowed on their production. Repulsive and attractive labor were not paid equally. The per cent. principle was discarded altogether. All worked at Utopia at some trade other, and a hours’ work a day was all that was necessary to obtain a good subsistence. Among other institutions on the premises, was a college for teaching trades.

This, of course, is but a mere outline of Mr. Warren's theory, which must be patiently studied in order to be understood. We are happy to state that he will continue his lecture next Sunday. All who are interested in Social Reform—and what reflecting man or woman is not?—should make it a point to attend.

[to be continued...]

Sunday, April 08, 2007

An early mutual banking proposal

I'm wrapping up my first exploration of The Spirit of the Age (a little more rapidly than I had hoped, thanks to an Interlibrary Loan mix-up), and am already planning a road trip to scan more of this really important mutualist paper. My lengthy side-trip, from the William B. Greene research through the work of Joshua King Ingalls and ultimately to The Spirit of the Age, has paid an unexpected dividend (if, in this context, I can safely speak about the paying of dividends)—a discussion of Mutual Banking in the 1850 volume which casts Greene's work in a somewhat different light, suggests allies and competitors of the mutual bank propaganda in these early stages, and gives us a sense of the historical background of Ingalls' opposition to mutual banking, while placing him firmly in a slightly different mutualist tradition.

1849-50 was arguably the Second Mutualist Moment, after the Owenite-Mutualist Moment of 1825-7. The revolutionary philosophies of the French '48ers, introduced to the radical intellectuals of Boston, New York and Cincinnati by figures like Orestes Brownson, William Henry Channing, and Nathaniel Greene were important catalysts for this period. So were American currency and banking reform writers, such as William Beck, Edward Kellogg, and, more indirectly, Thomas Mendenhall and the colonial land bank agitators. The wide-open intellectual atmosphere surrounding transcendentalism and the American Renaissance in literature and the arts, brought into contact with the projects from radical renewal of figures like Proudhon, Leroux (and some of the other Saint-Simonian heretics), Fourier, etc., were turned to meet the "social problem" in its American form, symbolized by the Panic of 1837 and the still-fresh memories of the failures of the Revolutionary currency. Some of the forms of the Owenite-Mutualist movement persisted. It's no surprise to see Ingalls and Brisbane urging "mutualist township" colonies in the period. (This tendency persisted, with Ingalls and Samuel Leavitt involved in the "Hotel and Cottage Association" as late as 1878, and the Heywood's more modest efforts taking place about the same time. It's a part of the mutualist tradition we have not given nearly enough attention.) It's also no surprise to see The Spirit of the Age giving space to Greene's mutual banking proposals, in amongst the competing proposals of his brother-in-law Francis Shaw and the excerpts from Proudhon and his critics. Once we know that there really was a mutualist paper in the period, the primary mysteries are the absence of a couple of key figures. Josiah Warren, for instance, is supposed to have signed a petition for mutual banks in Massachusetts in 1850 or 1851. We know from The Boston Investigator that Warren was lecturing in Boston in 1850, and gathering important figures like Peter Blacker under the banner of "equitable commerce." Looking at the relevant dates, it's likely that nothing but chance, the suspension of The Spirit of the Age, and perhaps the bouts of ill health that Warren mentions in the Investigator, prevented an even broader convergence of projects and key figures in those pages. It would have been the right time, and perhaps the only time. The passage of the Fugitive Slave Law was a turning point. By the mid-1850s Greene and a number of other Boston radicals were in Paris, where Greene met Proudhon, but not Leroux. He returned during the Civil War, and from that point on the game had changed considerably for American libertarians.

Anyway, on to the particular text which inspired this particular attempt at summing-up: What follows appears to be a very early attempt by Greene, perhaps the original attempt, to express the mutual bank idea. Much of it is identical to the form of the petition in the 1850 Mutual Banking, which it seems to predate. It does, however, include the most explicit acknowledgment of sources and influences that I have yet seen, and gives us new clues to the extent of Greene's reading of Proudhon. There is one more text on mutual banking in this same volume, probably by Greene as well. I'll post it as soon as I've had a chance to research the authorship more thoroughly.

[William B. Greene], "Mutual Banking," The Spirit of the Age, II, 4 (January 26, 1850), 61; II, 5 (February 2, 1850) 69-71.


It is not to be expected that first attempts at Mutual Banking will be satisfactory; but it is well that Principles of COLLECTIVE CREDIT should be brought up in a form to attract public attention, and to ensure thorough scrutiny of the whole subject of interest. Certainly some plan can be devised, not only to enable merchants and holders of real estate to avoid the tyrannous entanglements of our present systems of currency, but yet more, fully to provide all producers with a TRUE SIGN of the fruits of labor and skill; yes! and of the power to produce, also. Capital and Real Estate can command advances by combinations of Capitalists and Real Estate owners; why should not Labor do the same, without tying itself up hand and foot by paying ruinous rates of interest—through combinations of Laborers? We are not prepared to pass judgment upon the following scheme; but we rejoice at this sign of growing interest in Mutual Banking, among the industrialists of Massachusetts.

To the Honorable, the Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts:—

The prayer of your petitioners humbly showeth: that the farmers, mechanics, and other actual producers, whose names are hereunto subscribed, conceive that it is impossible for them, under the present organization of the currency, and the consequent present high rates of interest, to obtain the just reward of their labor. They, therefore, humbly pray your honorable body to grant to them a charter for a MUTUAL BANK, vesting in them the following powers, under the following regulations:

Any person, or company, by pledging real estate to the Bank, may become a member of the Mutual Banking Company, and the Company shall have power to receive new members to an unlimited extent.

Said Mutual Bank shall have power to issue paper money, which shall circulate as currency among persons who are willing to receive it as such.

Any member may borrow the paper-money of said Bank, on his own notes running to maturity, to an amount not exceeding three-fourths (or such other proportion as your honorable body in its wisdom may determine) of the value of the real estate by himself pledged.

Each member shall be bound by the act of incorporation to receive the bills issued by the Bank, at the full value borne on their face, in payment of debts, and in all the transactions of trade, but no member who has in his possession bills on the Bank to an amount equal to the whole value of the property by himself pledged, shall be bound to receive any more until some of those held by him shall have gone out of his possession.

The bills of the Bank shall thus be redeemable, not at the counter of the Bank, but at the stores, work-shops, mills, and other business places of the individual members of the Company: the bills shall thus be redeemable, not because they can at any time command specie at the Bank, but because they are at all times receivable in lieu of specie by the members of the Mutual Banking Company.

The rate of interest at which said money shall be loaned shall be determined by, and shall if possible just meet and cover the average losses and necessary expenses of the institution.

No money shall be loaned by said Bank, except to members of the Company.

Any member, by paying his debts to the Bank, and giving thirty days notice to the President thereof, may withdraw from the Company may have his property released from pledge, and may himself be released from all obligations to the Bank, or to the holders of the Bank's money.

The Company shall have power to pass such rules and bylaws, not inconsistent with their charter, and to elect such officers as may be necessary to accomplish the ends for which the Bank is instituted.

No paper-money shall be issued by said Bank, until after real estate to the value of Two Millions of Dollars, shall have been pledged to the Bank by its members.

[MUTUAL BANKING. Concluded.]

A bill of a Mutual Bank cannot reasonably profess to be a standard or measure of value. The Silver Dollar is the measure of value; and our bills suppose the prior existence of this measure, for they are receivable in lieu of so many dollars. One of our bills produces as much effect upon the measure of value as does a bill of exchange, and no more; that is, it produces no effect at all upon that measure.

The establishment of a series of Mutual Banks would be very advantageous to the community: for (1) Such banks would furnish an adequate currency; for whether money were hard or easy, all legitimate paper would be discounted by them. At present banks draw in their issues when money is scarce, (the very time when a large issue is desirable,) because they are afraid there will be a run upon them for specie; but our banks having no fear of a run upon them, since they have no specie capital, and never pretend to pay specie for their bills, can always discount good paper. (2) There can never be any over issue of such money, for it is issued only against good and sufficient commercial paper, and the bills must be continually returning to the banks as may be determined in the charters, every 30, 60, or 90 days, or longer period. (3) It is of no consequence how much of the new money goes out of the ad, country, for it can never draw specie after it, since it is redeemable only at the workshops, stores, hotels, &c., of private individuals at the place where it was issued. We might lengthen out this list to almost any extent, but prefer to invite the reader to reflect for himself upon the manifold advantages of a system of Mutual Banks.

In reply to objections which may be urged by persons who have failed to obtain a clear comprehension of the principle on which a Mutual Bank may be organized, we ay,—No analogy whatever exists between the money we propose, and the bills of Banks established on the old principle, but which have suspended specie payments. (1) Bills issued by "specie paying Banks which have suspended specie payments," profess to be based on specie existing in the vaults of the banks, which specie does not exist there, as is made evident by the very fact of the suspension; while our money has a perfect guarantee, since it is based not on specie at all, but on actual property really pledged, and is secured by actual commodities really existing in one hundred workshops, hotels, stores, &c., which commodities are also indirectly pledged as security for the bills, since the owners of these commodities have bound themselves to receive the bills at their full value in all the transactions of trade: (2) The bills issued by "specie-paying banks which have suspended specie payments," pretend to represent gold and silver, and therefore derange the currency; for, since specie is in communication with itself throughout the world, and seeks, like water, its own natural level, every paper representative of a silver dollar that gets into circulation, drives a real silver dollar out; while our money, which does not pretend to represent specie (it represents, e not silver dollars, but the value of silver dollars) has no more influence on the value of the precious metals than it has upon the value of any other commodity. The bills issued by a Mutual Bank do not in any way affect the standard and measure of value. Again, our money has no analogy whatever to the old Continental money; for (1) the Continental money was a promise to pay specie, while our money is not a promise to pay specie; (2) the Continental 9 money was guaranteed by the government, which guarantee was not good, because the government could not pay its debts; while our money is guaranteed by the actual property pledged for its security, and by the promise of each individual member of the company to take it in the transactions of trade; &c., &c. We might go on to show, if we did not think it unnecessary after what has been said, that no analogy exist between our money and the French Assignats.

Some persons are accustomed to appeal to experience, whenever any new thing is presented for their consideration: we would remark to such persons, that experience throws no light whatever on this question of Mutual Banking; for the money we propose differs essentially from any that has ever been issued in the world since Adam was expelled from the garden of Eden. Our system is one that has never as yet been seen in operation, and must be judged, therefore, not by the light of experience, but by that of reason.

We close by adducing a brief argument in favor of the immediate establishment of a system of Mutual Banks. There are, at the present time, in the State of Massachusetts, 123 stock banks, with actual and authorized capital of $34,583,330. How much are the people annually called upon to pay in support of these institutions? Let us say that the banks make annual dividends averaging 7 per cent on their capital: 7 per cent of $34,583,330, is $2,420,833.

The banks have also to pay their rent, their officers and lawyers, the tax to the State, their losses resulting from bad debts, &c.: let us say that all these annual expenses would be covered by an average of 4 per cent on their capital: 4 per cent on $34,533,830 is 1,383,333, which, added to the foregoing $2,420,333, gives us $3,804,166, the annual amount which the people are obliged to pay for the use of a currency—probably about one-third of the annual profits of the industry of the commonwealth. A system of Mutual Banks would furnish a better currency at one-tenth of the expense. All persons who borrow money, are interested in favor of a Mutual Bank; all persons who lend money, are interested in opposition to such a Bank.

One great State Mutual Bank, would do the whole work. It is not necessary to explain the details of the organization of such a Bank; we would merely remark that it is by no means necessary that any actual property whatever should be positively and specifically pledged as security for the bills; the mutual promise to take the bills in the transactions of trade, would be a sufficient guarantee. If anything further should be required to give the public confidence in the bills, the members of the Company might give their notes to the bank, binding themselves to meet all assessments that might be made to cover losses from bad debts, &c.

Note: The assessors' valuation for 1830, of the total taxable property then existing in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, was $208,360,407: the valuation for 1840, was $299,878,329. We may safely estimate that the valuation for 1850 will be to that of 1840, as that of 1840 was to that of 1830. Performing the calculations, we find that the total , amount of taxable property possessed by the people of Massachusetts in the present year, is about $431,588,724. The excess of this last valuation over that of 1840, i. e. $131,710,395, is the net gain, the clear profit of the total labor of the people, in the ten years under consideration. The average profit for each year, was, therefore, $13,171,039. In the year 1849, the Banks of Massachusetts paid their tax to the State, their losses on bad debts, their rents, their officers and lawyers, and then made dividends of more than 7 per cent on their capitals: the people must, therefore, in the course of the past year, have paid interest money to the Banks, to the amount of at least 10 per cent on the whole Banking Capital of the State. At the close of the year 1848, the Banking Capital in the Ste r amounted to $32,683,330:—10 per cent on $32,683,330, is $3,268,333, the amount the people paid during the year 1849, for the use of a currency. If the material of the currency had been iron, $3,268,333 would undoubtedly have paid all the expenses of carting and counting; what then is the utility of our present paper-money We have estimated the total profits of the whole labor of the people of the Commonwealth, for the year 1849, at $13,171,039: it appears, therefore, that the total profits of nearly one-fourth part of the whole population of the State, were devoted to the single purpose of paying for the use of a currency. Mutual Banks would have furnished a better currency at less than one-tenth of this expense.

$34,583,330, are, at the present moment, invested in this State in Banking Capital: $34,611,384 capital have already been paid in to the various Railroad Companies: there are simple business Corporations in the State, authorized to holder and employ capital amounting in the aggregate to $86,472,000. Total capital held by Incorporated Companies, and yielding dividends, $155,666,714. If now the institutions operating on this aggregate capital, make annual dividends of 6 per cent, (mere legal interest,) the total amount thus divided will be $9,340,002. The total profits of the whole labor of the commonwealth, are, as we have seen, $13,171,039, of which sum. $9,340,0002 go to the clear profits of capital while only $3,831,037 remain to be distributed as profits among the laboring people.

A Mutual Bank holding real estate in pledge to the value of, say $l0,000,000 and located in Boston, (where there is no lack of houses, and other property that might be pledged,) would immediately relieve the present pressure in the money market; for such a Bank would furnish an excellent local currency for the whole State, to at least as far back as the Connecticut River, thus leaving the bills of the old Banks to serve exclusively for commercial purposes: and the old Banks would soon show themselves—that is, as soon as the relations of exchange could have time to become regulated—to be the fifth wheel in even the commercial coach.

Where a man has a right to borrow $100 on pledge of real estate, and on his own note running to maturity, he can, at any time, and without running any risk whatever, borrow $50; for when his note falls due, he can borrow the other $50, and take up his first note; and he may repeat the operation when the second falls due, thus renewing his note at pleasure, and without asking, any favors of anybody.

The idea of a Mutual Bank is borrowed from William Beck of Cincinnati, the process for the redemption of the bills is borrowed from P. J. Proudhon, and the form of organization from the Mutual Insurance Companies. In Mr. Beck's book on "Money and Banking," and in Proudhon's "Economic Contradictions," the petitioner desirous of further light may find all the information he requires.

Monday, April 02, 2007

J. K. Ingalls, "Address to Commonwealers"

Joshua King Ingalls, "Address to Commonwealers," The Twentieth Century, XIII, 2 (July 12, 1894), 11.



Hirelings who for gold have bled!
Voters to polls by bosses led!
Toilers, begging "work or bread,"
Strike for Liberty!
Now’s the day and now’s the hour!
Cease to court the oppressors’ power!
Who threaten, bribe, while they devour
Your fruits of industry.

Decline their deal the ballot box
Their "leaden diet" cartridge box!
Detective trick and brutal knocks!
Brave thought against them try!
In no "god of battles trust!"
Give nor take what is not just!
And only die, when die you must,
As man for man should die!

Will ye to war where robbery thrives?
Take sides to spill each other’s lives?
Forswear all hate! "'tis hell that drives!"
Sans reason, right or ruth.
Who dare not shoot or vote for right,
For fame or gold will vote or fight.
Illume their minds, by spreading light!
And conquer with the truth!

Work no more for wage of gold!
Join no bands of brigands bold!
Co-operate, just sharing hold,
With workers everyone!
Refuse to shackle toiling hands!
Ignore all deed to unused lands!
Take life nor home, whoe’er commands!
See only justice done!

Keep ever in a peaceful mood!
Seek no more each other’s blood!
Rightful act and word of good,
Alone can make you free.
Who compromise with wrong ne’er makes:
But spurns the bribe the hireling takes,
Who ne’er humanity forsakes;
Him let your leader be!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

W. H. Van Ornum, Co-operation

There are whole books tucked away in the pages of the periodical literature, which have never seen separate publication. One of the pleasures of my current treasure hunt is finding some of those hidden books. William Henry Van Ornum, author of Why Government at All?, published his 19-part Co-operation in The Twentieth Century in 1894, a moment when that periodical was actively promoting the "cooperative commonwealth" of American marxist Laurence Gronlund, and it should be understood as an anarchist alternative to that project. Van Ornum was one of the anarchist writers willing to go head-to-head, and proposal for proposal, with the state socialists.

William Henry Van Ornum

from the pages of
The Twentieth Century
May 10-September 20, 1894

  1. Introduction
  2. In England
  3. Its Ideal
  4. Ancient Co-operation
  5. Some Experiments
  6. Various Schemes
  7. Various Schemes
  8. European Credit Banks
  9. European Credit Banks
  10. European Credit Banks
  11. Friendly Societies
  12. Historical Summary
  13. A Foundation
  14. A Plan
  15. Dangers
  16. Development
  17. Acquirement and Operation of Public Enterprises
  18. The Co-operative Commonwealth
  19. Conclusion