Utopias In America
( Originally Published 1921 )
AMERICA has long been a gigantic Utopia. To every immigrant since the founding of Jamestown this coast has gleamed upon the horizon as a Promised Land. America, too, has provided convenient plots of ground, as laboratories for all sorts of vagaries, where, unhampered by restrictions and unannoyed by inquisitive neighbors, enthusiastic dreamers could attempt to reconstruct society. Whenever an eccentric in Europe conceived a social panacea no matter how absurd, he said, "Let's go to America and try it out." There were so many of these enterprises that their exact number is unknown. Many of them perished in so brief a time that no friendly chronicler has even saved their names from oblivion. But others lived, some for a year, some for a decade, and few for more than a generation. They are of interest today not only because they brought a considerable number of foreigners to America, but also because in their history may be observed many of the principles of communism, or socialism, at work under favorable conditions. While the theory of Marxian socialism differs in certain details from these communistic experiments, the foreign-made nostrums so brazenly proclaimed today wherever malcontents are gathered together is in essence nothing new in America. Communism was tried and found wanting by the Pilgrim Fathers; since then it has been tried and found wanting over and over again. Some of the communistic colonies, it will appear, waxed fat out of the resources of their lands; but, in the end, even those which were most fortunate and successful withered away, and their remnants were absorbed by the great competitive life that surrounded them.
There were two general types of these communities, the sectarian and the economic. Frequently they combined a peculiar religious belief with the economic practice of having everything in common, The sectarians professed to be neither proselyters nor propagandists but religious devotees, accepting communism as a physical advantage as well as a spiritual balm, and seeking in seclusion and quiet merely to save their own souls.
The majority of the religious communists came from Germany — the home, also, of Marxian socialism in later years — where persecution was the lot of innumerable little sects which budded after the Reformation. They came usually as whole colonies, bringing both leaders and membership with them. I Probably the earliest to arrive in America were the Labadists, who denied the doctrine of original sin, discarded the Sabbath, and held strict views of marriage. In 1684, under the leadership of Peter Sluyter or Schluter (an assumed name, his original name being Vorstmann), some of these Labadists settled on the Bohemia River in Delaware. They were sent out from the mother colony in West Friesland to select a site for the entire body, but it does not appear that any others migrated, for within fifteen years the American colony was reduced to eight men. Sluyter evidently had considerable business capacity, for he became a wealthy tobacco planter and slave trader.
In 1693 Johann Jacob Zimmermann, a distinguished mathematician and astronomer and the founder of an order of mystics called Pietists, started for America, to await the coming of the millennium, which his calculations placed in the autumn of 1694. But the fate of common mortals overtook the unfortunate leader and he died just as he was ready to sail from Rotterdam. About forty members of his brotherhood settled in the forests on the heights near Germantown, Pennsylvania, and, under the guidance of Johann Kelpius, achieved a unique influence over the German peasantry in that vicinity. The members of the brother-hood made themselves useful as teachers and in various handicrafts. They were especially in demand among the superstitious for their skill in casting horoscopes, using divining rods, and carving potent amulets. Their mysterious astronomical tower on the heights of the Wissahickon was the Mecca of the curious and the distressed. To the gentle Kelpius was ascribed the power of healing, but he was himself the victim of consumption. The brotherhood did not long survive his death in 1708 or 1709. Their astrological instruments may now be seen in the collections of the Pennsylvania Philosophical Society.
The first group of Dunkards (a name derived from their method of baptism, eintunken, to immerse) settled in Pennsylvania in 1719. A few years later they were joined by Conrad Beissel (Beizel or Peysel). This man had come to America to unite with the Pietist group in Germantown, but, as Kelpius was dead and his followers dispersed he joined the Dunkards. His desires for a monastic life drove him into solitary meditation tradition says he took shelter in a cave — where he came to the conviction that the seventh day of the week should be observed as the day of rest. This conclusion led to friction with the Dunkards; and as a result, with three men and two women, Beissel founded in 1728 on the Cocalico River, the cloister of Ephrata. From this arose the first communistic Eden successfully established in America and one of the few to survive to the present century. Though in 1900 the community numbered only seventeen members, in its prime while Beissel was yet alive it sheltered three hundred, owned a prosperous paper mill, a grist mill, an oil mill, a fulling mill, a printing press, a schoolhouse, dwellings for the married members, and large dormitories for the celibates. The meeting-house was built entirely without metal, following literally the precedent of Solomon, who built his temple "so that there was neither hammer nor ax nor any tool of iron heard in the house while it was building." Wooden pegs took the place of nails, and the laths were fastened laboriously into grooves. Averse to riches, Beissel's people refused gifts from William Penn, King George III, and other prominent personages. The pious Beissel was a very capable leader, with a passion for music and an ardor for simplicity. He instituted among the unmarried members of the community a celibate order embracing both sexes, and he reduced the communal life of both the religious and secular members to a routine of piety and labor. The society was known, even in England, for the excellence of its paper, for the good workmanship of its printing press, and especially for the quality of its music, which was composed largely by Beissel. His chorals were among the first composed and sung in America. His school, too, was of such quality that it drew pupils from Baltimore and Philadelphia. After his death in 1786, in his seventy-second year, his successor tried for twenty-eight years to maintain the discipline and distinction of the order. It was eventually deemed prudent to incorporate the society under the laws of the State and to entrust its management to a board of trustees, and the cloistered life of the community became a memory.
A community patterned after Ephrata was founded in 1800 by Peter Lehman at Snow Hill, in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. It consisted of some forty German men and women living in cloisters but relieving the monotony of their toil and the rigor of their piety with music. As in Ephrata, there was a twofold membership, the consecrated and the secular. The entire community, however, vanished after the death of its founder.
When Beissel's Ephrata was in its heyday, the Moravians, under the patronage of Count Zinzendorf of Saxony, established in 1741 a community on the Lehigh River in Pennsylvania, named Bethlehem in token of their humility. The colony provided living and working quarters for both the married and unmarried members. After about twenty years of experimenting, the communistic regimen was abandoned. Bethlehem, however, continued to thrive, and its schools and its music became widely known.
The story of the Harmonists, one of the most successful of all the communistic colonies is even more interesting. The founder, Johann Georg Rapp, had been a weaver and vine gardener in the little village of Iptingen in Wurttemberg. He drew upon him-self and his followers the displeasure of the Church by teaching that religion was a personal matter between the individual and his God; that the Bible, not the pronouncements of the clergy, should be the guide to the true faith, and that the ordinances of the Church were not necessarily the ordinances of God. The petty persecutions which these doctrines brought upon him and his fellow separatists turned them towards liberal America. In 1803 Rapp and some of his companions crossed the sea and selected as a site for their colony five thousand acres of land in Butler County, Pennsylvania. There they built the new town of Harmony, to which came about six hundred persons, all told. On February 15, 1805 they organized the Harmony Society and signed a solemn agreement to merge all their possessions in one common lot.' Among them were a few persons of education and property, but most of them were sturdy, thrifty mechanics and peasants, who, under the skillful direction of Father Rapp, soon transformed the forest into a thriving community. After a soul stirring revival in 1807, they adopted celibacy. Those who were married did not separate but lived together in solemn self-restraint, "treating each other as brother and sister in Christ."' Their belief that the second coming of the Lord was imminent no doubt strengthened their resolution. At this time, also, the men all agreed to forego the use of tobacco — no small sacrifice on the part of hard-working laborers.
The region, however, was unfavorable to the growth of the grape, which was the favorite Wurttemberg crop. In 1814 the society accordingly sold the communal property for $100,000 and re-moved to a site on the Wabash River, in Indiana, where, under the magic of their industry, the beautiful village of New Harmony arose in one year, and where many of their sturdy buildings still remain a testimony to their honest craftsmanship. Un fortunately, however, two pests appeared which they had not foreseen. Harassed by malaria and meddlesome neighbors, Father Rapp a third time sought a new Canaan. In 1825 he sold the entire site to Robert Owen, the British philanthropic socialist, and the Harmonists moved back to Pennsylvania. They built their third and last home on the Ohio, about twenty miles from Pittsburgh, and called it Economy in prophetic token of the wealth which their industry and shrewdness would soon bring in.
The chaste and simple beauty of this village was due to the skill and good taste of Friedrich Reichert Rapp, an architect and stone cutter, the adopted son of Father Rapp. The fine proportions of the plain buildings, with their vines festooned between the upper and lower windows, the quaint and charming gardens, the tantalizing labyrinth where visitors lost themselves in an attempt to reach the Summer House — these were all of his creation. Friedrich Rapp was also a poet, an artist, and a musician. He gathered a worthy collection of paintings and a museum of Indian relics and objects of natural history. He composed many of the fine hymns which impress every visitor to Economy. He was likewise an energetic and skillful business man and represented the colony in its external affairs until his death in 1834. He was elected a member of the convention that framed the first constitution of Indiana, and later he was made a member of the legislature. Father Rapp, who possessed rare talents as an organizer, con-trolled the internal affairs of the colony. Those who left the community because unwilling to abide its discipline often pronounced their leader a narrow autocrat. But there can be no doubt that eminent good sense and gentleness tempered his judgments. He personally led the community in industry, in prayers, and in faith, until 1847, when death removed him. A council of nine elders elected by the members was then charged with the spiritual guidance of the community, and two trustees were appointed to administer its business affairs.
Economy was a German community where Ger-man was spoken and German customs were maintained, although every one also spoke English. As there were but few accessions to the community and from time to time there were defections and withdrawals, the membership steadily declined'; but while the community was dwindling in mem-` bership it was rapidly increasing in wealth. Oil and coal were found on some of its lands; the products of its mills and looms, of its wine presses and distilleries, were widely and favorably known; and its outside investments, chiefly in manufactories and railroads, yielded even greater returns. These outside interests, indeed, became in time the sole support of the community for, as the membership fell away, the local industries had to be shut down. Then it was that communistic methods of doing business became inadequate and the colony ran in-to difficulties. An expert accountant in 1892 dis-closed the debts of the community to be about one and a half million dollars. But the outside industrial enterprises in which the community had in-vested were sound; and the vast debt was paid. The society remained solvent, with a huge surplus, though out of prosperity not of its own making. When the lands at Economy were eventually sold, about eight acres were reserved to the few survivors of the society, including the Great House of Father Rapp and its attractive garden, with the use of the church and dwellings, so that they might spend their last days in the peaceful surroundings that had brought them prosperity and happiness.
Lead me, Father, out of harm
So sang another group of simple German separatists, of whom some three hundred came to America from Wurttemberg in 1817, under the leadership of Joseph Bimeler (Baumeler) and built the village of Zoar in Tuscarawas County, Ohio. They acquired° five thousand acres of land and signed articles of association in April, 1819, turning all their individual property and all their future earnings into a common fund to be managed by an elected board of directors. The community provided its members with their daily necessities and two suits of clothes a year. The members were assigned to various trades which absorbed all their time and left them very little strength for amusement or reading. Their one recreation was singing. The society was bound to celibacy until the marriage of Bimeler to his housekeeper; thereafter marriage was permitted but not encouraged.
In 1832 the society was incorporated under the laws of Ohio, and until its dissolution it was man-aged as a corporation. A few Germans joined the society. No American ever requested admission. Joseph Bimeler was elected Agent General and thereby became the chosen as well as the natural leader of the community. Like other patriarchs of that epoch who led their following into the wilderness, he was a man of some education and many gifts. He was the spiritual mentor; but his piety, which was sincere and simple, did not rob him of the shrewdness necessary to material success. His followers were loyally devoted to him. They built for him the largest house in the community, a fine colonial manor house, where he dwelt in comparative luxury and reigned as their "King." When he died in 1853 he had seen the prosperity of his colony reach its zenith. It remained small. Scarcely more than three hundred members ever dwelt in the village which, in spite of its profusion of vines and flowers, lacked the informal quaintness and originality of Rapp's Economy. The Tuscarawas River furnished power for their flour mill, whose products were widely sought. There was also a woolen mill, a planing mill, a foundry, and a ma-chine shop. The beer made by the community was famous all the country round, and for a time its pottery and tile works turned out interesting and quaint products. But one by one these small industries succumbed to the competition of the greater world. At last even an alien brew supplanted the good local beer. When the railroad tapped the village, and it was incorporated (1884) and assumed an official worldliness with its mayor and councilmen, it lost its isolation, summer visitors flocked in, and a "calaboose" was needed for the benefit of the sojourners!
The third generation was now grown. A number of dissatisfied members had left. Many of the children never joined the society but found work elsewhere. A great deal of the work had to be done by hired help. Under the leadership of the younger element it was decided in 1898 to abandon communism. Appraisers and surveyors were set to work to parcel out the property. Each of the 136 members received a cash dividend, a home in the village, and a plot of land. The average value of each share, which was in the neighborhood of $1500, was not a large return for three generations of communistic experimentation. But these had been, after all, years of moderate competence and quiet contentment, and if they took their toll in the coin of hope, as their song set forth, then these simple Württembergers were fully paid.
The Inspirationists were a sect that made many converts in Germany, Holland, and Switzerland in the eighteenth century. They believed in direct revelations from God through chosen "instruments." In 1817, a new leader appeared among them in the person of Christian Metz, a man of great personal charm, worldly shrewdness, and spiritual fervor. Allied with him was Barbara Heynemann, a simple maid without education, who learned to read the Scriptures after she was twenty-three years of age. Endowed with the peculiar gift of "translation, " she was cherished by the sect as an instrument of God for revealing His will.
To this pair came an inspiration to lead their harassed followers to America. In 1842 they purchased the Seneca Indian Reservation near Buffalo, New York. They called their new home Ebenezer, and in 1843 they organized the Ebenezer Society, under a constitution which pledged them to communism. Over eight hundred peasants and artisans joined the colony, and their industry soon had created a cluster of five villages with mills, workshops, schools, and dwellings. But th 2y were continually annoyed by the Indians from whom they had purchased the site and were distracted by the rapidly growing city of Buffalo, which was only five miles away !
This threat of worldliness brought a revelation that they must seek greater seclusion. A large tract on the Iowa River was purchased, and to this new site the population was gradually transferred. There they built Amana. Within a radius of six miles, five subsidiary villages sprang up, each one laid out like a German dorf, with its cluster of shops and mills, and the cottages scattered informally on the main road. When the railway tapped the neighborhood, the community in self-defense purchased the town that contained the railway station. So when the good Christian Metz died in 1867, at the age of seventy-two, his pious followers, thanks to his sagacity, were possessed of some twenty-six thousand acres of rich Iowa land and seven thriving villages, comfortably housing about 1400 of the faithful. Barbara Heynemann died in 1883, and since her death no "instrument" has been found to disclose the will of God. But many ponderous tomes of "revelations" have survived and these are faith-fully read and their naïve personal directions and inhibitions are still generally obeyed. The Bible, however, remains the main guide of these people, and they follow its instructions with childish literalism. Until quite recently they clung to the simple dress and the austere life of their earlier years. The solidarity of the community has been maintained with rare skill. The "Great Council of the Brethren" upon whom is laid the burden of directing all the affairs, has avoided government by mass meeting, discouraged irresponsible talk and criticism, and, as an aristocracy of elders, has shrewdly controlled the material and spiritual life of the community.
The society has received many new members. There have been accessions from Zoar and Economy and one or two Americans have joined. The "Great Council," in its desire to maintain the homogeneity of the group, rejects the large number of applications for membership received every year. Over sixty per cent of the young people who have left the community to try the world have come back to "colony trousers" or "colony skirts," symbols. of the complete submergence. of the individual.
Celibacy has been encouraged but never enjoined, and the young people are permitted to marry, if the Spirit gives its sanction, the Elders their consent, and if the man has reached the age of twenty-four years. The two sexes are rigidly separated in school, in church, at work, and in the communal dining rooms. Each family lives in a house, but there are communal kitchens, where meals are served to groups of twenty or more.
Every member receives an annual cash bonus varying from $25 to $75 and a pass book to record his credits at the "store." The work is doled out among the members, who take pride in the quality rather than in the quantity of their product. All forms of amusement are forbidden; music, which flourished in other German communities, is sup-pressed; and even reading for pleasure or information was until recently under the ban.
The only symbols of gayety in the villages are the flowers, and these are everywhere in lavish abundance, softening the austere lines of the plain and unpainted houses. No architect has been allowed to show his skill, no artist his genius, in the shaping of this rigorous life. But its industries flourish. , Amana calico and Amana woolens are known in many markets. The livestock is of the finest breeds; the products of the fields and orchards are the choicest. But the modern visitor wonders how long this prosperity will be able to maintain that isolation which alone insured the communal solidarity. Already store clothes are being worn, photographs are seen on the walls, "worldly" furniture is being used, libraries, those openers of closed minds, are in every schoolhouse, and newspapers and magazines are "allowed."
The experiences of Eric Janson and his devotees whom he led out of Sweden to Bishop Hill Colony, in Illinois, are replete with dramatic and tragic details. Janson was a rugged Swedish peasant, whose eloquence and gift of second sight made him the prophet of the Devotionalists, a sect that at-tempted to reestablish the simplicity of the primitive church among the Lutherans of Scandinavia. Driven from pillar to post by the relentless hatred of the Established Church, they sought refuge in America, where Janson planned a theocratic socialistic community. Its communism was based entirely upon religious convictions, for neither Janson nor any of his illiterate followers had heard of the politico-economic systems of French reformers. Over one thousand young and vigorous peasants followed him to America. The first contingent of four hundred arrived in 1846 and spent their first winter in untold miseries and privations, with barely sufficient food, but with enough spiritual fervor to kindle two religious services a day and three on Sunday. Attacking the vast prairies with their primitive implements, harvesting grain with the sickle and grinding it by hand when their water power gave out, sheltering themselves in tents and caves, enduring agues and fevers, hunger and cold, the majority still remained loyal to the leader whose eloquence fired them with a sustaining hope. Thrift, unremitting toil, the wonderful fertility of the prairie, the high price of wheat, flax, and broom corn, were bound to bring prosperity. In 1848 they built a huge brick dormitory and dining hall, a great frame church, and a number of smaller dwellings. Improved housing at once told on the general health, though in the next year a scourge of cholera, introduced by some newcomer, claimed 143 members.
In the meantime John Root, an adventurer from Stockholm, who had served in the American army, arrived at the colony and soon fell in love with the cousin of Eric Janson. The prophet gave his consent to the marriage on condition that, if at any time Root wished to leave the colony, his wife should be permitted to remain if she desired. A written agreement acknowledged Root's consent to these conditions. He soon tired of a life for which he had not the remotest liking, and, failing to entice his wife away with him, he kidnaped her and forcibly detained her in Chicago, whence she was rescued by a valiant band of the colonists. In retaliation the irate husband organized a mob of frontiers folk to drive out the fanatics as they, had a short time before driven out Brigham Young and his Mormons. But the neighbors of the colonists, having learned their sterling worth, came to the rescue. Root then began legal proceedings against Janson. In May, 1850, while in court the renegade deliberately shot and killed the prophet. The community in despair awaited three days the re-turn to life of the man whom they looked upon as a representative of Christ sent to earth to rebuild the Tabernacle.
Janson had been a very poor manager, how-ever, and the colony was in debt. In order quickly to obtain money, he had sent Jonas Olsen; the ablest and strongest of his followers, to California to seek gold to wipe out the debt. Upon hearing of the tragedy, Olsen hastened back to Bishop Hill and was soon in charge of affairs. In 1853 he obtained for the colony a charter of in-corporation which vested the entire management of the property in seven trustees. These men, under the by-laws adopted, became also the spiritual mentors, and the colonists, unacquainted with democratic usages in government, submitted willingly to the leadership of this oligarchy. A new era of great material prosperity now set in. The village was rebuilt. The great house was enlarged so that all the inhabitants could be accommodated in its vast communal dining room. Trees were planted along the streets. Shops and mills were erected, and a hotel became the means of introducing strangers to the community.
Meanwhile Olsen was growing more and more arbitrary and, after a bitter controversy, he imposed celibacy upon the members. This was the beginning of the end. One of the trustees, Olaf Jansen, a good-natured peasant who could not keep his accounts but who had a peasant's sagacity for a bargain, wormed his way into financial control. He wanted to make the colony rich, but he led it to the verge of bankruptcy. He became a speculator and promoter. Stories of his shortcomings were whispered about and in 1860 the peasant colony revolted and deposed Olaf from office. He then had himself appointed receiver to wind up the corporation's affairs, and in the following year the communal property was distributed. Every member, male and female, thirty-five years of age received a full share which "consisted of 22 acres of land, one timber lot of nearly 2 acres, one town lot, and an equal part of all barns, houses, cattle, hogs, sheep or other domestic animals and all farming implements and household utensils." Those under thirty-five received according to their age. Had these shares been unencumbered, this would have represented a fair return for their labor. But Olaf had made no half-way business of his financial ambitions, and the former members who now were melting peacefully and rather contentedly into the general American life found themselves saddled with his obligations. The "colony case" became famous among Illinois lawyers and dragged through twelve years of litigation. Thus the glowing fraternal communism of poor Janson ended in the drab discord of an American lawsuit.
In 1862 the followers of Jacob Rutter, a Mennonite martyr who was burned at the stake in Innsbruck in the sixteenth century, founded the Old Elmspring Community on the James River in South Dakota. During the Thirty Years' War these saintly Quaker-like German folk had found refuge in Moravia, whence they had been driven into Hungary, later into Rumania, and then in-to Russia. As their objection to military service brought them into conflict with the Czar's government, they finally determined to migrate to America. In 1874 they had all reached South Dakota, where they now live in five small communities. Scarcely four hundred all told, they cling to their ancient ambition to keep them-selves "unspotted from the world," and so have 'evolved a self-sustaining communal life, characterized by great simplicity of dress, of speech, and of living. They speak German and refrain entirely from voting and from other political activity. They are farmers and practise only those handicrafts which are necessary to their own communal welfare.
While most of these German sectarian communities had only a slight economic effect upon the United States, their influence upon immigration has been extensive. In the early part of the last century, it was difficult to obtain authentic news concerning America in the remote hamlets of Europe. All sorts of vague and grotesque notions about this country were afloat. Every member of these communities, when he wrote to those left behind, be-came a living witness of the golden opportunities offered in the new land. And, unquestionably, a considerable share of the great German influx in the middle of the nineteenth century can be traced to the dissemination of knowledge by this means. Mikkelsen says of the Jansonists that their "letters home concerning the new country paved the way for that mighty tide of Swedish immigration which in a few years began to roll in upon Illinois and the Northwest"
The Shakers are the oldest and the largest communistic sect to find a congenial home in America. The cult originated in Manchester, England, with Ann Lee, a "Shaking Quaker," who never learned to read or write but depended upon revelation for doctrine and guidance. "By a direct revelation," says the Shaker Compendium, she was "instructed to come to America." Obedient to the vision, she sailed from Liverpool in the summer of 1774, accompanied by six men and two women, among whom were her husband, a brother, and a niece. This little flock settled in the forests near Albany, New York. Abandoned by her husband, the prophetess went from place to place, proclaiming her peculiar doctrines. Soon she became known as "Mother Ann" and was reputed to have supernatural powers. At the time of her death in 1784 she had numerous followers in western New England and eastern New York.
In 1787 they founded their first Shaker community at Mount Lebanon. Within a few years other societies were organized in New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, and Connecticut. On the wave of the great religious revival at the beginning of the nineteenth century their doctrines were carried west. The cuit achieved its highest prosperity in the decade following 1830, when it numbered eighteen societies and about six thousand members.
In shrewd and capable hands, the sect soon had both an elaborate system of theology based upon the teachings of Mother Ann and also an effective organization. The communal life, ordaining celibacy, based on industry, and constructed in the strictest economy, achieved material prosperity and evidently brought spiritual consolation to those who committed themselves to its isolation. Although originating in England, the sect is con-fined wholly to America and has from the first recruited its membership almost wholly from native Americans.
Another of these social experiments was the Oneida Community and its several ephemeral branches. Though it was of American origin and the members were almost wholly American, it deserves passing mention. The founder, John Humphrey Noyes, a graduate of Dartmouth and a Yale divinity student, conceived a system of communal life which should make it possible for the individual to live, without sin. This perfectionism, he believed, necessitated the abolition of private property through communism, the abolition of sickness through complete cooperation of the individual with God, and the abolition of the family through a "scientific" cooperation of the sexes. The Oneida Community was financially very prosperous. Its "stirpiculture," Noyes's high-sounding synonym for free love, brought it, however, into violent conflict with public opinion, and in 1879 "complex marriages" gave way to monogamous families. In the following year the communistic holding of property gave way to a joint stock company, under whose skillful management the prosperity of the community continues today.
The American Utopias based upon an assumed economic altruism were much more numerous than those founded primarily upon religion but, as they were recruited almost wholly from Americans, they need engage our attention only briefly. There were two groups of economic communistic experiments, similar in their general characteristics but differing in their origin. One took its inspiration directly from Robert Owen, the distinguished philanthropist and successful cotton manufacturer of Scotland; the other from Fourier, the noted French social philosopher.
In 1825 Robert Owen purchased New Harmony, Rapp's village in Indiana and its thirty thousand appurtenant acres. When Owen came to America he was already famous. Great throngs flocked to hear this practical man utter the most visionary sentiments. At Washington, for instance, he lectured to an auditory that included great senators and famous representatives, members of the Supreme Court and of the Cabinet, President Monroe and Adams, the President-elect. He displayed to his eager hearers the plans and specifications of the new human order, his glorified apartment house with all the external paraphernalia of selective human perfection drawn to scale.
For a brief period New Harmony was the communistic capital of the world. It was discussed everywhere and became,, says its chronicler, "the rendezvous of the enlightened and progressive people from all over the United States and north-ern Europe." It achieved a sort of motley cosmopolitanism. A "Boat Load of Knowledge" carried from Pittsburgh the most distinguished group of scientists that had hitherto been brought together in America. It included William Maelure, a Scotchman who came to America, at the age of thirty-three, ambitious to make a geological survey of the country and whose learning and energy -soon earned him the title of "Father of American Geology"; Thomas Say, "the Father of American Zoology"; Charles Alexander Lesueur, a distinguished naturalist from the Jardin des Plantes of Paris; Constantine S. Rafinesque, a scientific nomad whose studies of fishes took him everywhere and whose restless spirit forbade him remaining long anywhere; Gerard Troost, a Dutch scientist who later did pioneer work in western geology; Joseph Neef, a well-known Pestalozzian educator, together with two French experts in that system; and Owen's four brilliant sons. A few artists and musicians and all sorts of reformers, including Fanny Wright, an ardent and very advanced suffragette, joined these scientists in the new Eden. Owen had issued a universal invitation to the "industrious and well disposed," but his project offered also the lure of a free meal ticket for the improvident and the glitter of novelty for the restless.
"I am come to this country," Owen said in his opening words at New Harmony, to introduce an entire new state of society, to change it from the ignorant, selfish system to an enlightened social system, which shall gradually unite all interests into one, and remove all causes for contests between individuals."' But the germs of dissolution were already present in the extreme individuality of the members of this new society. Here was no homogeneous horde of docile German peasants waiting to be commanded. What Father Rapp could do, Owen could riot. The sifting process had, begun too late. Seven different constitutions issued in rapid succession attempted in vain to discover a common bond of action. In less than two years Owen's money was gone, and nine hundred or more disillusioned persons rejoined the more individualistic world. Many of them subsequently achieved distinction in professional and public callings. Owen's widely advertised experiment was fecund, however, and produced some eleven other short-lived communistic attempts, of which the most noted were at Franklin, Haver-straw, and Coxsackie in New York, Yellow Springs and Kendal in Ohio, and Forestville and Macluria in Indiana.
Fourierism found its principal apostle in this country in Arthur Brisbane, whose Social Destiny of Man, published in 1840, brought to America the French philosopher's naive, social regimen of reducing the world of men to simple units called phalanxes, whose barrack-like routine should insure plenty, equality, and happiness. Horace Greeley, with characteristic, erratic eagerness, pounced upon the new gospel, and Brisbane obtained at once a wide circle of sympathetic readers through the Tribune. Thirty-four phalanxes were organized in a short time, most of them with an incredible lack of foresight. They usually lasted until the first payment on the mortgage was due, though a few weathered the buffetings of fortune for several years. Brook Farm in Massachusetts and the Wisconsin phalanx each endured six years, and the North American phalanx at Red Bank, New Jersey, lasted thirteen years.
Icaria is a romantic sequel to the Owen and Fourier colonies. It antedated Brisbane's revival of Fourierism, was encouraged by Owenism, survived both, and formed a living link between the utopianism of the early nineteenth century and the utilitarian socialism of the twentieth. Etienne Cabet was one of those interesting Frenchmen whose fertile minds and instinct for rapid action made France during the nineteenth century kaleidoscopic with social and political events. Though educated for the bar, Cabet devoted himself to social and political reform. As a young man he was a director in that powerful secret order, the Carbonari, and was elected to the French chamber of deputies, but his violent attitude toward the Government was such that in 1834 he was obliged to flee to London to escape imprisonment. Here, unmolested, he devoted himself for five years to social and historical research. He returned to France in 1839 and in the following year published his Voyage en Icarie, a book that at once took its place by the side of Sir Thomas More's Utopia. Cabet pictured in his volume an ideal society where plenty should be a substitute for poverty and equality a remedy for class egoism. So great was the cogency of his writing that Icaria became more than a mere vision to hundreds of thousands in those years of social ferment and democratic aspirations. From a hundred sources the demand arose to translate the book into action. Cabet there-upon framed a constitution and sought the means of founding a real Icaria. After consulting Robert Owen, he unfortunately fell into the clutches of some Cincinnati land speculators and chose a site for his colony in the northeastern part of Texas. When the announcement was made in his paper, Le Populaire, the responses were so numerous that Cabet believed that "more than a million cooperators" were eager for the experiment.
In February, 1848, sixty-nine young men, all carefully selected volunteers, were sent forth from Havre as the vanguard of the contemplated exodus. But the movement was halted by the turn of great events. Twenty days after the young men sailed, the French Republic was proclaimed, and in the fervor and distraction of this immediate political victory the new and distant utopia seemed to thousands less alluring than it had been before. The group of young volunteers, however, reached America. After heart-rending disillusionment in the swamps and forests of Louisiana and on the raw prairies of Texas, they made their way back to New Orleans in time to meet Cabet and four hundred Icarians, who arrived early in 1849. The Gallic instinct for factional differences soon began to assert itself in repeated division and subdivision on the part of the idealists. One-half withdrew at New Orleans to work out their individual salvation. The remainder followed Cabet to the deserted Mormon town of Nauvoo, Illinois, where vacant houses offered immediate shelter and where they enjoyed an interval of prosperity. The French genius for music, for theatricals, and for literature relieved them from the tedium that characterized most co-operative colonies. Soon their numbers increased to five hundred by accessions which, with few exceptions, were French.
But Cabet was not a practical leader. His pamphlet published in German in 1854, entitled If I had half a million dollars, reveals the naïveté of his mind. He wanted to find money, not to make it. The society soon became involved in a controversy in which Cabet's immediate following were out-numbered. The minority petulantly stopped working but continued to eat. "The majority decided that those who would not work should not eat and gave notice that those who absented them-selves from labor would be cut off from rations."' As a result, Cabet, in 1856, was expelled from his own Icaria! With 170 faithful adherents he went to St. Louis, and there a few days later he died. The minority buried their leader, but their faith in communal life survived this setback. At Cheltenham, a suburb of St. Louis, they acquired a small estate, where proximity to the city enabled the members to get work. Here they lived together six years before division disrupted them permanently.
At Nauvoo in the meantime there had been other secessions, and the property, in 1857, was in the hands of a receiver. The plucky and determined remnant, however, removed to Iowa, where on the prairie near Corning they planted a new Icaria. Here, by hard toil and in extreme poverty, but in harmony and contentment, the communists lived until, in 1876, the younger members wished to adopt advanced methods in farming, in finance, and in management. The older men, with wisdom acquired through bitter experience, refused to alter their methods. The younger party won a lawsuit to annul the communal charter. The property was divided, and again there were two Icarias, the "young party" retaining the old site and the "old party" moving on and founding New Icaria, a few miles from the old. But Old Icaria was soon split: one faction removed to California, where the Icaria-Speranza community was founded; and the other remained at Old Icaria. Both came to grief in 1888. Finally in 1895 New Icaria, then reduced to a few veterans, was dissolved by a unanimous vote of the community.
In 1854 Victor Considérant, the French socialist, planted a Fourieristic phalanx in Texas, under the liberal patronage of J. B. A. Godin„ the godfather of Fourierism in France who founded at Guise the only really successful phalanx. A French communistic colony was also attempted at Silkville, Kansas. But both ventures lasted only a few years. Since the subsidence of these French communistic experiments, there have been many sporadic attempts at founding idealistic communities in the United States. Over fifty have been tried since the Civil War. Nearly all were established under American auspices and did not lure many foreigners.