Josiah Warren, The Motives for Communism—II

Josiah Warren, “The Motives for Communism—How It Worked and What It Led To—Article II,” Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly, IV, 15 (February 24, 1872), ?.



Some facts are more strange than fiction, more philosophical than philosophy, more romantic than romance and more conservative than conservatism.

In my previous article I spoke of some of the motives for communism; and, certainly, no higher or more holy motive can possibly actuate human beings. We now come to the way it worked.

We had assembled with a view of organizing a community, as I said, in the vicinity of Cincinnati. We were in the best of humor with each other, and expectations ran high. After a little preliminary conversation, the idea of organizing a meeting came up; but who should call us to “order?” No one felt “authorized” to do it, and each one seemed to feel a modest objection to assume authority. At last, one seemed to think that, if anything was done, somebody must do it, and he modestly laid aside his modesty and “called the meeting to order,” and proposed the appointment of a chairman. Of course, no one objected, and chairman was appointed, not without some embarrassment in selecting one for “the honor of presiding” where all were admitted to be equally entitled to it.

The first subject proposed for consideration was a name for the contemplated community. One proposed “the practical Christians.” Another objected that there were some very good Jews with us, and he hoped there would be many; not only so, but this movement was, we hoped, to become world-wide, including all beliefs and all non-beliefs in natural co-operation and harmonious feeling; and it would seem contrary to this all-embracing brotherly spirit to adopt a name that would imply anything like sectism or tend to divide us into insiders and outsiders. He said, it pained him to be obliged to say any thing adverse to what the brother had proposed, for we look for perfect “unity” in this movement. The other replied that we need not look for unity till all were willing “to stand up for Jesus.” This is the first dash of cold water upon our kindling enthusiasm, and it was felt keenly by several who endeavored to allay the disturbed feeing by various remarks, all differing to some extent with each other; and the evening was spent without coming to any conclusion as to the name. If we came near to any one conclusion from the proceedings, I think it was not that “unity” that we had expected to see among us.

The next meeting was spent in a similar manner, but with the brotherly feeling somewhat diminished though no one could hardly acknowledge the fact to himself. At the next meeting we fortunately hit upon the experience of naming the community by the place of its locality, whatever that might eventually be. That being settled, the next thing was a constitution. A committee was appointed to draft one, at the meeting following, it was brought forward for acceptance. There were perhaps about thirty articles in it, and we found it impossible to agree on three of them that evening. In fact, we got into confusion. The chairman felt embarrassed, and the rest of us, (some at least) began to feel that this was not the “Unity” we had expected. Just in proportion as we desired to perserve this “unity” we hesitated to express conflicting opinions; some were consequently silent and their opinions were unknown even in regard to a measure with was to involve the whole life’s destiny.*

At this meeting I said “Friends, we have certainly committed some mistake somewhere: I do not know where it is: but if we were right, there would not be so much friction in our machinery. I will go down to New Harmony and join Mr. Owen’s Community. He knows how to do it. I will go to school to him; and when I have got the lessons I will report to you.”

[These friends went on and organized, and moved out about thirty miles from Cincinnati—failed within a year and returned to Cincinnati discouraged.]

J. Warren,

Princeton, Mass.

* Freedom of speech here might have gone against “unity,” but it might have saved the company from an expensive defeat and discouragement.

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