Last Updated on February 6, 2016, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 10278
SOURCE: “Robert Owen,” in The Socialist Tradition: Moses to Lenin, Longmans, Green and Co., 1946, pp. 197-217.
[In the following essay, Gray considers the life and thought of British socialist Robert Owen.]
Among that queer bunch of visionary and Utopian socialists, to whom in some undefined proportion is...
(The entire section contains 19767 words.)
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- Critical Essays
SOURCE: “Robert Owen,” in The Socialist Tradition: Moses to Lenin, Longmans, Green and Co., 1946, pp. 197-217.
[In the following essay, Gray considers the life and thought of British socialist Robert Owen.]
Among that queer bunch of visionary and Utopian socialists, to whom in some undefined proportion is usually ascribed the paternity of socialism, Robert Owen (1771-1858) presents some strange contrasts to his nearest bed-fellows. Saint-Simon had been an aristocrat, always conscious of the fact. Fourier, if we look at his drab life in the cold light of dawn, had been at best an unsuccessful commercial traveller. Godwin, to go further back, was obviously, in the world's estimation, destined to be a confused and bankrupt bookseller. Louis Blanc (coming further down than the fathers) was a journalist, graduating to an uneasy position in an uneasy government, as a prelude to a prolonged exile. It used to be a common reproach that one or other of many Cabinet Ministers, while aspiring to control the destiny of an empire, would have been incompetent to run a whelk-stall—though the special appropriateness of this particular entrepreneurial venture for purposes of comparison and contrast was never wholly clear. But the implied criticism, so far as it was justified, might certainly have been applied to the earlier socialists: they criticised the management of the world, but they themselves had ‘done nothing’ and had shown no marked ability, either in managing their own or other people's affairs. Robert Owen, up to a point, is a bird of entirely different plumage. True, he spent his last years in a rather undefined state of dependence; but so long as he cared for making money, he showed that he could do the trick. In the great years of his uprising, he made it clear that he could beat the magnates of the Industrial Revolution at their own game; if success in business and the accumulation of capital was to be the acid test of managing a whelk-stall, Robert Owen could give abundant evidence of his competence. Indeed, had his life stopped at the right moment (for this purpose) he might have been the ideal copy-book boy for innumerable volumes on Self-Help and Industry: ‘Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings.’ If, in fact, Owen threw aside his supreme qualification for inclusion in the works of Samuel Smiles, it was an act of voluntary abdication, in pursuit of another vision.
As a matter of literal fact, Robert Owen did, on one momentous occasion, stand, or at least bow, before the Queen, on the presentation of Lord Melbourne—dressed up like a monkey, as he complained. Owen was then (1839) of doubtful respectability, and loyal hearts (in particular as represented by the delightfully named ‘Society for Peaceably Repressing Infidelity’) were moved to concern and alarm for the safety of their young and uncontaminated sovereign. Doubtless, however, the wisdom of Solomon should not be taken over literally; and in its broad interpretation, there is here another obvious contrast between Owen and the other founders. At the height of his influence and powers, Owen knew everyone; he was indeed a European figure. Saint-Simon had unquestionably his aristocratic connections, but somehow he rather gives the impression of a decayed gentleman, who has put much aside. Godwin at one time had an immense reputation, but it was essentially literary. Fourier knew no one, apart from his landladies and their cats, and latterly a few disciples as uninfluential as himself. But Owen, among the early socialists, is a portent: a man who has made money, and to whom at one time all doors were open.
One other preliminary consideration arises. Few figures in the history of socialism represent, as does Owen, the combination of theory and practice; and it follows that even in what is designed to be, as exclusively as may be, a history of thought and doctrine, the biography of Owen asserts itself. In a sense his life was his socialism, and even if he had refrained from writing the whole of his lengthy series of books and pamphlets (and much more), he would still have been a remarkable figure in the history of socialism. Owen, once he yielded to the vice, never stopped writing, and he never ceased ‘trying’ and projecting; and in the fabric of his life, his writings and his strivings are inextricably interwoven.
It may, however, be possible even in the case of Owen to confine the biographical details within bounds. Owen was born in 1771 in Newtown, Montgomery, where his father had a combined business of saddler, ironmonger and postmaster. If Owen plunged young into life, it is not to be assumed that he was driven by poverty; it was merely the custom of the age and of his people. He seems to have acquired all that his school could teach him by the time he had reached seven, and thereafter for two years he was promoted to be an ‘usher’—two lost years, he regrets, ‘except,’ he adds, ‘that I thus early acquired the habit of teaching others what I knew.’ In view of the subsequent seventy-five years of didactic activity, this salvage from the wreck of these two years has an ominous and foreboding sound. At nine he was by way of being a shop assistant in his native town, and at ten he journeyed to London, and soon afterwards was employed at Stamford with a linen-draper bearing the improbable name of McGuffog. In spite of his labours, he was able to read much, confusedly, at Stamford. After some years, he was back in London, in a shop at Ludgate Hill, where he was grotesquely overworked; and so to Manchester, where his meteoric career began. By the age of 19, he had become manager to Drinkwater, cotton-mill owners in Manchester, with (having regard to the year, 1790, and his age) the almost princely salary of £300 a year. In due course, after various moves onwards and upwards—ever the conscientious, hard-working young man—there came in 1797 the purchase on behalf of himself and his partners of the New Lanark establishment from Dale (and subsequently, as becomes a business romance, his marriage to Miss Dale), and so finally in 1800 he came into his own kingdom, and in his own characteristic words, ‘entered upon the government of New Lanark.’
To a very large extent, Robert Owen is New Lanark, and New Lanark has little significance apart from Robert Owen. Here, also, his glory is unsullied; in everything else in the life of Owen there is frustration and failure, however greatly he may have designed; and indeed, as the years advance, there is too frequently a touch of the grotesque which is even more fatal than failure. But in New Lanark he wrought a miracle, not merely unaided, but in the face of obstacles over and above those inherent in the task. There were difficult partners, shying at philanthropy, and there were consequently business reshufflings. He was distrusted as an alien by the jealous Scot. He would have us believe that many of his flock knew only Gaelic1; even in 1800, it was an unusual accomplishment among pauper children drafted from Edinburgh; perhaps their Scots accent was such that to Owen, a Welshman, it might just as well have been Gaelic. But despite friction with his partners and sullenness from his workers, at least in the early stages, Owen persevered until the face of New Lanark was entirely transformed. Doubtless Owen would have said that all this was a witness to the truth and the efficacy of the theories on which he acted. We shall presently survey his writings so far as they bear on this period; for the present it may be a sufficiently accurate first approximation to regard Owen as of the school of Godwin in these matters. The doctrine he sought to apply in New Lanark was the familiar theory of human irresponsibility, Godwin's ‘Necessity,’ the view that men are good or evil according to their environment, and that therefore an improved environment, resting on improved education, provides the path to all progress. It is, however, fairly clear that what wrought the miracle was Owen's personality, and not abstract devotion to the theory of ‘Necessity.’ Indeed, it might plausibly be argued that a thoroughgoing belief throughout a community that no one was responsible for anything might lead to the most deplorable results. If, the more I wallow in sin, the more eager do my fellow-men become to express their sympathy with me because of the malady from which I suffer, and to find excuses for me in the notorious deficiencies of my parents, it may be that I, enjoying sympathy, may qualify for still larger doses. It may be doubted whether even a sermon-tasting Scottish community would be reformed by listening to Owen preaching his favourite sermon; but there is nothing absurd in believing that they may have been saved, and perhaps awed, by his personality, his zeal, and his obvious sincerity in all the works of his hands.
New Lanark, when Owen assumed the government, was probably more degraded than most similar places at the time of the Industrial Revolution. To a considerable extent it had been recruited in Dale's time by child-labour drafted from the workhouses of Edinburgh and Glasgow at an incredibly early age. The adult population seems to have consisted largely of thieves, drunkards and blackguards. Systematically, Owen proceeded to turn this citadel of vice into a model village. He turned off the supply of over-juvenile juveniles, and as education was in his theory the centre of all things, he began his great work with infant schools. On this side of his activities Owen was not merely a pioneer, but he held views which entitle him to a place in the history and theory of education. That singing and dancing should occupy so large a place in the scheme of things was an innovation in this environment. Meanwhile, perhaps somewhat dictatorially and undoubtedly somewhat patriarchally, Owen continued the work of reformation. A tolerable standard of cleanliness was attained without too much effort. Drunkenness was a more difficult failing to eliminate; but even here, by controlling the public-houses, Owen got what he wanted. Scarcely any aspect of welfare known to us to-day was neglected by Owen in these years, culminating in the ‘Institution for the Formation of Character,’ the opening of which on January 1, 1816, was the occasion of one of Owen's most characteristic speeches. This institution was in fact meant to be a centre of communal life. During all these years, the fame of New Lanark spread, and increasingly it became a place of pilgrimage, visited by princes, prelates and potentates and by all and sundry who departed saying that the half had not been told. Looking back, towards the end of his life, Owen described the inhabitants of New Lanark as having been ‘literally a self-employing, self-supporting, self-educating, and self-governing population.’2 This is perhaps New Lanark seen, not wholly justly, through a shimmer of years; for Owen always was, and never could be anything but, the benevolent autocrat. Yet, whether self-governed or more probably Owen-governed, it remains indisputable that out of the dross and grime of the Industrial Revolution, he made a fair community where little girls were taught to sing and dance, and where, as he boasts, there was not ‘one legal punishment inflicted upon any one of these people during that period.’ One may not inappropriately borrow the words used by Disraeli in describing another village which obviously drew its inspiration from New Lanark; ‘The men were well clad; the women had a blooming cheek; drunkenness was unknown; while the moral condition of the softer sex was proportionately elevated.’3 This was the first stage of Owen's life, during which he was pre-eminently the successful and model employer, in all matters of welfare more than a century before his time.
In the second phase of his life, Owen was primarily a dreamer of dreams and a seer of visions. The two parts of his life, although in a sense well-defined, inevitably overlap to a considerable extent. It is probable that almost from the outset Owen looked on New Lanark as a model on which the whole world was later to be fashioned. Along with fairly orthodox activities directed to a limitation of the hours of labour, he began increasingly fairly early in the New Lanark days, to advocate the establishment of communistic settlements, his famous ‘parallelograms.’ Much of later Owenite history is occupied with the attempt to establish such ‘villages of co-operation.’ Though he did not finally and formally sever his connection with New Lanark until a considerable number of years later, the turning-point in Owen's life was probably the public meeting which he addressed in London on August 21, 1817, when he went out of his way to make a frontal attack on ‘the errors—gross errors—that have been combined with the fundamental notions of every religion that has hitherto been taught to man.’4 Later he was assumed to have made a similar frontal attack on the whole institution of marriage, although on one view he might have been interpreted as having merely demanded easier conditions of divorce. But the effect of his supposedly infidel and immoral views was to deprive Owen increasingly during the remainder of his life of that very large measure of public, and indeed distinguished, support which he had enjoyed when he was primarily the model employer. Of his experiments in communism, the most famous was that of New Harmony in Indiana, which he acquired from the Rappites in 1824. Others were at Tytherly in Hampshire, and at Orbiston near Glasgow. All of these, sooner rather than later, fell into a decline and expired for reasons which will be found analysed in the biographies of Owen. New Harmony is also notable because it devoured a large part of the wealth previously accumulated by Owen, so that his later years were spent in comparative poverty. Apart from these communistic experiments, which were in a sense the fulfilment of certain of his New Lanark writings, Owen, back in Europe and finally severed from business, gave himself up to such projects as the ‘Grand National Consolidated Trades Union’ and the ‘National Equitable Labour Exchange,’ a marvellous store or bank, whose object it was to eliminate money in the ordinary sense. And so on to advanced old age Owen continued campaigning, never ceasing to proclaim the faith that was in him, though fewer listened, never desisting from writing, though fewer read and of these perhaps some read with a smile, ever scattering his seed in many fields, yet reaping no visible harvest.
Before turning to such of Owen's writings as it may be necessary to take down from the bookshelf, it may be well to supplement the foregoing bald biographical details by looking at the man himself. For again it is more important than it is with many of those who stray through this book that we should ask what manner of man this Robert Owen was. Admittedly, he is something of an enigma. Mr. Podmore, greatly daring, ventured to suggest that he ‘was not, by the modern standard, a good man of business.’5 Certainly, over large tracts of his life, especially in the second phase, he showed precious little business or common sense. Yet on the crude test of ‘getting there,’ Owen advanced from being a miscellaneous message-boy to wealth, influence and controlling power in what, for such a transformation, was a remarkably short period of time. Probably the secret of business success was as much of a mystery in the days of the Industrial Revolution as in later times; but if business ability is proved by being successful at business, then it is difficult to deny that Owen, at least in his younger days, had this ability.
On this point there may have been something of a break in Owen's life; having made money in the first phase, he proceeded to show, in more senses than one, that he did not know the meaning of money. But in all other respects, Owen's life is of a singularly uniform texture. His dominating characteristic—one that may become rather nauseating if expressed too frequently—was without doubt the love of his fellow-men. Yet though Owen's presentation of benevolence may at times grate, he was unquestionably sincere; he was indeed aflame with a passionate love of humanity. With this it must be admitted that he never lived down the education he gave himself. In his early youth he read too much, and he read too much without guidance; as a consequence he read with more zeal than profit. An autobiography put together by an octogenarian may not be the safest authority on the intellectual development of the writer as a child; but if we are to believe Owen's Life, his views on all essential matters were ‘set’ by the time he was twelve. He had already discovered the ‘errors’ in all religions; he had already realised that he was but the creature of the influences to which he was subjected. As he went through life, Owen showed himself utterly incapable of shedding an old idea or of acquiring a new one. There is a devastating remark by Harriet Martineau to the effect that ‘Robert Owen is not the man to think differently of a book for having read it.’
The consequences were somewhat disturbing, both on his own contemporaries and on all who have come after. He imagined he was a pioneer when in fact he was but playing amateurishly with problems which have engaged the mind of man since the beginning of time. He became more and more dogmatic, the complete egotist, underrating all others, indeed assuming the ignorance of all others as a first axiom. Behind all he wrote, and doubtless behind all he spoke, could be heard the words: ‘I’m not arguing with you: I’m telling you.’ As a result he became the greatest bore of his generation, seizing every occasion to pour out interminably his theories on the formation of character. Yet his personality was such that he was greatly loved by those who knew him; we of subsequent generations, who may not see his countenance, can clutch at nothing to relieve our boredom. Owen is tolerable to anyone who confines himself to what he wrote up to 1821; but beyond that he kept on writing and writing and writing, saying the same thing over and over again, for ever returning to the same point of departure,
Like a homing pigeon, never by doubt diverted.
When we turn to his writings, it is, as has been indicated, almost absurdly true that the reader can get all that he needs or requires in a very small sample of the whole. The essays which are comprised in A New View of Society and the so-called Report to the County of Lanark are almost in themselves sufficient; even within this limited compound Owen says all the essential things much oftener than once.6 Owen's point of departure is essentially the same as that of Godwin, although from this common central core he subsequently branches in different directions, above all in his applications. Almost the whole of Owen is comprised in one proposition which, with significantly little change, he continued to repeat throughout the years. That proposition is that our characters are made for us, and that accordingly we are in no way responsible for what we are. Owen considered that he had discovered a new science, which he called ‘the science of the influence of circumstances,’ though in fact the development of the science never got much beyond the frequent reiteration of the fundamental proposition.
As concise a statement as any is that contained in the Third Essay (of A New View of Society), where it takes this form with all the added emphasis of italicised type:
Every day will make it more and more evident that the character of man is, without a single exception, always formed for him; that it may be, and is, chiefly, created by his predecessors; that they give him, or may give him, his ideas and habits, which are the powers that govern and direct his conduct. Man, therefore, never did, nor is it possible he ever can, form his own character.7
This is the error which the human race must in some way formally renounce, and Owen resorts to what is, for him, considerable violence of language in denouncing this evil legacy. It is ‘a fundamental error of the highest possible magnitude’; it is ‘the true and sole origin of evil’; it has been ‘the Evil Genius of the world.’ Rising to further heights, the notion that individuals form their own character becomes ‘this hydra of human calamity, this immolator of every principle of rationality, this monster.’8 Almost a generation later, the principle of Good is ‘the knowledge that man is formed, without his consent, by nature and society’; while the principle of Evil is ‘the supposition that man forms himself.’9
It follows, on Godwinian lines, that since our character is made for us, character may be moulded by changing the environment, but Owen differs from Godwin in the emphasis he lays on the mathematical precision with which any desired result can be obtained in this great human laboratory:
Any general character, from the best to the worst, from the most ignorant to the most enlightened, may be given to any community, even to the world at large, by the application of the proper means; which means are to a great extent at the command and under the control of those who have influence in the affairs of men.10
Further it will become
evident to the understanding, that by far the greater part of the misery with which man is encircled may be easily dissipated and removed; and that with mathematical precision he may be surrounded with those circumstances which must gradually increase his happiness.11
This explains the importance of education in Owen's scheme of things; for there is literally nothing that education cannot do. Godwin, it will be remembered, shied at education as a possible regenerator, not because of his lack of faith in the power of education, but because of the impossibility of finding the right preceptors in a world where all school preceptors are fettered by their old school ties. But Owen has no such qualms, and education may produce the perfect community:
On the experience of a life devoted to the subject, I hesitate not to say, that the members of any community may by degrees be trained to live without idleness, without poverty, without crime, and without punishment; for each of these is the effect of error in the various systems prevalent throughout the world. They are all necessary consequences of ignorance.12
The plasticity, especially of the young, is a point to which Owen frequently recurs:
Human nature, save the minute differences which are ever found in all the compounds of the creation, is one and the same in all; it is without exception universally plastic.13
As a result of this plasticity and the mathematical precision with which the educational manipulator can work, ‘the rising generations may become in character, without any individual exceptions, whatever men can now desire them to be, that is not contrary to human nature.’14
With Owen it follows also that ignorance, vice and misery are more or less different words for the same thing, and that (as in Socrates and Godwin) knowledge and virtue are identified. It is not merely that, in general terms, ignorance is the sole obstacle in the way of realising a world without crime and without poverty; but that in some mysterious way (which flies in the face of most mundane experience) happiness is in proportion to knowledge:
When the knowledge he receives is true and unmixed with error, although it be limited, if the community in which he lives possesses the same kind and degree of knowledge, he will enjoy happiness in proportion to the extent of that knowledge. On the contrary, when the opinions which he receives are erroneous … his misery will be in proportion to the extent of those erroneous opinions.15
Again, as in Godwin, truth has but to be seen to be embraced: it imposes itself:
Let truth unaccompanied with error be placed before them; give them time to examine it and to see that it is in unison with all previously ascertained truths; and conviction and acknowledgment of it will follow of course.16
Such is the philosophical framework of all Owen's thoughts, and it is already adequately presented in A New View of Society, although in the foregoing summary a few supporting phrases have been borrowed from elsewhere. It will be noticed how close in all this he stands to Godwin. Men have their characters formed for them; no one can will his beliefs. No one is responsible for anything. Consequently the whole idea of punishment is out of place. Owen frequently complains that Society makes men criminals and then punishes them for their crimes. Also there is no conceivable foundation for private displeasure or public enmity; hence also ‘the irrationality of being angry with an individual for possessing qualities which he had not the means of preventing.’17 This high standard of refraining from all anger, Owen endeavoured to realise, and with considerable success.
Into all these questions of Providence, Foreknowledge, Will and Fate, heaven forbid that we should enter. With the discussion of such problems, it will be remembered, the fallen angels beguiled the tedium of their waiting hours, ‘and found no end in wandering mazes lost’; and to such higher intellects of more ampler leisure such issues may be left. It may merely be observed that the argument for improved environment does not require for its support the extreme view regarding the formation of man's character postulated by Owen. The wonderful works at New Lanark might have been founded on common sense, and not on the curious hybrid between metaphysics and theology which, in Owen's imagination, supplied the driving power.
Education, as has been noted, is to be the great engine of transformation. Apart from noting that Owen has a healthy distrust of bookish learning, and that his object is to make children rational creatures and not mere receptacles of decanted knowledge, skilled in knowing all the answers, his educational theories may be left to the educational expert.18 But again, although this represents unquestionably one of the brightest sides of Owen, he frequently mars his argument by grotesque overstatements, and by the exuberant and buoyant expectations with which he regards the coming world. By the application of his system, he says, there will be produced characters which even in youth will ‘greatly surpass the wise and learned of the present and preceding times.’19 The adoption of his plans ‘will show the boasted acquirements of Greece, of Rome, and of all antiquity, to be the mere weakness of mental infancy.’20 And if these rosy prospects may be thought to be lacking in precision, there is nothing vague about his bold undertaking on behalf of the child properly trained on Owenite lines: ‘Before he is twelve years old he may with ease be trained to acquire a correct view of the outline of all the knowledge which men have yet attained.’21
Of remedial measures apart from education, Owen (at the stage of A New View of Society) suggests an overhauling of our legislation with a view to ‘withdrawing’ (by which presumably he means ‘repealing’) those laws which rest on the erroneous doctrine that man is responsible for the formation of his own character. It would be a curious question to enquire how far such an instruction to the Parliamentary draftsman might not result in the repeal of all existing legislation, and the diligent research student could possibly unearth passages in the later Owen indicating that he would not be averse from such a solution. But what he has in fact primarily in mind, as ripe for ‘withdrawal,’ are the laws which train the population to every kind of crime, those which encourage ‘the consumption of ardent spirits,’ those which legalise and sanction gin-shops and pot-houses, gambling and lotteries. To these, which are legitimate and orthodox fields of reform, Owen adds among the laws which should be withdrawn the rather cryptic phrase, ‘those of punishment.’22 Contrary to his usual practice, he does not dwell on this; but the implication clearly is that all penalties of any kind should be abolished.
Alongside education and the repeal of laws inspired by the ‘erroneous principle,’ there is a third proposal in which Owen is a century in advance of his times. He suggests the need of a thoroughgoing system of labour statistics as a preliminary to the State providing work for the unemployed. The information is to be supplied ‘by the clergy, justices of the peace, or other more competent persons,’23—the ‘other more competent person’ being a distant foreshadowing and adumbration of the Ministry of Labour official. His suggested questionnaire is reasonably concise and to the point. The return should cover: (i) the average price of manual labour in each district; (ii) the number dependent on their labour (or the parish) for support, who are at the time unemployed, but are yet able to labour, i.e. the number available; (iii) the number partially employed, and the extent of their partial employment; (iv) a statement in respect of each of their former employments, and the ‘best conjectures’ as to the kind and quantity of work each may be supposed capable of performing. This ‘best conjecture’ seems to bring Owen agreeably into direct relationship with the manager of the present-day Employment Exchange, who also on many occasions is still reduced to his ‘best conjectures.’ And Owen adds to his discussion:
It would, perhaps, prove an interesting calculation, and useful to Government, to estimate how much its finances would be improved by giving proper employment to a million of its subjects, rather than by supporting that million in ignorance, idleness and crime …24
a question which, with appropriate modifications, some have still the temerity to ask.
So far we have been concerned with those aspects of Owen's teaching that spring more or less directly from his views on Man and the formation of Man's character. Perhaps those parts of his argument which rest on general humanitarian considerations, rather than on logic-chopping discussions on Man's will, make a stronger appeal to our generation, if only because here Owen is more universally human. Here indeed Owen rises to real eloquence—if indeed the eloquence be his; for there is a vague tradition that Owen, who became an increasingly barbarous writer as he advanced in years, had the prudence to have his earlier writings, or some of them, revised by Francis Place. When he pleads for justice to the oppressed, above all when he upholds the cause of the little children, he touches a chord which still vibrates; and he is, perhaps curiously, no less effective because in the earlier days his argument is reinforced by the consideration that it pays to be kind. The most famous of these passages—unfortunately too long for unabridged quotation here—is in the Address to the Superintendents of Manufactories, etc., originally prefixed to the Third Essay in A New View. Here he contrasts the care given to the animate and that given to the inanimate machines:
Many of you have long experienced in your manufacturing operations the advantages of substantial, well-contrived, and well-executed machinery.
Experience has also shown you the difference of the results between mechanism which is neat, clean, well-arranged, and always in a high state of repair; and that which is allowed to be dirty, in disorder, without the means of preventing unnecessary friction, and which therefore becomes, and works, much out of repair. …
If, then, due care as to the state of your inanimate machines can produce such beneficial results, what may not be expected if you devote equal attention to your vital machines, which are far more wonderfully constructed?
When you shall acquire a right knowledge of these, of their curious mechanism, of their self-adjusting powers; when the proper main-spring shall be applied to their varied movements,—you will become conscious of their real value, and you will readily be induced to turn your thoughts more frequently from your inanimate to your living machines; you will discover that the latter may be easily trained and directed to procure a large increase of pecuniary gain, while you may also derive from them high and substantial gratification. …
… And when in these transactions you estimate time by minutes, and the money expended for the chance of increased gain by fractions, will you not afford some of your attention to consider whether a portion of your time and capital would not be more advantageously applied to improve your living machines? From experience which cannot deceive me, I venture to assure you, that your time and money so applied, if directed by a true knowledge of the subject, would return you, not five, ten, or fifteen per cent, for your capital so expended, but often fifty, and in many cases a hundred per cent.25
This somewhat lengthy quotation may perhaps be forgiven, because it shows Owen at his best, both in substance and in manner of expression, combining the sweetness of reason with the wisdom of serpents, reconciling philanthropy with fifteen per cent. When he deals with the evils of child labour in the Address to the British Master Manufacturers, there is just a suggestion of righteous indignation in the voice of Owen, although indignation was alien alike to his temperament and his principles. Pleading that no child should be employed under the age of twelve, he argues (as in the passage already quoted) that the child who is put to work at too early an age is an ‘inferior instrument’:
I think an intelligent slave master would not, on the sole principle of pecuniary gain, employ his young slaves even ten hours of the day at so early an age. And we know that judicious farmers will not prematurely put their young beasts of burden to work; and that when they do put them to work it is with great moderation at first, and, we must remember too, in a healthy atmosphere. But children from seven to eight years of age are employed with young persons and women of all ages, for fourteen or fifteen hours per day in many of our manufactures, carried on in buildings in which the atmosphere is by no means the most favourable to human life.26
In his appeal to his fellow-manufacturers, another and more modern note creeps in. It is a plea for a policy of high wages on the ground of the importance of maintaining the purchasing-power of the population at large. No evil, he says, ought to be more dreaded by master-manufacturers than low wages of labour. By virtue of their numbers, the workers must always be the greatest consumers of all articles. High wages and general prosperity go together. Moreover, in the manufacturers' interest, the worker should not merely be well paid; he ought to have the time and the instruction necessary to make him a judicious purchaser.27
While Owen's starting-point in this matter is thus an appeal, as from one employer to another, to do the right thing in their own interest, he not unnaturally arrives at a condemnation of the ‘system’ and the familiar analysis of the evils of individualism, which is more in line with the socialist tradition. So far as the worker is concerned, the position has been brought to ‘a point of real oppression.’ ‘The employer regards the employed as mere instruments of gain.’28 So also he speaks of the ‘blind avarice of commerce.’ More in line with the exploitation theories Owen refers to the inventions of the Industrial Revolution as having ‘created an aggregate of wealth, and placed it in the hands of a few, who, by its aid, continue to absorb the wealth produced by the industry of the many.’29 As a consequence, ‘the mass of the population are become mere slaves to the ignorance and caprice of those monopolists.’ Much later Owen was to speak of ‘the money-making, health-and-happiness-destroying factories of our country’30; it is clear that even when he was part of the machine he looked at it dispassionately from the outside.
From this it is an easy transition to consider Owen's criticisms of individualism, although in fact the question arises more prominently in connection with his communistic proposals which will be noted presently. In the earlier writings, to which in fairness to Owen reference alone should be made, the most clear statement occurs in a passage in the Report to the County of Lanark in commendation of the principle of co-operation. Here, after having condemned the present arrangement of society as ‘the most anti-social, impolitic, and irrational that can be devised,’ he continues:
From this principle of individual interest have arisen all the divisions of mankind, the endless errors and mischiefs of class, sect, party, and of national antipathies, creating the angry and malevolent passions, and all the crimes and misery with which the human race have hitherto been afflicted.
In short, if there be one closet doctrine more contrary to truth than another, it is the notion that individual interest, as that term is now understood, is a more advantageous principle on which to found the social system, for the benefit of all, or of any, than the principle of union and mutual co-operation.31
There is in its implications an even more extreme passage in one of the London speeches of 1817—the notorious speech of August 21—where in contrasting life under what he calls the ‘cottage system’ as against complete co-operation, he paints a somewhat grotesquely glowing picture of what happens when all men have all things in common, so that even widowhood would not be the awful thing it now is. Even if a dear one dies ‘they have consolation in the certain knowledge that … they have many, many others remaining.’ ‘As far as the eye can reach or imagination extend’ there are thousands and thousands ready and willing to offer aid and consolation. As another poet has it:
Seid umschlungen, Millionen! Diesen Kuss der ganzen Welt!
But indeed, when love of humanity becomes so diffused, it is in danger of becoming sloppy; and the Kuss der ganzen Welt may afford little real consolation in bereavement. As against this dream-world, where thousands and thousands are prepared to stand by, in the contrary condition:
All are individualised, cold and forbidding; each being compelled to take an hundred-fold more care of himself than would be otherwise necessary; because the ignorance of society has placed him in direct opposition to the thousands around him.32
Later in life Owen came to denounce private property with a full-blooded vigour which may be equalled, but is certainly not excelled, elsewhere: ‘Private property is one of the great demoralising and repulsive powers, arising from the laws of men, and is the cause of innumerable crimes and gross injustice. … It is strongly calculated to make man look upon his fellow man as his enemy, and to create general suspicions of the motives and actions of strangers, and even of neighbours. … The evils of private property tend in all directions.’33 But down these many alleys it is unnecessary to follow Owen.
We have listened to Owen giving most excellent advice to his fellow-manufacturers. Not unnaturally, Owen being Owen, counsel is also freely imparted to the other side. It is, however, less excellent advice, having regard to the frailty of man, and it derives its interest almost exclusively from the light which it throws on Owen and the curious workings of his mind. It is found at its best in An Address to the Working Classes, dated March 29, 1819. He assures the workers that ‘the time is at hand’—but unfortunately there is one formidable obstacle. All uncharitableness and anger must be laid aside; in other words, the working classes must rise to a full appreciation of the Owenite doctrine that no one is responsible for what they are, and that therefore there can be no rational ground for anger, even against their greatest oppressors and their most bitter enemies. Owen presents his favourite sermon in tabloid form for the rumination of the workers:
An endless multiplicity of circumstances, over which you had not the smallest control, placed you where you are, and as you are. In the same manner, others of your fellow-men have been formed by circumstances, equally uncontrollable by them, to become your enemies and grievous oppressors. In strict justice they are no more to be blamed for these results than you are; nor you than they; and, splendid as their exterior may be, this state of matters often causes them to suffer even more poignantly than you.34
If the workers show any desire violently to dispossess the rich of their power, emoluments and privileges, ‘the contention between the rich and the poor will never have an end.’ Owen indeed seeks to impose on the working classes a kind of Credo, an adherence to the only faith, as a necessary condition of the day being at hand:
Are you then prepared to look upon all your fellow-creatures, in power and out of power, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, good and bad, as beings formed solely by the circumstances of their birth, and who have been made as they are, whatever they may be, from causes which exclude the possibility of the smallest control on their parts in the formation of those faculties and qualities they may happen to possess? If you cannot see and comprehend this truth, then is the time not yet come for your deliverance from the depths of mental darkness and physical misery.35
This line of argument is rendered possible because we are on the eve of a period when the poor will be able to relieve themselves of their poverty without infringing on the possessions of the rich. In future, ‘the least gifted member of society will experience a larger share of continued and permanent happiness than has hitherto fallen to the lot of the most fortunate.’ Besides, as is indeed obvious on Godwin's principles, the rich are not really such a bad lot. We have seen that frequently they suffer more poignantly than the poor: they ‘call for our pity, not blame.’ As if all that were not enough, Owen gives his own personal guarantee that the rich are not without their claim to a possible share of the world's decency:
It must be satisfactory to you to learn that I have had the most evident proofs from many individuals, high in these classes, that they have now a real desire to improve your condition.36
One wonders how the ‘working classes’ reacted to this curiously maddening mixture of naiveté, condescension, philosophical generalities, and sheer obtuseness. At least it helps one to understand the saying that in conversation with Owen ‘you could not put him in a passion nor keep yourself out of one.’37
In endeavouring to present a general picture of Owen's system of thought, a certain number of citations have already been given, which in their context will be found to have relation to his proposals for the establishment of communistic settlements, or villages of co-operation—‘Owen's parallelograms,’ as they were familiarly called with an intended touch of ridicule. There is little doubt that Owen from the outset regarded New Lanark as an experiment to be applied later to the whole nation, and indeed in the days of his more grandiose dreams, to the world at large. As early as the second essay in A New View he had asked what there was to prevent such a system from being immediately adopted into national practice.38 The argument for his increasingly communistic settlements is first elaborated in the Report to the Committee for the Relief of the Manufacturing Poor (1817), and it occupies a central position in the Report to the County of Lanark (1820). Later, of course, it is the staple of all his writings.
In its first appearance, Owen's ‘Plan’ was devised as a remedy against unemployment. He had already postulated in A New View of Society that it was a primary duty of every government that cared for its subjects ‘to provide perpetual employment of real national utility, in which all who apply may be immediately occupied.’39 The acknowledgment of such a duty was more than ever urgent in the circumstances of the times, of which Owen gives a penetrating analysis. The Industrial Revolution had, he argued, brought with it greatly increased productive power. In the result, ‘individual interest … found mechanism to be a cheaper agency than manual labour’; workers were accordingly dismissed, and ‘labour in consequence rapidly fell in value.’40 It was this fall in the value of labour which, Owen contended, had to be remedied and for which his Plan was devised. If value is thus to be restored to manual labour, it can be done only by employment on the land, and accordingly what is aimed at is the creation of ‘limited communities of individuals, on the principle of united labour and expenditure, having their basis in agriculture, and in which all should have mutual and common interests.’41 Elsewhere, in the Lanark Report, he speaks of the great error that has been committed ‘in separating the worker from his food.’42 The worker therefore is to go back to the land, but not wholly to the land; the habitations of Owen's vision are described as ‘combined agricultural and manufacturing villages.43
Such settlements are to be financed by the State in one way or another. The minimum number in each will be 300, ‘men, women and children in their natural proportions,’ with a maximum of 2,000; but somewhere between 800 and 1200 is indicated as the optimum.44 The inhabitants will live in large buildings arranged in a parallelogram, and the apportionment of the various wings to their respective uses is amply detailed by Owen. Pleasing pictorial representations of these may be unearthed by diligent students in the literature of the period. They are obviously first cousins of the Phalanstère, although Fourier, on whom Owen acted as a perpetual irritant, never admitted kinship. Of the success of such villages of co-operation Owen never entertained any doubt. He held that with the increased power of production, it was possible ‘to saturate the world with wealth’45; but owing to our mismanagement—and here he strikes a modern note—‘in the midst of the most ample means to create wealth, all are in poverty, or in imminent danger from the effects of poverty upon others.’46
As additional aids to prosperity, Owen has two further recommendations. The first is that we should abandon the plough and return to the spade.47 It may be doubted whether Owen knew very much about either the spade or the plough; but that, of course, is no reason why he should not dilate at very considerable length on the superiority of the spade as an agricultural instrument. With the spade, Great Britain and Ireland could support in high comfort a population greatly exceeding one hundred millions; whereas, relying on the plough, it was already supposed to be greatly overpopulated. Owen's passion for the spade is perhaps best viewed as merely an additional resonant bee in his teeming bonnet; but of course it may be linked up with a semiconscious realisation that if ever his villages of co-operation were realised, having regard to their population and the area assigned to them, their agriculture would probably of necessity have to take the form of market gardening.
The other aid to prosperity is concerned with more fundamental problems, being nothing less than a suggestion for a new standard of value, which is necessary, if we are, in a pleasing phrase, ‘to let prosperity loose on the country.’48 Owen, it is to be feared, was not a currency expert—who is?—and a perusal of his arguments may produce in the mind of the reader a pale reflection of that confusion in which Owen groped. On the side of theory his observations have some interest, inasmuch as they show Owen stretching forth a hand—a somewhat shaky hand—towards Marx; on the practical and historical side, they have some significance as supplying the basis on which that later fiasco, the National Equitable Labour Exchange, was based.
Expressed broadly, Owen's position here is tolerably clear. It is ‘that the natural standard of value is, in principle, human labour, or the combined manual and mental powers of men called into action.’49 Obviously, the difficulty under any circumstances of applying a labour standard will be considerably accentuated by lumping manual and mental powers together. It would be an invidious task to check up on the amount of effort (and experience) the spring poet puts into a love song. In order to make labour the standard of value, it will be necessary, says Owen, to ascertain the amount of it in all articles to be bought or sold.50 All articles thereafter are to be exchanged at what he calls their ‘prime cost.’ The awkward fact, as was made manifest in the experience of the National Equitable Labour Exchange, is that there can never be any guarantee that people at large will be willing to exchange at the rates so determined, assuming indeed that it is possible to determine such rates at all. Almost inevitably a notional number of hours comes to be assigned as that necessary for the commodity's production, and in arriving at a decision in this matter, the calculator consciously or unconsciously bases himself on what is happening in the open market, where the despised money prices prevail. Owen, although he fails to make his proposals clear, at least remained faithful to the view that money, as we know it, is an evil. Much later he declared that until we should have disabused our minds of this insane money-mystery, it was impossible that the world could be other than a great lunatic asylum.51 At this later stage a paper money resting on the credit of the British Empire appears to represent his aspirations.52
Thus launched, preferably with the aid of the spade and a new standard of value, the villages of co-operation will propagate until all the world is shaped in their similitude. It is the usual naively pathetic vision which has sustained so many dreamers, again rather reminiscent of Fourier's faith in the triumphant spread of the Phalanstère, but perhaps still more in line with Louis Blanc's confidence that competition would be driven out by competition, so that the beaten capitalist would come creeping into the workshop. Not merely will society permit these new establishments to supersede other forms of enterprise, since these latter are ‘wretchedly degrading’53; a more cogent argument is that the parish poor, for whom in the first place these projects were devised, will under the new arrangements become the envy of the rich and the indolent.54 Here indeed is an inverted principle of ‘greater eligibility.’ No wonder that Owen could say that the utmost bounds of his ambition was to become an undistinguished member of one of these happy villages55; or that he could claim with his usual buoyancy that ‘to resist the introduction of this plan, in any part of the world, will now be as vain and useless, as for man by his puny efforts to endeavour to preclude from the earth the vivifying rays of the sun.56
Owen is commendably vague as to how his parallelograms are to be run; but it is perhaps of the essence of dreams that they achieve their effect by the vividness of the general impression rather than by consistency of operative detail. The villages, townships, or whatever they may be called, are to be governed by Committees of all the members of a certain seniority. But in the last analysis, they will run themselves, so that in a sense we come back to Godwin once more: ‘In a short time the ease with which these associations will proceed in all their operations will be such as to render the business of governing a mere recreation.’57 Later in life, as his dreams became still more exuberant, Owen was to make the surprising discovery that each township was to become ‘the immediate agent of God, to carry into execution the laws of the Universal Creating Power’58; and on this basis he exercised his fancy and ingenuity in strange flights of constitution-mongering. But there was one current bogy in particular which Owen would in no wise allow to becloud his vision of a world gone parallelogram. This was the suggestion that the Malthusian devil of over-population might lurk in ambush on the path towards his earthly paradise. Owen will not have Malthus at any price. In an observation which may not indeed go to the root of the matter, but at least goes some distance in that direction, he remarks that Malthus ‘has not told us how much more food an intelligent and industrious people will create from the same soil, than will be produced by one ignorant and ill-governed.’59 Even if one may not accept his suggestion that the ratio is as one to infinity (meaning, of course, as infinity to one), this remains a just observation, and more to the point than his general argument that ‘each individual brings into the world with him the means … sufficient to enable him to produce food equal to more than ten times his consumption.’60 His attitude is stated more explicitly in one of his later writings, where in effect his answer is that the question cannot arise until the whole surface of the globe is studded with parallelograms; if that time ever does arise, the population of the world (having been for long indoctrinated with Owenism) will be ‘highly good, intelligent and rational,’ and they will know far better what to do than this present most irrational generation. But to worry about these questions at the present moment, when the earth is comparatively a waste and a forest, is ‘one of the thousand insanities with which the present generation is afflicted.’61 Thus, like the burden of the National Debt in old-fashioned Financial Science, the responsibility is waltzed on to a future generation; but the underlying assumption which justifies this postponement is that the village of co-operation will march relentlessly across the sands of the Sahara, through the dark swamps of the upper Amazon, and across the lonely high places of Tibet.
Perhaps it is not expedient, within the allotted framework, to carry further the presentation of Robert Owen. His views on marriage are outside our province, and are only of slight interest because here is still one further point in which he approaches somewhat to Godwin. His views on religion are of some significance because of the reasons underlying his comprehensive antagonism towards all the orthodoxies of the world; it was that all known religions were guilty of the fundamental error involved in holding that a man may be held responsible for the formation of his character, and trafficked in rewards and punishments accordingly. They were therefore guilty of what, in Owen's eyes, was the greatest of all heresies; they were tied to the ‘principle of evil.’ On a larger canvas it would be interesting to illustrate Owen's dislike of political action and agitation, and indeed his distrust of the political machine generally. Though the second part of his life was a succession of fiascos, ending in the shoals and shallows of a very peculiar type of spiritualism, there is nevertheless force in the contention that in countless ways he was one of the most pervading influences in the later nineteenth century, and that, in current jargon, his was a seminal mind. Yet the ordinary man turns back to the miracle of New Lanark, as the crowning achievement of Owen, who, in the darkest days of the Industrial Revolution, showed, even if in undemocratic ways and building on strange principles, what love could do to regenerate a fallen community. And even if the second part of his life was barren of achievement, so far as the world's coarse thumb and finger could assess, Owen's life is memorable, if not unique, in presenting us with a man who achieved wealth and success, and yet, counting these as dross, cast them aside to gain for his fellow-men a greater salvation: ‘Blessed is the rich that is found without blemish, and hath not gone after gold. Who is he? and we will call him blessed; for wonderful things hath he done among his people.’
The Revolution in Mind and Practice, etc., p. 11.
Revolution in Mind and Practice, p. 29.
Selection of Owen's works in Everyman series, p. 216.
Frank Podmore: Robert Owen, p. 644.
It is unwise to read too widely in Owen. All any reader need wish to have is contained in the admirable selection made by Mr. G. D. H. Cole for the Everyman series, under the title, A New View of Society, and other writings by Robert Owen. The reader goes outside this at his peril. References given, unless otherwise stated, are to this edition.
A New View of Society, Third Essay (Everyman), p. 45.
Ibid. Fourth Essay, p. 65.
Revolution in Mind and Practice, p. 1.
A New View of Society, First Essay (Everyman), p. 20. The Owenite idea was, of course, in the air. As Mrs. B. (an admirable reflector of the Zeitgeist) said to Caroline in 1816: ‘Youth and innocence may be moulded into any form you chuse to give them’ (Mrs. Marcet, Conversations on Political Economy, p. 159). Youth we may define, even if arbitrarily. But who is innocent? According to Godwin, as we have seen, the innocence of childhood is already sullied in the first seven days of life.
Ibid. p. 20.
A New View of Society, Second Essay, p. 37.
Ibid. Fourth Essay, p. 72.
Report to the County of Lanark (Everyman), p. 279.
A New View of Society, Third Essay, p. 55.
Ibid. Second Essay, p. 24.
A New View of Society, Second Essay, p. 23.
One point of general interest may, however, be extracted. The boys of Owen's future settlements are to wear kilts, or, in more dignified language, ‘a dress somewhat resembling the Roman and Highland garb.’ ‘The Romans and Highlanders of Scotland,’ he says, ‘appear to be the only two nations who adopted a national dress on account of its utility, without, however, neglecting to render it highly becoming and ornamental.’ But it may be doubted whether Owen really understood the inner mechanism of the kilt (Report to the County of Lanark, pp. 277-278).
A New View of Society, Third Essay, p. 49.
Ibid. Fourth Essay, p. 80.
Report to the County of Lanark, p. 284.
A New View of Society, Fourth Essay, p. 66.
Ibid. Fourth Essay, p. 83.
Ibid. p. 85.
A New View of Society (Everyman), pp. 8-9.
To the British Master Manufacturers (Everyman), p. 142.
Ibid. pp. 143-144.
Observations on the Effect of the Manufacturing System (Everyman), p. 121.
Report to the County of Lanark (Everyman), p. 258.
Manifesto of Robert Owen.
Report to the County of Lanark (Everyman), p. 269
Address of 21st August, 1817 (Everyman), p. 215.
Revolution in Mind and Practice, p. 111.
An Address to the Working Classes (Everyman), p. 149.
An Address to the Working Classes (Everyman), pp. 150-151.
Ibid. p. 153.
Owen's unsolicited testimonial to the well-meaningness of his fellow-employers may advantageously be compared with a somewhat similar utterance of Charles Kingsley later (1854), as representing the Christian Socialists: ‘There is no doubt that the classes possessing property have been facing, since 1848, all social questions with an average of honesty, earnestness and good feeling which has no parallel since the days of the Tudors, and that hundreds and thousands of “gentlemen and ladies” in Great Britain now are saying, “Show what we ought to do to be just to the workmen, and we will do it, whatsoever it costs.” They may not be always correct (though they generally are so) in their conceptions of what ought to be done; but their purpose is good and righteous; and those who hold it are daily increasing in number. The love of justice and mercy toward the handicraftsman is spreading rapidly as it never did before in any nation upon earth; and if any man still represents the holders of property, as a class, as the enemies of those whom they employ, desiring their slavery and their ignorance, I believe that he is a liar and a child of the devil, and that he is at his father's old work, slandering and dividing between man and man’ (Preface addressed to the Working Men of Great Britain prefixed to Alton Locke).
A New View of Society, Second Essay, p. 36.
Ibid., Fourth Essay, p. 86.
Report to the Committee for the Relief of the Manufacturing Poor, p. 157; Address of 21st August, 1817, p. 211.
A Catechism of the New View of Society (Everyman), pp. 175, 180.
Report to the County of Lanark, p. 266.
Catechism of New View, p. 180.
Report to the County of Lanark, Part III: Details of the Plan, p. 264.
Report to the County of Lanark, p. 247.
Ibid. p. 270.
Ibid. p. 259.
Ibid. p. 248.
Ibid. p. 250.
Report to the County of Lanark, p. 262.
Revolution in Mind and Practice, p. 35.
Ibid. p. 53.
Catechism of the New View (Everyman), p. 181.
Further Development of the Plan, etc. (Everyman), pp. 231-232.
Address of 14th August, 1817 (Everyman), p. 201.
Further Development of the Plan, etc., p. 232.
Report to the County of Lanark, p. 287.
Revolution in Mind and Practice, p. 72.
A New View of Society, Fourth Essay, p. 85.
Catechism of the New View (Everyman), pp. 181-182.
Revolution in Mind and Practice, p. 122.
Last Updated on February 6, 2016, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 3222
SOURCE: “Laurence Gronlund: Contributions to American Socialism,” in The Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 15, 1962, pp. 618-24.
[In the following essay, Maher describes the influence of the largely neglected thinker, Laurence Gronlund, on nineteenth-century American socialism.]
Laurence Gronlund is responsible for three significant contributions to American socialism: first, a theoretical adaptation of German socialism to the American milieu; second, a substantial influence on Edward Bellamy; and, third, an effective criticism of the theories of Henry George. Although assessed as one of the most influential advocates of socialism in the late nineteenth century,1 Gronlund is virtually unknown today. In order to indicate the reasons for his importance, this article sketches in broad outline Gronlund's three principal contributions to American socialism.
Gronlund, a post-Civil War Danish immigrant, was associated at one time or another with Icarianism, Bellamyite Nationalism, the Socialist Labor party, and the American Fabian Society. Teacher, lecturer, editor, and author, Gronlund's prime works were The Co-operative Commonwealth (1884), Our Destiny (1890), and The New Economy (1898.)2
The first contribution of Laurence Gronlund to American socialism is his theoretical adaptation of German socialism to the American milieu. Believing that the economic, social, and political conditions in the United States and Great Britain were ideal for the establishment of a socialistic state, Gronlund realized that there was no standard work in English which explained the basic tenets of scientific socialism.3 His primary objective in writing The Co-operative Commonwealth was, therefore, to present a clear and concise exposition of the theories of German socialism which would be readily acceptable to both the American and British minds.
My book claims to be an exposition of Socialism—modern Socialism, German Socialism, which is fast becoming the Socialism the world over. … The German Socialism I have subjected to a sort of winnowing process, separating that which is distinctively German from what is universally true; then, moulded the latter into a compact, logical system, and tried to show that this system is in line with the most advanced and soundest Anglo-Saxon ideas; my objective has been, in other words, to lead Socialism into the main current of [American and] English thought.4
Gronlund's adaptation of the “three cornerstones of scientific socialism—the materialistic concept (or economic interpretation) of history, the class struggle, and surplus value”5 are evident in his theory of economics, his theory of history, and his program of action.
Proposing a theory of economics identical with that of Karl Marx, Gronlund summarized, simplified, and presented in Anglo-American style and expression, the principles which Marx set forth in the first volume of Capital.6 Foremost among these basic principles was, of course, the theory of surplus value. Gronlund's exposition of Marxist economic theories was exceptionally brief. Yet, its similarity to the theories of Marx is readily apparent; and Gronlund himself admitted that this was “the part for which I am most indebted to German Socialism.”7
The general outline of Gronlund's theory of history was based primarily on the “Communist Manifesto.” Relating all progress to the economic condition of man, Gronlund clung to the central theme of Marx's.8 He also accepted the Marxist position that the working classes are necessarily exploited under the capitalistic system9 and insisted with Marx that capitalism contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction.10 In contradistinction to Marx, Gronlund denied that socialism was a class movement11 and rejected the class-struggle thesis.12
Finally, while the destruction of the capitalistic system and the evolution of the socialist era were inevitable, yet Gronlund agreed with Marx that an element of human cooperation in the process was required.13 Nevertheless, having rejected the class-struggle thesis, Gronlund went on to delineate a program of action which proscribed violence and bloodshed and propounded a revolution of peaceful persuasion.14 Inasmuch as the revolution was primarily “a contest of ideas,”15 men had to be intellectually convinced before they would wholeheartedly support the movement. But, since the majority of men would never be moved to effect the great change, the revolution must be accomplished by an enthusiastic and convinced minority, drawn from all classes of society.16 Gronlund's purpose was to convince such a minority.17
To summarize, in adapting German socialism to the American milieu, Gronlund accepted two basic tenets of scientific socialism: namely, the theory of surplus value and the economic interpretation of history. But, he rejected the class-struggle thesis and violent revolution. Gronlund's adaptation also included a resort to moral motives for effecting social, economic, and political change; and his exhortations were often expressed in religious phraseology. “Gronlund thus brought the essential logic of German socialism into American thought, couched in a language that was understandable and acceptable to many reformers and fitted with a conclusion which, while departing from Marxism, was more applicable to the American temper and experience.”18
Gronlund's second contribution to American socialism is his influence on Edward Bellamy. Bellamy's utopian novel, Looking Backward,19 was a forceful impetus to the spread of socialistic ideas and ideals in the late nineteenth century. While the writings of Gronlund and other avowed socialists might be critically read and reluctantly accepted, Bellamy's presentation of socialism won such acclaim that it quickly became a best seller. Nationalist clubs, established to promote Bellamy's theories, sprang up across the country; and their influence was reflected in the increased strength of the Populist party in the 1892 presidential election.20
The first to allege that he had influenced Bellamy was Gronlund himself. In the 1890 edition of The Co-operative Commonwealth, he wrote: “The happiest effect of my book is that it has led indirectly and probably unconsciously, to Mr. Bellamy's Looking Backward, the novel which without doubt has stealthily inoculated thousands of Americans with socialism, just because it ignored that name and those who have written on the subject.”21
Substantiating Gronlund's boast of influencing Bellamy is the fact that The Co-operative Commonwealth antedated Looking Backward by three years. The former was first published in 1884; the latter appeared in 1887. While precedence in time is no proof of influence (post hoc, ergo propter hoc), nevertheless, in view of the similarity of the two works, this extrinsic factor is significant.
A comparison of the theories expressed by Gronlund and Bellamy reveals a striking similarity. Both authors blame social and political abuses on the extreme individualism which manifested itself principally in a “cut-throat” economic order.22 Ruthless competition on the side of business allied with a culpable apathy (or laissez-faire policy) on the part of government leaves the masses in misery and despair.23 Both Gronlund and Bellamy propose a re-establishment of the economic order on the principle of social cooperation.24 They both believe that when poverty and insecurity are eliminated, social discrimination and political corruption will also disappear.25 Both agree that the new economic order will evolve out of the old.26 This evolution will manifest itself in the consolidation of industry by great monopolies and in the extension of government control through regulation and nationalization. The entire system will reach perfect fulfillment when government nationalizes all business and forms one “Big Trust.”27
Even in details, Gronlund's cooperative commonwealth and Bellamy's utopia are almost identical. For example, both eliminate state governments, political parties, lawyers, and the jury system; both advocate universal education, the development of natural aptitudes, the economic emancipation of women, and the rating of officials according to the efficiency of their subordinates.28
The similarity between the two books far outweighs the differences. Gronlund himself points out, however, that there are three major differences between his work and Bellamy's:
It should, however, in justice to the cause, be stated, that there are three ideas in that novel for which socialism should not be held responsible. … These are a love for militarism, equal wages, and appointments by the retired functionaries. They are decidedly unsocialistic notions, belong exclusively to Mr. Bellamy, and will be further noticed in the course of this volume.29
Despite these differences, the over-all similarity between the two works seems to sustain Gronlund's contention. Whether Bellamy was influenced consciously or unconsciously by Gronlund is irrelevant here. The fact is that Gronlund's influence on Bellamy was substantial and that Bellamy's widespread acceptance indirectly augmented Gronlund's importance.
The third contribution of Laurence Gronlund to American socialism is his effective criticism of the theories of Henry George. In 1884, Gronlund lauded George's Progress and Poverty30 as a “book that has enticed very many persons very far out on the road of Socialism.”31 Gronlund recognized that George had rendered a great service to socialism by proving the right of the state to hold all land as common property and the absurdity of the Malthusian theory of population.32 However, even at this time, Gronlund took issue with George over the latter's emphasis on the land question. To confiscate rent, Gronlund warned, was to begin “at the wrong end.”33
The main criticism which Socialists have to make on this [George's] work is that it pushes the land question—in America, especially, but even in Great Britain, a secondary question in importance—so much into the foreground that sight is lost of the principal question: who should control the instruments of production and transportation? It is, however, a most curious fact that its author should be an American. To start the solution of the social problems in our States, where as yet the great majority of farmers own the land which they cultivate, even if it is generally mortgaged to its full value, with a proposition to divest all landowners of their titles, is to commence by making a very large portion of the workers to be benefited hostile to all social change.34
Gronlund's criticism of George was not particularly vehement, however, until after the colorful, but bitter 1886 mayoralty campaign in New York City. In that year, the socialists united with other labor groups to form the United Labor party. Henry George received the party's nomination for mayor and carried the United Labor party's standard against Tammany's Abram S. Hewitt and Republican Theodore Roosevelt. New York socialists campaigned vigorously for George, despite the fact that the party platform, which had been bolted together by George, overemphasized the land-tax and obviously slighted labor issues. The socialists believed that nationalization of land would be a strong foundation stone in the erection of a socialist state. Although Hewitt emerged the victor, Tammany had been forced to employ every maneuver of political strategy against the only formidable opponent, Henry George. Almost half of George's 67,000 votes had been cast by socialists; they constituted a political bloc which could not be ignored.35
When the smoke of the campaign had cleared, George and his associates attempted to strengthen and rebuild the party. This reorganization commenced with a determination to purge the party of all radical factions, notably the socialists. It was at this time that Gronlund forcefully attacked George. His criticisms were published in two pamphlets, The Insufficiency of Henry George's Theory and Socialism vs. Tax Reform: An Answer to Henry George.36
In the first of these treatises, Gronlund expressed his appreciation of George's contribution to the promotion of socialism by referring to George as “the entering wedge for our ideas into American minds.”37 Nevertheless, Gronlund maintained that, although the doctrines of George embodied partial truth, they were too narrow and one-sided and that his “remedy” would prove both impractical and inadequate. Protesting that the arguments of George were one-sided, Gronlund challenged George's main thesis, that the landowner alone benefited from the material progress of civilization. This contention Gronlund considered to be a “most astonishing piece of self-deception.”38 He agreed that the landowner receives an “unearned increment,” but he maintained that the capitalist, too, benefited from material prosperity. Gronlund pointed out that, although the capitalist did not necessarily increase the rate of interest, the amount of his income increased steadily. Therefore, both the landowner and the capitalist profit from civilization's material progress. The laborer, on the other hand, does not receive a proportional share of the world's wealth. This argument shattered George's contention that labor and capital are “twin-sisters” struggling for survival against the avaricious landowner.39
Not only were George's theories too narrow, but his “remedy” of confiscating all rent was inadequate and would “not accomplish all that he predicts when reduced to practice.”40 Gronlund presented four objections to the land-tax remedy. George insisted that a constitutional amendment was not necessary in order to make the land-tax effective. Gronlund, a lawyer, was convinced that the land-tax program could not be undertaken without such an amendment. Therefore, he contended that since the Constitution must be changed, it would be far better to campaign for complete, instead of partial, socialism.41 Moreover, George's remedy would deprive the landowner of his possessions without compensation while allowing the wealth of the capitalist to remain untouched; but Gronlund believed that this was an injustice.42 Furthermore, George insisted that from the land-tax only enormous revenues would flow into the government treasury. Yet George had never framed a budget on this single tax. Gronlund proved from statistics that this tax would never cover the cost of operating the local, state, and federal governments, let alone provide sufficient capital to make the improvements which George described in his writings.43 Finally, Gronlund protested that George was laboring under a delusion when he insisted that the welfare of the wage-earner would improve because rent would be confiscated. “A bare lot does not make a home.”44 The laborer will remain dependent on his employer for wages; and, until wages rise above the subsistence level, the worker will never be housed comfortably.45
The second pamphlet, Socialism vs. Tax Reform: An Answer to Henry George, not only supplemented Gronlund's first criticism but also spearheaded a counterattack on George's charges against socialism and socialists which appeared in The Standard.46 In this pamphlet, Gronlund explained that the United Labor party selected Henry George as its candidate, not because of his economic doctrines, “but because of his well-known sympathy with the toiling masses.”47 Gronlund demonstrated that the original platform adopted by the United Labor party included a condemnation of the existing wage system. However, George and his associates rewrote the platform, eliminating all references to this objective and substituting George's proposal for a single tax.48
In this same treatise, Gronlund answered George's assertion that socialists lacked radicalism, that is, that socialists failed to go to the roots and to distinguish between land as a primary and capital as a derivative element of production. In response to this charge, Gronlund explained that both capital and land (valuable land), were derivative elements of production.49
Finally, Gronlund warned the socialists and all the members of the United Labor party that George's remedy consisted of a tax-reform and not nationalization of land; that George was an extreme free-trader; and that, if George's proposals were adopted, the courts would undoubtedly rule that the taxing of land to its full value did not comprise taxation, but confiscation.50
Gronlund's criticisms of the theories of Henry George figure as a definite contribution to American socialism. George's widespread popularity and his reputation as a crusader for the poorer classes made it difficult to explain to the average worker how and why the socialist position differed from that of George's. Moreover, Henry George had been supported by the socialists of New York City in the mayoralty campaign of 1886; and, for that reason, the rank-and-file socialist needed an explanation of the Socialist Labor party's sudden repudiation of George. Gronlund's two tracts answered this need perfectly. They were written in a popular style; the arguments presented were clear, concise, and simple; and the tracts were easily circulated since they were published in pamphlet form.
“Now all but forgotten, Gronlund's writings were once widely read by intellectuals interested in socialism; [and] … from him the social-gospel prophets drew many of their ideas.”51 Although Laurence Gronlund's importance results from indirect rather than direct ascendancy, yet his adaptation of German socialism to the American milieu, his influence on Edward Bellamy, and his criticism of Henry George stand as significant contributions to American socialism.
Alan Pendleton Grimes, American Political Thought (2d ed. rev.; New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1960), p. 363.
Laurence Gronlund, The Co-operative Commonwealth (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1884), Our Destiny (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1890), and The New Economy (Chicago: Herbert S. Stone & Co., 1898).
The Co-operative Commonwealth (London: Swan Sonnenschein, LeBas & Lowrey, 1886), pp. ix and x. This was the only edition of the text readily available to the author in the preparation of this article. All references are to this edition unless otherwise noted.
Ibid., pp. ix-x.
Donald D. Egbert and Stow Persons (eds.) Socialism and American Life (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1952), I, 76.
Karl Marx published the first volume of Capital in 1867. Frederick Engels published the second volume in 1885 and the third in 1894. Since the first edition of The Co-operative Commonwealth appeared in 1884, Gronlund was able to base his theory of economics only on the first volume. The Co-operative Commonwealth, pp. 17-36.
Ibid., p. x.
Ibid., p. 74.
Ibid., pp. 54-56.
Ibid., p. 72.
Ibid., pp. xi and 37.
Ibid., pp. 37 and 60-61. For a further discussion of Gronlund's rejection of the class-struggle thesis, see Howard H. Quint, The Forging of American Socialism (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1953), pp. 28, 78, 240, 277, and 317.
The Co-operative Commonwealth, pp. 74 and 251-52.
Ibid., pp. 252-54.
Ibid., p. 254.
Ibid., pp. xiii-xiv and 252-59.
Ibid., p. xiii.
Grimes, op cit., p. 369.
Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward: 2000-1887 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1887).
Grimes, op. cit., p. 343.
The Co-operative Commonwealth (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1890), p. viii. Gronlund's claim of influencing Bellamy is supported by Howard H. Quint, op. cit., pp. 30 and 78, and by Frederick R. White in an introduction to Bellamy's Looking Backward (Chicago: Packard, 1946), p. xvii. All references are to this edition.
On the contrary, Arthur E. Morgan is opposed to this viewpoint. Not only does he deny that Gronlund inspired Bellamy, but he reverses the contention, maintaining that it was Bellamy who influenced Gronlund. Cf. Arthur E. Morgan, Edward Bellamy (New York: Columbia University Press, 1944), pp. 242, 372, 388-89.
Gronlund's amicable relations with Bellamy are evidenced in his attempt to promote the sale of Bellamy's Looking Backward by ordering the sale of his own book temporarily halted and by his literary contributions to Bellamy's magazine, The Nationalist. Morgan, op. cit., p. 389.
The Co-operative Commonwealth, pp. 38 and 72; Looking Backward, p. 28.
The Co-operative Commonwealth, p. 54; Looking Backward, pp. 34-38, 40.
The Co-operative Commonwealth, p. 75; Looking Backward, pp. 39 and 82.
The Co-operative Commonwealth, pp. 226-47; Looking Backward, pp. 41 and 91.
The Co-operative Commonwealth, pp. 55-57, 60; Looking Backward, p. 33.
The Co-operative Commonwealth, pp. 106-11; Looking Backward, pp. 38-39.
The Co-operative Commonwealth, pp. 158, 165, 187, 181, 211, 113, 194, and 168; Looking Backward, pp. 143-44, 41, 140, 142, 150-55, 44, 177-84, and 88.
The Co-operative Commonwealth (Boston, 1890), p. viii.
Henry George, Progress and Poverty (San Francisco: W. M. Hinton & Co., 1879).
The Co-operative Commonwealth, p. 103.
Ibid., pp. 86 and 128.
Ibid., p. 120.
Ibid., pp. 86-87.
Quint, op. cit., pp. 37-43.
Laurence Gronlund, The Insufficiency of Henry George's Theory (New York: New York Labor News Company, 1887); and Socialism vs. Tax-Reform: An Answer to Henry George (New York: New York Labor News Company, 1887). The tenor of Gronlund's personal relations with George is obscure, but the nature and circumstances of their controversy suggest that it was less than friendly.
The Insufficiency of Henry George's Theory, p. 1.
Ibid., p. 3.
Ibid., pp. 2-7.
Ibid., p. 8.
Ibid., pp. 8-10.
Ibid., p. 12.
Ibid., pp. 10-12.
Henry George was founder as well as editor-in-chief of The Standard. Quint, op. cit., p. 44.
Socialism vs. Tax-Reform, p. 1.
Ibid., p. 19.
Ibid., pp. 19-20.
Ibid., pp. 20-35.
Richard Hofstadter, Social Darwinism in American Thought (Boston: Beacon Press, 1959), pp. 114-15.
Last Updated on February 6, 2016, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 6267
SOURCE: “The Backward Look of Bellamy's Socialism,” in Looking Backward, 1988-1888: Essays on Edward Bellamy, edited by Daphne Patai, The University of Massachusetts Press, 1988, pp. 21-36.
[In the following essay, Cantor observes Edward Bellamy's “insular, parochial, Christian, uniquely nineteenth-century American” socialism.]
Edward Bellamy, born in 1850 of a long line of Connecticut and Vermont ancestors, was the frail and precocious son of a New England country parson in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts. The father, a Baptist minister, was amiable, indolent, good-natured, of a more liberal religious bent than his strong-willed wife. Maria Bellamy was a religious zealot whose spirit burned with the fires of an uncompromising Calvinism. Possessed of the unbending qualities of seventeenth-century Puritan New England, she dominated the Bellamy household, pressed books—but never useless fiction!—upon her son, and made sure that the daily family prayers, twice-a-day Sabbath devotions, and Sunday school educational requirements were observed. In a sense Bellamy personified the clash between a rigid Calvinism and a Puritanism gone secular and tolerant. This is not to suggest parental conflict. The Bellamy household remained deeply religious. It offered a sense of comfort and security, a warm, affective, nurturing family life. Small wonder Bellamy later observed that love of home “is one of the strongest, the purest, the most unselfish passions that human nature knows”; and he understandably confessed to a “deep-seated aversion to change” (Bellamy 1873, “Home”). Having a deep-rooted sense of place, Bellamy, notwithstanding sojourns in New York City and abroad, was a man who never left home. Nor did he possess a divided religious vision. Calvinism largely won out. He enjoyed “an indescribably close and tender communion with what seemed to him a very real and sublime being … [and] took a deep and awful pleasure” in prayer (Bellamy Folder 19).1
And yet Bellamy lived in an age of watered-down religion, one increasingly resorting to moralistic strictures and bromides, and his was, as John Thomas aptly termed it, “a profoundly dislocated sensibility” (Thomas 1983, 28). But this dislocation owed much to the age itself. A child of post-Jacksonian America, Bellamy came to maturity not only in an era of religious declension, but also in a region and a nation that remained overwhelmingly rural, a land dominated by farm-sized plots and farm family households. His home was not far from the Connecticut River, surely similar to the Charles that Julian West, the fictional hero of Looking Backward, described as a “blue ribbon winding away to the sunset.” A half-day's ride from Chicopee Falls, Bellamy writes in another account, “the Housatonic crept with many a loving curve … and many a lake and pond gemmed the landscape” (Bellamy 1962 , 3). He described “a smiling, peaceful landscape,” where men wisely left “everything as Nature left it” and where the White Mountains or the Berkshires had shaggier slopes, wilder torrents, loftier forests than in Julian West's own age a hundred years earlier, for the ravages of the late nineteenth century had been corrected (Bellamy 1970 , 296, 297). Idealizing the “changeless frame of nature,” Bellamy's prefactory rural society provided the ecological model for the utopian world of the year 2000.
But in contrast to Julian West's utopia of Looking Backward, and Bellamy's pastoral ideal, there was Chicopee Falls, the first section of his hometown to become industrialized (Shlakman 1935, 48). Here the Belcher factory turned out iron castings, and a paper and cotton mill was built, and the Irishmen who built them and dug the canal moved into the rows of tenements that arose alongside the mills. These were not ordinary homes inhabited by proper Protestant citizens and surrounded by respectable-sized green plots, but stark, yardless block-long buildings pressed closely together into which Irish families were crowded. The first mill operatives were women, some coming out of Springfield, where their fathers worked as skilled mechanics in the Armory, and some arriving in wagons from farms and rural hamlets north and west of Chicopee (Shlakman 1935, 49). This new industrial army entered a rural community in the 1820s and 1830s and transformed it, with the cotton mills becoming the town's economic heart and with many small manufacturers dependent on continuous mill operations. By the late 1840s, Irish women began to replace the Yankee operatives, and in the 1850s, a time of economic slump, complaints of rowdyism in the streets began to be heard.
For farmers, merchants, and professionals, those long familiar with Chicopee's landscape, a marked transformation was underway and usually the Irish were blamed for civic tumult, cholera outbreaks, intemperance—the “rum shop in every fourth house” was noted—and Sabbath desecration, the last further offending Yankee sensibilities (Shlakman 1935, 96). Additional charges occurred when French Canadians began to replace the Irish mill operatives in the late 1850s. By now a permanent factory labor force had been established. Intermittent depression characterized the decade, which produced severe work conditions and, after 1860, very considerable ferment in the ranks of labor. By then the old order had completely changed. Polish Catholics were coming into Chicopee. No longer were there only Yankee workers, speaking the same language, sharing the same cultural traditions as merchant and craftsman, worshipping in the same churches, and holding to a common lingua franca—all of which had lent solidarity and homogeneity to the community. Now the ranks of labor were divided, Catholic churches had been erected, and rising living costs led to strikes and resentment.
Bellamy grew to maturity in the midst of this mounting social and economic crisis. He watched Chicopee Falls shift, as he recalled, from a “thriving village” to an ugly factory city crowded with industry, tenements, and Catholic millhands struggling to survive (Bellamy 1968 ). The Bellamys' unpretentious frame house with its picket fence—a symbol of the besieged old Yankee—was located near the grimy mills, rows of brick tenements, and mansions of factory owners and agents who, Bellamy later observed, shaped the destiny of Chicopee's work force, controlled the churches, and determined the shape of every social and public development in the city. In one direction he could see the smokestacks and hard-scrabble life of factory workers and, closing in upon him, industrial ugliness, labor strife, and social disorder; in the other, an older America that was disappearing under the machine and that he increasingly longed for and idealized. He became aware of “half-clad brutalized children” who “filled the air with shrieks and curses as they fought and tumbled among the garbage that littered the courtyards” (Bellamy 1926 , 323). And understandably, and much like the Unitarians and transcendentalists of a generation earlier, he was repelled by the developments transforming America—this urban disorder, the new materialistic ethos, and the greed of the commercial classes. In contrast to it all, he advised readers to “make the most of these few perfect spring days” or to “go afishing” (Bellamy 1874, “Spring Days”; 1873, “Go Afishing”). Also like the transcendentalists, Bellamy found “in observation of nature play alike for the intellect and the heart of a God” (Bellamy, “Unpublished”). Or, in another instance, he conveys the wonder of climbing “these mighty hills,” sleeping “at noon on a sunny sward,” lying “beneath the pines and listen[ing] to the song of eternity in their branches” (Bellamy, “Eliot Carson”). It follows that Bellamy grew nostalgic for the old ways of the New England gentry and the preindustrial small town, wishing to retain the latter's leisurely pace, to be reassured by its quiet routines and order, and to be sustained by its proximity to the world of nature.
As he later recalled, Bellamy grew up in a simple mill village “where there were no rich and very few poor, and everybody who was willing to work was sure of a fair living” (Bellamy 1968 , I). This idealized memoir, similar to many descriptions of small-town rural America, was not greatly overdrawn. Class lines of course existed in such communities but, except perhaps in the South, they were never rigidly fixed and were of necessity often ignored. So, too, was special privilege, which, for those living in the nineteenth-century rural community, was invariably considered a European phenomenon. Composed largely of Protestant, reasonably well-educated, English-speaking, churchgoing families with impeccable Anglo-Saxon credentials, such a town was an organic community, a moral island in a rising sea of strange faces, changing values, and peculiar cultural mannerisms.
For the moment, in Bellamy's youth, this community still stood on the edge of America's industrial revolution. Though social and religious complexity had begun to overtake Chicopee, the town's traditional culture continued to exert great influence and power. For its high-minded and professional citizens, a genuine sense of community remained. The growing city still suggested the small town of a half-century earlier rather than the bustling industrial center to come. Contrasting the old and the emergent, Bellamy continually reaffirmed small-town virtues in an urban society that seemed to threaten values he held dear. He yearned for a time when a feeling for a community prevailed, the spirit of cooperation, not competition, existed, the pandemonium of commerce was remote, class lines were less rigid, moral values were unquestioned, and the beneficent effects of nature were close by. That was the traditionally homogenous society he knew as a child and young adult. His editorials in the Springfield Union understandably deplored the crime and moral corruption of his age, the commercialism that worshipped primitive accumulation and predatory acquisition. “Snobbery and shoddy toadyism and venality, have made such public characters as Franklin and Washington and Lincoln almost an impossible conception, so far,” he wrote, have Americans “drifted from their fast anchorage in unimpeachable integrity” (Bellamy 1877, “Burning”). Although the American yeoman was incorruptible, he could never successfully contend against the forces of degeneracy. Thus Bellamy shared the apprehensions of the respectable elements who were most familiar to him. Like him, they watched the changing world fearfully, the modern industrial city materializing in the mill towns springing up around them. They sympathized with his “feelings of disgust” at urban sights and sounds, the factory “stenches and filth,” “the perpetual clang and clash of machinery,” “the interminable rows of women, pallid, hollow-cheeked, with faces vacant and stolid,” the “festering mass of human wretchedness” (Bellamy 1926 , 323, 324; 1970 , 54-55). And while their reactions were not unmixed, they showed greater concern than compassion toward those around them.
In Bellamy's late adolescence, then, the factory system, its technology and work force, became realities. The future of Chicopee Falls was now ordained. So was his own scenario. Hostility to private capitalism and the competitive system, to the “imbecility of private enterprise,” which—at least on a large scale—had produced an “inferno of poverty beneath civilization,” would have centrality to his two published utopian novels, Looking Backward and Equality (Thomas 1983, 169).2 But the anxieties catalyzed by the new industrial system and its emergent proletariat prompted him to avert his eyes when imagining the future society. Hence Boston in the year 2000 was much like pre-1840 Chicopee. Nothing could be seen of 1888 mill towns, the sweatshops, substandard wages, child labor, dreadful home and work environments, or even the “aggressive” and “ubiquitous” drummers. Indeed Boston was much like the Chicopee of his youth—before the mills, before it became a grimy, sprawling city invaded in turn by Irish, French Canadian, and Polish workers, and before the rows of grim tenements in which they lived. It had “miles of broad streets, shaded by trees,” landscaped parks and squares on which fronted homes and cottages with little footpaths and gardens with rustic bowers.
Looking Backward, it comes as no surprise, lacks any description of a factory or workbench. Julian West, Bellamy's autobiographical invention, visits a restaurant, a retail store, and a warehouse, but spare and antiseptic comments about the work force are all that one finds (Bellamy 1926 , 153-57). Utopia's workers in Looking Backward are faceless, having the depersonalized and automatic qualities of soldiers on duty and, whether waiter or clerk, not interacting with those they serve. Those described in Equality are similarly drawn. They may work in “palaces of industry” and have “strong, cultured faces, prosecuting with the enthusiasm of artists their self-chosen tasks of use and beauty,” but they otherwise lack personality or specific characteristics. When Julian West visits one such “palace,” a textile factory, no workers are even present or described. He talks to the factory manager and later in the novel to a woman at a plow rather than to a man at a lathe. In neither book did he meet a male industrial worker (Bellamy 1970 , 155-61). His encounters, instead, are almost always with professionals of one kind or another: doctors, ministers, teachers, or managers.
Bellamy's imaginative projections—people, buildings, and society itself—are unsurprising. After nearly a year in New York City, within the “four walls of his Brooklyn apartment,” where he engaged in a “profound” spiritual meditation, he had withdrawn to Chicopee in 1872, thereby tacitly admitting defeat in the big league world of Manhattan journalism. Recoiling from the failed adventure, he would never again confront the new urban order for any length of time. In 1894, over twenty years later, he did visit New York, where, witnessing a strike, he reacted with considerable repugnance—hardly the response of a loyal soldier in the cause of socialism (Wilson 1977, 53). Bellamy, in effect, returned to his home town, married the girl next door (or, more accurately, in the next room, for she had been raised in his parents' home), and softened and glossed over his recent urban failure, transforming it into something of a success. For in lieu of defeat he substituted loyalty to a calling higher than mere self-serving careerism. “Let others count gold,” he rationalized, “Let others number the tongues that echo their name. For me, I prize more the vague and wavering images that visit my soul in hours of revery than any other excitations of the mind. Every one to his taste. Mine runs rather to dreaming than dollars, rather to fancy than fame” (Wilson 1977, 52).
Back in Chicopee, Bellamy also took on the pose of young Werther. Convinced of the insufficiency of the ideals in which he was raised,
the young man … casts them aside and with soul wide open goes through dry places seeking everywhere to find God. He carries his loyalty in his hand anxious only to find some fitting shrine where he may lay it down and be at rest. Then, indeed, as the hopelessness of his search is borne in upon him come days and nights full of bitterness and blasphemy, of recklessness and at last of profound life weariness. (Bellamy Notebook I, 38-39)
But world weariness and spiritual malaise were merely the ephemeral posturings of a young man. Bellamy would soon replace them with a “religion of solidarity.” It was, in effect, a self-denying ethic that sought, in the Emersonian sense, to recover a communion with “eternity,” that fashionable romantic conceit that ran riot in New England from the days of Jonathan Edwards and that was not far removed from the oversoul, the Wordsworthian landscape of Tintern Abbey, or Thoreau's experiences at Walden Pond. Emphasis on the individual, which he brooded upon in New York, had, like Minerva's owl, taken flight at the dusk of his urban days, being replaced by an escape from the “prison” of self into the transcendence of personality.
These transcendental resonances have saliency to Bellamy's responses to nature. “The Religion of Solidarity,” for example, at times reads like a transcendental tract: the “desire after a more perfect communion” with the landscape, the “lust after natural beauty amounts to a veritable orgasm,” “under its [nature's] influences that senses are sublimed to an ecstasy” (Schiffman 1955, 3). Bellamy's references to the “All-Soul” and the “universal,” his feeling “‘most intimately, tenderly’ the presence of the universal spirit in all things in the Spring” inevitably call up the oversoul and that saturnalia of feeling that the Concord group had aspired to (Bowman 1958, 28-30).3
Out of the New York year came the “Eliot Carson Notebook,” a rough draft that, internal evidence suggests, was written shortly before Looking Backward (Bellamy Notebook 3, 4; “Eliot Carson”). A fictional vehicle for the religion of solidarity, this unfinished autobiographical novel suggests that Bellamy himself considered living the solitary life in the manner of Thoreau, whom he much admired. This novel also depicted the pastoral landscape as the beneficent foil for the evil city. But it was more. Nature was also the agency that awakened “the desire for a more perfect communion” and prompted man to identify with the oversoul, the cosmos, infinity, that is, those vague spiritual forces that, in the lexicon of the pantheists and transcendentalists, underlay the universe. In effect, nature—with or without reference to the growing industrialization—had centrality in Bellamy's thought. His fictional hero, Eliot Carson, it is also instructive to note, had been a disillusioned lawyer and journalist who abandoned his position as mill superintendent in Hilton, a factory town, and chose a Thoreau-like withdrawal into nature. Thus Bellamy's reclusive hero reflected his creator's vocational crisis, equally intent upon a life of reading, philosophizing, walking in the woods, and seeking, like Thoreau, the rock-bottom essentials of existence. In successive drafts, Bellamy first placed Eliot Carson in the family home on the town's outskirts, then at a “farmhouse” outside of Hilton, later in a forest “cabin,” and finally in the forest, “with the free swing of a hunter, carrying a rifle” (Bellamy, “Eliot Carson”).
Carson's escape into nature as relief from urban society differed from the romantics' search for paradisiac fulfillment, from seeking submission in nature, from Thoreau's theme of renewal and Edenic return, and from Emerson's pantheism, which offered an escape from the gloomy framework of history or of contemporary life. Bellamy, after all, did project a highly developed social and economic order, a golden age of industrial technology and future social harmony that the Emersonian man never contemplated. Yet for them all there was a reach after the infinite, and Bellamy had something of the transcendentalist yearning for a monism of soul and nature in the dream of his “spirit as something interfused in the light of the setting suns, broad oceans, and the winds” (Bellamy, “Eliot Carson”). For them all, the untrammeled beauty of the landscape served, at a minimum, as counterpoint to the marked factory and urban growth, and to the corruption and materialism that came in the wake of such grim developments. Nature offered relief to those apprehensive about the social dislocations produced by these changes and longing for the freshness of an earlier and greener world. Such a world was predictably one in which there were no banks and the farmers had abundance.
For Bellamy, the yeoman, living close to the soil, was the last defense against the materialism and selfish individualism then overtaking the republic. To be sure, the yeomen of The Duke of Stockbridge were “uneducated, … wholly lacking in social vision, and capable of being mean spirited and surly,” as well as possessed of “inherited instincts of servility.” But “they had felt much and keenly,” were a “simple, true-hearted people,” and existed in an age when men were their own masters and the better for it (Bellamy, “Eliot Carson”; 1962 , 63). Identifying with the yeomen, though in guarded fashion, Bellamy urged—in one Springfield Union editorial—that young men remain at their rural firesides where they might yet attain a true independence. He also endorsed their causes, those of an older agrarian America and of the Populism to come: opposition to monopolies and the “great wastes” of competition, suspicion of trade and banking, faith in the work ethic, and the producerist ideology (Bellamy 1926 , 230).4
Similar sentiments were attributed to craftsmen, whether in towns or rural communities, and they received a like-minded sympathy and idealization. Recalling the pre-factory era when artisans dominated, Dr. Leete, in conversation with Julian West, provides an appealing reminder of a past simplicity, when “commerce and industry were conducted by innumerable petty concerns with small capital,” when “the individual workman was relatively important and independent in his relations to the employer, … when a little capital or a new idea was enough to start a man in business for himself, … and there was no hard and fast line between the two classes” (Bellamy 1926 , 52). Bellamy here echoed the Mugwump line, the elite nostalgia for an older America and for the small manufacturer and businessman, the groups “suffering quite as much and [having] quite as much to dread from monopoly as has the poorest class of laborers” (Bellamy 1937, 56). He lamented the obvious decline of the “businessmen with moderate capital” who had conducted the nation's trade before the emergence of the corporation and the trust. “There is now almost no opportunity left for starting in business in a moderate way; none, indeed,” he deplored, “unless backed by large capital” (p. 57).
Dr. Leete, continuing, fondly reminisces about the good old days: “labor unions were needless then, and general strikes were out of the question.” Regarding the latter, Bellamy's views were known long before his alter ego rejected working-class militance. Strikes were another instance of social disorder. Bellamy, to be sure, had supported the 1892 strikers at Homestead, Pennsylvania, and two decades earlier acknowledged the right to strike when it was the only way to “redress … [a] crying injustice.” But it always produced a growing unease: it was a “blundering instrument” and it “injures society for the sake of individuals.” Advising “strikers to act with much circumspection,” Bellamy admitted that “strikes may be justifiable, but the presumption is against them” (Bellamy 1875). And unlike his response to 1892, he had condemned the bloody violence of 1877, called for its “crushing” and assailed the destruction of railroad property (Bellamy, 1877, “Who Has”). And in an attendant observation, he generally found that unions were of little use (Bellamy 1892, “Homestead Tragedy”).5 He had always maintained that “no mere organization of labor … will alone solve the problem of securing permanent employment on favorable terms” (Bellamy 1892, “Trade Unionism”).
In contrast to the sturdy yeoman and proud artisan, there were Chicopee's textile operatives. Eliot Carson's escape into nature was also an escape from those who worked in the mills. Returning from one of his many forest strolls at the end of the day, he watched Hilton's mill hands pass by: “Some with stolid, godless, patient faces, mere human oxen, others flippant, exchanging coarse jests, voluble with vulgarity. ‘To think,’ said Carson, ‘… each of those narrow foreheads is a prison to the dark soul within it, and what a prison, what a dungeon dark’” (Bellamy, “Eliot Carson”). The snobbishness and elitism of Julian West, limned as a wealthy Brahman, is obvious. At the outset of Looking Backward, he exhibits the conventional attitudes of his type: holding a loathing for workers, perturbed that the nation is drawing into the vortex of class war and chaos, and fearful that society trembles at the abyss. Likewise, Dr. Leete later affirms as much. Julian West, he recounts, had once lived in an era troubled by strikes, lockouts, slums, and starvation. Both men share Carson's mix of pity, contempt, and fear of the Hilton mill hands. Julian West scornfully dismisses both workers who would “follow anyone who seemed likely to give them any light on the subject” of how to obtain better wages, hours, and working and living conditions and their “many would-be leaders” (Bellamy 1926 , 16). Discussing “The Strikers,” a sculptured group of bareheaded laborers of “heroic size” on a pedestal in the Boston Common, he tells Dr. Leete that the strikers of his era, the 1880s,
had not the slightest idea of revolting against private capitalism as a system. They were very ignorant and quite incapable of grasping so large a conception. They had no notion of getting along without capitalists. All they imagined or desired was a little better treatment by their employers, a few cents more an hour, a few minutes less working time a day, or maybe the discharge of an unpopular foreman. The most they aimed at was some petty improvement in their condition, to attain which they did not hesitate to throw the whole industrial machine into disorder. (Bellamy 1970 , 208)
And the latter occurrence, almost needless to add, would produce that social turbulence which left the upper class disquieted and distraught. Dr. Leete confirms his observations: “Look at those faces. Has the sculptor idealized them? Are they the faces of philosophers? Do they not bear out your statement that the strikers, like the workingmen generally, were, as a rule, ignorant, narrow-minded men, with no grasp of large questions?” (p. 208).
Bellamy leaned toward environmentalism as explanation of human behavior. He believed the unspeakable conditions of workshop and tenement shaped the brutalized workers who walked the city streets. Human nature was inherently good, he was convinced, or, as Dr. Barton sermonized, “men in their natural intention and structure are generous, not selfish, … godlike in aspirations, instinct with divinist impulses of tenderness and self-sacrifice …” (Bellamy 1926 , 287-88). Nonetheless, as Julian West notes with distaste in Looking Backward, workers' aspirations were “chimerical,” their “bodies were so many living sepulchres,” and “on each brutal brow was plainly written the hic jacet of a soul dead within” (p. 324). As Dr. Leete laments in Equality, “the masses of mankind” in the late nineteenth century “accepted servitude to the possessing class and became their serfs on condition of receiving the means of subsistence” (Bellamy 1970 , 80). Circumstances, then, made workers what they were, but such recognition hardly mitigates the responses of these upper middle-class observers.
Mingled disdain and pity, hostility and sympathy find voice in Bellamy's writings. Edith Leete, who is invariably depicted in affectionate terms, asserts, “Those who tamely endure wrongs which they have the power to end deserve not compassion but contempt” (Bellamy 1970 , 15). Her creator understandably expressed an antidemocratic bias, one common to a raft of genteel Christian reformers across the nineteenth century. Like such Mugwumps, reformers, and contemporaries as George Ticknor Curtis, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, Charles Eliot Norton, Richard Watson Gilder, and Henry Demarest Lloyd, Bellamy also worried over the entry of new immigrants into the political culture and held serious reservations about the efficacy of labor parties. About the latter, and speaking through Dr. Leete, he asserted that they “never could have accomplished anything on a large or permanent scale” (Bellamy 1926 , 253).
Bellamy also looked at reformers with a critical eye. The “self-styled ‘reformer’ of this day,” he charged, “is everywhere recognized as a politician who relies upon slander and hypocrisy as his sole weapon” (Bellamy 1970 , 80). The nation had sunk into a morass of “low principles,” he grieved, much as had such Mugwump reformers as Norton, Curtis, Gilder, Aldrich, and, belatedly, Henry Adams, with bribery, deceit, and “traditions of dissimulation worthy of a Metternich” (p. 15). Typical of this circle of genteel reformers, Bellamy felt personally violated by the innumerable strikes, mass organizations of labor, and class conflict. Workers, he concluded, were not fit to govern, themselves or society, and would make “a sad mess of society” were they in a position to do so (Bellamy 1926 , 170).6 Bellamy thus shared Mugwump elitism, its paternalistic view of the workingman, its antidemocratic cast of mind and doubts about representative government. Even the Duke of Stockbridge, which also sympathized with the downtrodden yeomanry, was hedged in by a cautionary lesson designed to avoid the emergence of a rural organization of protest. Looking Backward makes it indisputably clear that “the fittest may lead and rule” and that a new elite of skill and talent would administer society (Lipow 1982, 77).7 Elsewhere Bellamy noted that the “men of education and position” would run things (Schiffman 1955, 139). “We shall take this subject,” he wrote, “out of the hands of the blatant blasphemous demagogues and get it before the sober morally minded masses of the American people”—code words for the respectable middle class rather than the “population of ignorant, boorish, coarse, wholly uncultivated men and women” whom Dr. Leete derided (p. 138).
Bellamy thus echoed the genteel reformers' disconsolate criticism of political corruption and unscrupulous competition in the Gilded Age. Typical of them, he attacked the “monstrous grab game … the clutching fist … thrust into the spoils,” with “the worst feature of this whole matter,” referring to the Grant era scandals, being “that a class of men has come to the front with whom office holding is a profession—a means of support and enrichment” (Bellamy 1874, “Serbonian Bogs”).8 Condemnation of their artifice and amoral moneymaking was inextricably enmeshed with antagonism toward their political loyalties, which flowed into reservations about politics, even about labor parties, and which sought a substitute for them, as Looking Backward implicitly discloses (Bellamy 1926 , 253).
Though ideologically related to these civil service and political reformers, Bellamy usually dismissed them, because they were limited to monotonously voiced jeremiads about “these dreadful days,” the current civilization and its discontents. Indeed he confessed that before publication of Looking Backward he had no affiliations with or “any particular sympathy” toward industrial or social reformers (Bellamy 1968 , 1). Naysayers and one-idea men, they were roughly equivalent to millennialists and Marxists in their inconsequential effect upon American life. Bellamy wanted meaningful reform, finding its possibility limited, given the terms of contemporary debate. Such reform was understood only by a saving remnant of the reform movement that recognized that a benevolent solidarity, or nationalism—“the express doctrine of Jesus Christ”—offered the only effective and long-term solution.
Bellamy had even less ambivalent feelings about radicals and revolutionaries than about reformers; he recoiled from the disorderly and destructive possibilities that they offered. “There is a vague discontent with the present state of affairs,” he observed worriedly, “a chafing under the restraints of society and a disposition to disregard the rights of others that is neither American nor manly and that too often finds expression in indiscriminate acts of violence and crime” (Bellamy 1874, “Crime and Its Causes”). The timing and inclusiveness of these sentiments warrant mention. Written in 1874, in the midst of a protracted depression, they appeared three years before the bloodiest strikes in our history and fourteen years before publication of Looking Backward, and they attacked meliorists as well as revolutionaries. For the “discontent,” Bellamy observes, “is largely the outcome of pernicious communistic teachings” of demagogues and so-called social reformers, whose chief object is to tear down the present fabric of society (Thomas 1983, 93).9 In a letter to William Dean Howells, his literary mentor, he also dismissed socialists. Admitting to an inability to “stomach” the word “socialist,” he asserted: “It smells to the average American of petroleum, suggests the red flag, with all manner of sexual novelties, and an abusive tone about God and religion” (Bellamy to Howells, July 17, 1888). In notes written after Looking Backward, he reaffirmed the conservative provenance of his collectivism and anticapitalist bias: “When I came to consider what could be radically done for social reorganization, I was helped by every former disgust with the various socialist schemes” (Bellamy, “Notebooks”). Believing revolution to be invariably unsuccessful—witness the Shaysites!—he argued that its followers had no moral foundation on which to build a better world (Thomas 1983, 100).10 The new society would, for him, unfold in an epiphany of moral revelation that made drastic social upheaval unnecessary. Revolutionary change, moreover, was inevitably accompanied by violence and hence would be un-Christian. Rejecting such means, Bellamy considered socialism an ideal of eternal peace. It could only be achieved by nonviolent means, since means devolved into and were inseparable from ends (Bellamy 1891).11 In sum, public ownership and control of industry was attainable by nonviolent change. The new social order, he affirmed, would evolve out of that “most bloodless of revolutions” (Bellamy 1926 , 57, 285).
Likewise, as observed, Bellamy feared the “yawning” chasm between labor and capital, rejected class appeals as futile, abhorred the idea of class war, and obliquely attacked German socialists, who “lay undue stress on Socialism being a class movement” (Thomas 1983, 93).12 He editorialized:
The cure-all for our labor and capital frictions and smash-ups seems, then, to be this, to put into the hands of government all the carrying, transfer, exchange, productive industry of the country, its manufactures, agricultures, trade and its entire use of capital; permitting no private employment of this for personal profit. … Now go to, ye dreamers. … For a man to neglect his business and his family to study up such a scheme as this, is lunacy or worse. (Bellamy 1877, “Communism Boiled Down”)
Equally suggestive of Bellamy's antipathy to socialists, as his contemporaries understood them, Dr. Leete also alludes to the “followers of the red flag,” the revolutionists, and claims they had no role in “the new order of things”: all they did was “hinder it” and “their talk so disgusted people as to deprive the best considered projects for social reform of a hearing.” Bellamy even asserted, again speaking through Dr. Leete, that “the great monopolies” subsidized radicals “to wave the red flag and talk about burning, sacking, and blowing people up, in order, by alarming the timid, to head off any real reform” (Bellamy 1926 , 252). So much for Bellamy as a revolutionary socialist.
Finally, Bellamy's nationalism, like his utopian state, depended upon a central unitary government, which was yet another deviation from the orthodox Marxist view of the state as withering away. Yet this government, as projected, was founded on traditional agrarian values consistent with the small-town heritage in which he had been raised. On virtually every count, therefore, Bellamy's socialism, insular, parochial, Christian, uniquely nineteenth-century American, was far removed from the conventional definition and the great theoretical graybeards of European revolution.
All Bellamy's original writings, notebooks, manuscripts noted below are deposited in the Bellamy collection of the Houghton Library, Harvard University. Cited as Notebook, “Unpublished,” “Eliot Carson,” “Memorandum,” “to Howells,” Folder.
For differences and similarities between Looking Backward and Equality, see Arthur Lipow (1982, 279-82 and passim). Equality, Lipow believes, reflected marked changes in Bellamy's views, especially the departure from the authoritarian and antidemocratic perspective of Looking Backward.
Bellamy, however, rejected any appeal to individualism—whether transcendental or entrepreneurial. Rather he sought to eliminate personality, to subordinate selfish individualism to some all-inclusive social order (see Lipow 1982, 43, 161). Further rejecting emphasis on the worth of the individual, he would join personality to “impersonal consciousness”: “Spread your wings … the higher universal life is at once realizable” (Bellamy, “Religion of Solidarity,” in Schiffman 1955, 11).
On the “imbecility of private enterprise,” see Bellamy 1926 , 240.
On labor and labor unions, see Bellamy 1892, “Trade Unionism”; “The Homestead Tragedy”; “Labor, Politics and Nationalism”; “A Nationalist View of the Homestead Situation”; and “The Trials of the Homestead Men.” By 1891 Bellamy urged readers to “forget … what class you belong to,” and spoke of the “common ancestry and inheritance” that emphasize each individual's status as “co-heir and brother of all other men” and sees “true patriotism” as “an enthusiasm for humanity” (Bellamy 1891).
Although admittedly sympathetic to the struggle of labor, Bellamy nonetheless asserted that workers “knew nothing of how to accomplish” the changes needed by society: “The result of their efforts would be a descent into chaos.” Bellamy denied that he advocated socialism (Quint 1953), and his cautious anti-capitalism and his nonviolent collectivist solution were the primary reasons for his appeal to a traditional middle-class readership. Here was an alternative to the violence of the 1871 Paris Commune, the bloody railroad strikes of 1877, the violent class conflict inherent in the doctrines of the First International, and the anarchist values of the Haymarket defendants of 1886.
See also Bellamy 1899.
See also Bellamy 1874, “The Head and the Tail Changing.”
See also Bellamy 1892, “Some Questions Answered,” 499, and “The Progress of Nationalism,” 743; “Memorandum on Nationalism” (1889), manuscript, Bellamy Papers; and Morgan (1944, 87).
John Thomas's wise observations on Bellamy in Alternative America (1983) are reflected here and elsewhere in this essay and have influenced me.
See also Bellamy 1938, 190; and 1889, “Looking Forward,” 4.
See also Bellamy 1892, “Some Questions Answered” and “The Progress of Nationalism,” 743; “Memorandum on Nationalism” (1889), manuscript, Bellamy Papers; and Morgan (1944).
Bellamy, Edward. 1873. “Go Afishing.” Springfield Union, May 20.
———. 1873. “Home Sweet Home.” Springfield Union, September 27.
———. 1874. “Crime and Its Causes.” Springfield Union, February 19.
———. 1874. “The Head and the Tail Changing.” Springfield Union, April 3.
———. 1874. “Serbonian Bogs.” Springfield Union, April 7.
———. 1874. “The Spring Days.” Springfield Union, May 28.
———. 1875. “The Ethics of the Strike.” Springfield Union, April 15.
———. 1876. Untitled Editorial. Springfield Union, November 17.
———. 1877. “Burning the Candle at Both Ends.” Springfield Union, April 8.
———. 1877. “Communism Boiled Down.” Springfield Union, August 3.
———. 1877. “Who Has Got to Pay.” Springfield Union, July 25.
———. 1889. “Looking Forward.” The Nationalist 2 (December).
———. 1889. “Memorandum on Nationalism.” Manuscript, Bellamy Papers, Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
———. 1891. “Several Questions Answered.” The New Nation 1 (July 11): 374.
———. 1892. “The Homestead Tragedy.” The New Nation 2 (July 16).
———. 1892. “Interview with Edward Bellamy.” The New Nation 2 (July 16).
———. 1892. “Labor, Politics and Nationalism.” New York Herald, August 28; reprint, The New Nation 2 (September 10): 568.
———. 1892. “A Nationalist View of the Homestead Situation.” The New Nation 2 (July 16).
———. 1892. “The Progress of Nationalism in the United States.” North American Review 154 (June): 742-52.
———. 1892. “Some Questions Answered.” The New Nation 2 (August 6): 499.
———. 1892. “Trade Unionism: A Bird with One Wing.” The New Nation 2 (October 1).
———. 1892. “The Trials of the Homestead Men.” The New Nation 2 (October 8).
———. 1899. “Brief Summary of the Industrial Plan of Nationalism Set Forth in Looking Backward for Class Study.” The Dawn (September 15).
———. 1926 . Looking Backward. Reprint. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
———. 1937. “Nationalism—Principles, Purposes.” In Edward Bellamy Speaks Again! Kansas City: Peerage Press.
———. 1938. Talks on Nationalism. Chicago: Peerage Press.
———. 1962 . Duke of Stockbridge: A Romance of Shays' Rebellion. Reprint. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
———. 1968 . “How I Came to Write ‘Looking Backward.’” The Nationalist: A Monthly Magazine 1. Reprint. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood.
———. 1970 . Equality. Reprint. New York: AMS Press, Inc.
Bowman, Sylvia E. 1958. The Year 2000: A Critical Biography of Edward Bellamy. New York: Bookman.
Lipow, Arthur. 1982. Authoritarian Socialism in America. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Morgan, Arthur. 1944. Edward Bellamy. New York: Columbia University Press.
Quint, Howard H. 1953. The Forging of American Socialism. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press.
Schiffman, Joseph, ed. 1955. Edward Bellamy: Selected Writings on Religion and Society. New York: Liberal Arts Press.
Shlakman, Vera. 1935. Economic History of a Factory Town: A Study of Chicopee, Massachusetts. Northampton, Mass: Smith College Studies in History, vol. 20, nos. 1-4.
Thomas, John L. 1983. Alternative America. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Wilson, R. Jackson. 1977. “Experience and Utopia: The Making of Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward.” Journal of American Studies 11 (April): 45-60.