Home  »  Volume XVIII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART III  »  § 11. Communistic Arguments

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVIII. Later National Literature, Part III.

XXIV. Economists

§ 11. Communistic Arguments

Side by side with this development of the general theory of economics, there proceeded, as mentioned above, a heated discussion on practical economic problems. Most of this pamphlet literature, interesting as showing the current of popular thought, was of only temporary interest and must be passed over in this brief sketch. A few books are deserving of mention. In the workingman’s movement which developed in the third decade in New York, three authors exerted more than a passing influence. L. Byllesby’s Observations on the Source and Effects of Unequal Wealth (1826) and Thomas Skidmore’s The Rights of Man to Property (1829) furnished the basis for the new and short-lived socialist movement. Frances Wright, the eloquent and attractive apostle of freedom for women and negroes, exerted a great influence by her Course of Popular Lectures (1829) and by The New Harmony Gazette (1825–35) which she edited in co-operation with Robert Dale Owen, a son of Robert Owen. Interesting discussions of the principles of the labour movement are found in The Journeyman Mechanic’s Advocate (1827), which has the distinction of being the first labour paper in the world; The Mechanics’ Free Press (from 1828–1831); and The Workingmen’s Advocate, edited by G. H. Evans (1829–36).

For the next few years the interest in the question was maintained by William Maclure’s Opinions on Various Subjects Dedicated to the Industrious Producers (1831), Stephen Simpson’s Workingman’s Manual, a New Theory of Political Economy (1831), and Seth Luther’s An Address to the Workingmen of New England (1833), as well as by the labour periodicals of which the most important were The Man (1834–35), The National Labourer (1836–7), Thomas Brothers’s The Radical Reformer (1836), and Ely Moore’s The National Trades-Union (1836–37).

The labour movement was succeeded in the forties by a wave of Fourierism and Associationism. The chief advocate of this was Albert Brisbane, with his Social Destiny of Man (1840), Association (1843), various translations of Fourier, and The Phalanx; or Journal of Social Science (1843–5). He was followed by Parke Godwin in his Popular View of the Doctrines of Fourier (1844) and by Horace Greeley in Association Discussed (1847). Greeley, who for a time opened the influential columns of the Tribune to this movement, showed his interest in the general subject by writing an introduction to Atkinson’s Principles of Political Economy (1843). He soon became more interested in the problems of protection and free land, editing, in 1843, The American Laborer and publishing toward the end of his career the Essays Designed to Elucidate the Science of Political Economy (1869), devoted to the same topics.

The interest in the Communist movement was carried on in The Harbinger (1845–47), of the Brook Farm phalanx; J. M. Horner’s The Herald of the New-Found World (1841–42); The Communitist (1844); and J. A. Collins’s The Social Pioneer (1844). The general theories of the labour movement are reflected in Robert McFarlane’s Mechanics’ Mirror (1846). This period is also marked by the advent of three original thinkers who emphasized individualism to the very extreme of anarchism: Josiah Warren in Equitable Commerce (1846) and True Civilization (1846); Stephen Pearl Andrews in The True Constitution of Government in the Sovereignty of the Individual (1851) and Cost the Limit of Price (1851); and Lysander Spooner in Poverty: Its Alleged Causes and Legal Cure (1846). Less important were J. Pickering’s The Workingman’s Political Economy (1847), J. Campbell’s A Theory of Equality (1848), and E. Kellogg’s Labor and Other Capital (1849). The next decade, with its period of prosperity, is marked by only two noteworthy books: Adin Ballou’s Practical Christian Socialism (1854) and H. Hughes’s Treatise on Sociology (1854).