Equitable Commerce in 1830



(I have received the following from my friend, Mr. Warren, for insertion in the Free Enquirer. The sheet from which it is copied, and which affords a specimen of the results obtained, is very tolerably printed, and seems go confirm the anticipation of the writer.)


It is well known, by those who have considered the subject, that printing is a power that governs the destinies of mankind: and therefore, those who can control the Printing Press can control their fellow creatures.

While men continue the practice of interfering with the persons and property of each other, it is to be expected that each in his own defense, will make use of all the means within his control, to increase his own power, and to diminish that of others.

At this time, 1830, the means of printing are so expensive, that the great mass of the people are almost totally deprived of their use—while the wealthy few (by their capital or influence,) wield this mighty engine, to increase their own power, and to weaken that of others: and while the ignorance of mankind shall permit them to disregard the happiness of each other, and to limit their mutual encroachment only by their power; it appears that the equality of power, will be the only guarantee for the enjoyment of Equal Rights.

The fundamental importance of these considerations, induces the subscriber to make known, in the most effectual manner, the results of a series of experiments, instituted with the hope of bringing the printing press equality within the reach of all.

Preparations for casting types have been made with the expense of about twenty days labor, with the use of white-smiths’ tools, and about five dollars in money. In this department, labor and money expenses have been diminished, in many particulars; the most important of which is, the substituting matrices of lead—stamped with types—instead of matrices of copper, stamped with steel punches; whereby, the difficult and expensive business of cutting said punches is avoided: and the casting of types, which is now monopolized by monied capital, can be effected by almost any person of common intelligence, without apprenticeship, and without dependence on capital.

A printing press has been constructed of a stone platform, and a roller of sufficient weight to give the impression, supported at the ends by bearers which keep it at a proper height above the types, to admit the paper and clothing between. The necessary cost of this press, is about five days simple labor: while it requires an experienced workman, to make the common press, and it costs from two, to three hundred dollars.

Labor and expense have been diminished in other particulars, which cannot easily be described here: it may suffice to say, that the materials employed in printing this communication, can be manufactured for about twenty five dollars—twice the size, for about thirty, and three times this size, for thirty five, and in a similar proportion, as the size increases: while the common printing establishment costs from about four hundred, to two thousand dollars.

The existence of an absurd custom (giving the power of monopoly by patents) renders it necessary to state, that any person is at liberty to make use of these simple (yet important) improvements; and any additional information will be freely given.

Preparations are now making to supply those who prefer to purchase these materials, rather than make them. They will be manufactured and sold upon the principle of labor for labor, of which, notice will be given through the medium of “The Free Enquirer” a paper devoted to the great interests of mankind—conducted in New York by Frances Wright, and it. D. Owen.

It may be useful to inform those who are unacquainted with the fact, that the art of using types, may be acquired by females or children, in a few hours.

N. B. All communications (for obvious reasons) must be post paid.

☞ This sheet* was printed with the apparatus above alluded to.

Josiah Warren.

Cincinnati, Jan. 10, 1830.

* The sheet from which we copy. R. D. O  

Robert Dale Owen and Josiah Warren, “Printing in Private Families,” The Free Enquirer 2 no. 20 (March 13, 1830): 157.


J. W.’s letter to the friends of equal exchange of labor in the West, as also J. U. shall appear in our next.

“To Correspondents,” The Free Enquirer 2 no. 37 (July 10, 1830): 296.


For the Free Enquirer.


The immense expense with which the making and administering of law has hitherto burthened individuals and nations, suggests the idea of a substitute for law makers and law expounders.

At first thought it may appear to some, that the proposal to carry on the business of law by machinery, is too novel, perhaps too absurd, for consideration; but let it be remembered that nothing is too absurd to find proselytes.

Let it be considered, that in electing our legislators, we go mechanically to work; we elect them according to old established customs, and at a certain time of the year which is determined by the almanack and the clock. We next go through a certain routine of praises and adulation of our candidates, and a certain amount of abuse of the other parties; this occupies all the time between the nomination and the election, and this time may easily be measured by clock work. The routine of words in praise of our party and in abuse of the others are generally the same, or vary so little, that the advantage of variety when compared with that of performing this expensive, monotonous and dirty business by machinery, loses all its importance. Therefore,

Let a number of words and phrases such as “scoundrel” “traitor to his country” “despicable time-server,” “heartless demagogue,” “Judas,” “Infidel,” “miserable tool of party” &c. be placed upon the periphery of a wheel, to be turned by the wind or any other power, so that the words would make all due display. Upon another wheel might be placed “hero,” “patriot,” “defender of his country,” “transcendent talents,” “the hero and the statesman,” “friend to infant manufactures” &c. All these could be as easily and as justly applied to candidates for office by machinery as they now are by the advocates of parties; and when we consider that one machine can be so constructed as to furnish adulation without limit for our candidate, as well as abuse for our opponent, and that a machine so constructed will apply to all parties alike from year to year (only changing the names of the candidates,) the inanimate machine, in my view, claims the decidcd preference on the score of economy; especially when we take into the account that it would save the addling of so much (or se little) brains, the annual consumption of so much good clean writing paper and the setting up and distributing of such vast quantities of types.

We might go through an analysis of the whole business, and show the incalculable advantages of substituting inanimate machine in each department, but this would be tedious for me and the printer, a bare hint at each must suffice to set the reader fairly on the road to economy, and to show how much has been lost for want of such an improvement.

Think, then, that when the candidate arrives at the legislative Hall, the same routine of ceremony, bombast, and sophistry is repeated which has been acted over and over, time out of mind; the same personal abuse of opponents; the same “rising to explain,” “rising to correct the gentleman opposite;” and, in fact, the same general routine of words uttered apparently without regard to anything but quantity and sound, both of which we know by the printing press and the hand-organ, can be produced for at most one twentieth part what they now cost. And as to their effects on the interests of the people, if they do no good they world do no harm, and this we cannot say, in favor of the more orthodox common practice.

But last not least, comes the decisions by law, the constructions and applications of these hopeful productions of eight dollars per day.

A citizen has a horse stolen, catches the thief and seeks redress; where is he to find it? Common sense answers, that the thief should remunerate the citizen to the same amount that be has injured him, in loss of time or property; but law says that law shall decide it. According to which, the thief, the citizen, jurors, judges, lawyers, constables, loungers, ragamuffins, &c. assemble, say to the amount of one hundred, spend perhaps a whole day in discovering that the lawyers on different sides construing these laws in their own way, no one law can be brought to bear so as to decide the case; and that the only way is to search for some precedent among the old relies of monarchical courts, before they can proceed in their republican decision. Referring therefore, to some old musty records of decisions, the very absurdity of which is forgotten in their age, they find authority from my Lord C. or my Lord, Q. and proceed to decide that the thief shall be shut up in unproductive idleness for three, five or seven years; the exact number depending on what the judges ate at the last meal.

Now look at the results. The injured citizen is not remunerated: the hundred days time of the judge, jurors, lawyers, loungers and ragamuffins is entirely lost, viz: 100 days.

Loss of the citizen’s and constable’s time in catching thief, say 3 do.
Time lost by thief being shut up in idleness, say 1825 do
1828 days

lost by this method; whereas by the proposed machine, we might save a great part, if net the whole, and stand quite as fair a chance of doing justice; thus:

Let an index point to the crime “horse stealing.” Then place a number of precedents up o the periphery of the wheel, set it going, and when it stops, decide the case by the precedent which stops opposite the index. By this means we could save at least the hundred days time of judges, lawyers, ragamuffins, &c. and we might have one chance of saving the whole thousand eight hundred and twenty five days by putting on the wheel in the place of one of the precedents the suggestion of common sense viz: that “the thief shall remunerate the citizen and the constables for their loss of time and expense in detecting him.” If this decision should happen to stop opposite the index, we should save say about 1825 days time in this one case which would be sufficient to raise horses enough to supply all the horse thieves in the county with horses, gratis. Only think of it! for the same expense that we can prosecute one thief!

These views are thrown out to induce reflection. I am not over-tenacious for the fame of an originator: if these suggestions lead to the economy of the public time and money, so that the benevolent may have a little to spare for the erection of houses of punishment for the poor, and that the patriot may spend five dollars at a dinner in honor of a political economist, the very prospect of public improvement and consistency will more than compensate for declining the monopolizing privileges of a patent.

J. W.

J. W., “Improvement in the Machinery of Law,” The Free Enquirer 2 no. 38 (July 17, 1830): 300–301.

For the Free Examiner.


New York, July 4th, 1830.

In compliance unto your earnest request when I left you, I open this correspondence to inform you, that our previous practice in Cincinnati meets with the most decided approbation of those with whom I have conversed on the subject between that place and this.

Frances Wright and Robert Dale Owen have expressed their unqualified approval of the practice which so beautifully illustrates the principles they have ardently labored to develope, and which clearly demonstrates to the most common capacity the practicability and the superior advantages of such a mode of reform; and I think I do not assume too much in feeling confident of their ready concurrence and co-operation as far as such principles are honestly adhered to.

I have seen a gentleman from England who was actually engaged in co-operative measures in that country; he informs me that there were two hundred and thirty associations formed or forming, but if I rightly understand their plan, I fear they will see the necessity of change, or be defeated. You know that the success and the undisturbed harmony of our proceedings in Cincinnati were the results of the total absence of coercion of any kind, and to the complete personal liberty which every one at all times enjoyed; now this can never be the case where, instead of removing the causes of interference, we attempt rather to counteract each other, and thereby, annihilate all freedom and happiness by becoming aggressors under the authority of the strongest power, whether it be arms, the vote of the majority, or public opinion.

I believe that our friends in England have connected interests by making common stock of the profits on the sales in the stores. This connecting interest involves them in the necessity of carrying their measures by vote of the majority, which we avoided by a total separation of interests;—every one acting in the individual character each taking on himself or herself all the responsibility of his or her conduct.

Besides if I am rightly informed, the rewards of the different kind of labor in these associations still remains unequal; if so, they must retain among them the principle of competition, which of itself must defeat any efforts at reform, however well intended, or perseveringly and honestly pursued.

Would not our friends in that quarter like to open a correspondence with us here in a manner perhaps similar to this? I think we could benefit each other very much by such means. These subjects are new to all of us, we have to feel out a new path through the surrounding darkness, and if any one should stumble upon any thing worth observing, all of us can by such means, benefit by the experience.

When any practical steps are taken here towards arrangements similar to those we had in Cincinnati, I expect to report them to the friends there, according to our previous understanding, through the medium of the Free Enquirer; but our practice is not to promise what we will do, but to speak of what we have done, and let that furnish a criterion by which to judge of the future.

As practical measures have not yet commenced, none of our friends in Ohio are wanted here at present; but when they are they may expect me to make it known. In the mean time if they have business to be transacted here, they may address me, and expect to have it attended to, on the principle of labor for labor.

I can inform J. P. of Cincinnati, Dr. S. U. Of S. H—and others who wanted types, that I can obtain some second hand pica and brevier very good for their purposes; the prime cost will be about 28 cents per pound, and the time employed in packing and shipping will be calculated according to the above principle.

J. W.

P. S. If this should appear to some a novel method of corresponding with distant friends, my excuse is, that the times are novel, and that the subject itself is novel inasmuch as that it is a system of commerce which requires no secrecy or concealment: and moreover, that the unavoidable difference in the human character has taught me to act entirely as an individual, and not to hesitate in doing that which is evidently desirable and beneficial until all others can agree with me in opinion, as to the propriety of doing what is not customary.

J. W.

Josiah Warren, “To the Friends of the Equal Exchange of Labor in the West,” The Free Enquirer 2 no. 38 (July 17, 1830): 301-302.

Equal Exchange of Labor.—In conversing lately with a gentleman from Ohio, our attention has been called to a principle which has been partially carried into effect, our informant tells us, in the city of Cincinnati—viz: the Equal Exchange of Labor.

This expression did not at first convey to us, and probably will not to many of our readers, any very distinct or definite idea. But further explanation threw more light on the subject; and, without expressing any decided opinion on the practicability or probable effects of the principle in question, we think it, at least, well worthy of careful examination.

We have already given our reasons for the opinion, that any system of reform based on a community of goods, is not calculated, (at the present time at least,) to afford relief from the oppression of riches and the degradation of poverty. It tends, indeed, to equality, but it tends also, to a curtailment of human liberty; and it demands a sacrifice not only of individual interests, but of individual independence, which in the present generation, would probably lead to idleness and consequent dissatisfaction, and in any generation, might be found to impose an unnecessary and injurious restraint on the feelings, pursuits, occupations and tastes of the individual.

Such is our opinion of the Community System, as it has been called. We cannot perceive that it is practicable.—We wish we could; for it has much that is in accordance with the best feelings of our nature, and much that is attractive to the friends of equal liberty to recommend it. But we do not see its practicability; nor do we see, that, if practicable, it would leave sufficient scope for the free exercise of those varieties of individual character, which give to society much of its pleasure and interest.

The principle advocated by our Cincinnati informant seem to us, (from a cursory view of it,) at once more practicable, and more in accordance with the spirit of individual freedom. He proposes no association, no society, no general rules to apply to all characters, however dissimilar, and to all tastes, however opposed. He proposes only, that, by gradual and voluntary consent, men should agree, in all their commercial intercourse with each other, to buy, sell, barter or exchange, on the principle of labor for equal labor.

Thus, if any article, say a pair of shoes of a given quality, require the expense of (raw material included) say, ten hours labor of an average workman, that pair of shoes should be worth—not two dollars one day and perhaps three dollars the next, just as the market may rise or fall—but worth ten hours; and should be exchanged (among those of course, who may feel the justice of the principle, and agree to follow it out in practice,) for any other article requiring, on an average, the same number of hours to produce it.

Thus all articles would be estimated by time, not by money, silver and gold among the number.

This plan proposes the making out of a list of all the staple articles of consumption, estimating their cost in time, and affixing that time cost as their real value. If, to produce the article, much preparation (in the form of apprenticeship, college education, &c.) be indispensable, justice points out that this preparation, (as involving loss of time) should be taken into account, in making out these estimates. Our informant thinks however, that as the mysteries of all professions have hitherto greatly exaggerated the difficulties of acquiring them, the above would form but a small item in the sums total.

Our first objection to this plan was—but we will throw our objections and the gentleman’s replies into dialogue form, preserving, as near as we recollect, the exact substance of the conversation.

Objector. This proposal of yours offers no reward for superior skill and industry.

Informant. I beg your pardon. It offers the just reward for both. If a man succeeds in making, in two hours, a pair of shoes as good as another makes in twelve, he receives double for his skill and industry. If the shoes sell for ten hours, he receives ten hours for six, while his less industrious or less skilful neighbor receives only ten hours for twelve.

Objector. But, at least, you provide no adequate reward for genius and intellectual attainments

Informant. These would find their own value. Genius is seldom avaricious; and it is not a monied reward which gives the spur to the higher order of intellectual powers. It is true, that lawyers might not be able to make it appear that two hours head-work beside a desk deserves the same reward as twenty or two hundred hours of the laborer in the corn-field: but there would be no great harm in that.

Objector. But, as the whole is voluntary, a lawyer might ask in the same extravagant proportion as he does now.

Informant. Certainly, he might ask it; but only if he refused to submit to have his labor estimated according to the principle of equal exchange, and, if other men fell into the plan, and he refused to follow their example, it would afford strong presumptive evidence, that his profession is one of unjust extortion.

Objector. There is presumptive of that already.

Informant. True; but it does not sufficiently come home to men’s feelings. If a lawyer charged a thousand hours for a week’s work, while all men know, that a week (day and night included) has only a hundred and sixty-eight hours, the very sound would be startling. I think that the mere habit of so calculating would be of infinite service in producing equality of remuneration for labor.

We had many other objections, some of which lid not appear to us so satisfactorily answered but the length of our article admonishes us to conclude for the present.

  • Equal Exchange of Labor,” New York Sentinel and Working Man’s Advocate 1 no. 44 (July 17, 1830): 1.
  • —. The Free Enquirer 2 no. 39 (July 24, 1830): 308.


Two communications on Equal Exchange of Labor shall be attended to.

“To Correspondents,” The Free Enquirer 2 no. 41 (August 7, 1830): 320.

For the Free Enquirer.

Messrs. Editors

Your correspondent J. W. has touched upon a subject which has often occupied my thought within the last six months, namely, the exchange of labor for labor on the principle of equal rights. I am thoroughly satisfied, that if the direct exchange of labor for labor were generally put into practice, the means of obtaining the necessaries and even the luxuries of life, would be made so easy that few or none would resort to dishonest measures. want, or the fear of want, to ourselves or our children often tempts, and sometimes impels, men to resort to immoral means of obtaining riches.

A society was forming last spring, in this city, for beneficial purposes. I endeavored to draw the attention of their committee to this subject, and attempted to give an outline of the advantages they might derive from it, but it was objected to by them, on these grounds; one said, “I keep a boot and shoe store; in order to fit every foot, and suit every notion of the members, it would be necessary to supply their store with as large an assortment as I keep in my own, which would be inconvenient as to capital, and the goods would damage by lying on the shelves.” Another said, he could not work at his business over eight months in the year, consequently he should not be willing to exchange time for equal time with another who could work twelve. Another objected; his tools cost some $200 or $300, and therefore he could not think of exchanging labor for labor with the tailor whose tools cost only $5. Such were the objections made; and as the subject was new to me (having read nothing, nor conversed with any one acquainted with it) I had to attempt to “feel a path through the surrounding darkness,” as I might; my ideas therefore being very crude, I failed to make the thing interesting to them, from the want of sufficient clearness in my explanation; still, I was satisfied that if the exchange of labor for labor could be put into operation, it would be found exceedingly beneficial, not only to the producing classes, but also, in the event, to those who are now the distributing classes.

If any thing had been wanting to convince me of the benefits to be derived from a direct exchange of labor, the following answers to two questions put by myself to a farmer a few days since, were sufficient to produce that conviction. “What do you get for butter? Answer: “10 cents a pound. What do you give for soap?” Answer: “12 cents.” The farmer then asked; “what do you get for soap?” Answer: “5 cents; what do you give for butter? Answer: “15 cents.”

Is it not evident that in this small exchange of a pound of soap for a pound of butter and vice versa, they lost 12 cents, and the go-between made the sum of twelve cents. The manufacturer gets for his labor, on the pound of soap at five cents only half a cent, while the farmer pays an addition to the cot of the raw material of which the soap is made 9 1-2 cents and the other gets only one fifteenth of it: consequently he loses fourteen fifteenths of his labor. The butter cost the farmer in expenses, say fine cents, in this case he loses four fifths of his labor. The difference on other goods may be less, or more; whether more or less, it ought to be sufficient to rouse the producing classes from their lethargy into enquiry. When their thoughts shall have been directed to this subject, they will soon begin to enquire “what shall we do to be saved” from this loss of labor?

If your correspondent will go into details of the practice of the friends of reform in Cincinnati, or otherwise answer the above objections, he will render a benefit to society, and also much oblige

E. C.

E. C., “Communication,” The Free Enquirer 2 no. 42 (Aug 14, 1830): 332.

For the Free Enquirer.


It gives me much pleasure to answer any objections or enquiries which, like the above, are made in the spirit of honesty and candor; and I wail endeavor to do so as far as experience has furnished me with the power; but further than this, (as it would be merely theoretical) T should prefer to leave to future experiment.

You ask for the detail of our practice in Cincinnati, or an, answer to several questions or objections proposed. You must be aware that, as the exchange of labor is the basis of society, a delineation in detail of all its ramifications must be the work of time and well-chosen opportunity: besides, I might, in so doing, weary you with a perusal of ideas already familiar, and omit those which most require illustration, or proof. This view of the subject induces me rather to answer objections or enquiries as they may arise, so that when they cease to be offered, the subject may be considered sufficiently explained.

Objection 1. The shoemaker feared that the Magazine would require a larger stock than his capital could furnish, and that a large assortment to suit all tastes would depreciate by lying on shelves. Answer. This was obviated with us by making only such as the demand called for; which demand was made known at the Magazine by a report for that purpose.

Objection 2. “One could work only eight months in the year at his trade, and therefore could not exchange equally with those who would work all the year.” Answer. Upon the principle of Equal Exchange, competition is annihilated; therefore all motive to keep each other ignorant for the sake of profit is destroyed, and he who could only work eight months at one branch, would be freely taught by others any other branch at which he could work the remaining four months, and he would pay his teacher only for the time employed in teaching him. In this manner we have had printing, shoemaking, tayloring, blacksmithing, and some other branches, in a few hours or days, put within the reach of those who, by the common practice of serving seven years apprenticeship, had been induced to suppose they were too old, or too young, or too dull, to learn to be useful.

Objection 3. “One said that his tools coat more than those of another trade” &c—Answer. The wear and tear of tools, machinery, shop-rent, &c. is estimated as so much labor consumed in the production of the articles, and adds so much to their prices.

J. W.

J. W., “Reply to E. C.,” The Free Enquirer 2 no. 42 (August 14, 1830): 332.

Wealth and Money

Frances Wright

[coming soon, with responses from Robert Dale Owen]

Frances Wright, “Wealth and Money,” The Free Enquirer 2 no. 48 (September 25, 1830): 382–383; 2 no. 49 (October 2, 1830): 390–391; 2 no. 50 (October 9, 1830): 397–398; 2 no. 51 (October 16, 1830): 402–407; 2 no. 52 (October 23, 1830): 410–412.



The human mind and consequently, the human condition, has been ever in progress. The most unreflecting only now talk of the good old times and ways of our ancestors. The times, however bad, were never better; we, however foolish, are wiser than our forefathers, and history supplies more than sufficient evidence that the condition of each successive generation has presented, and presents, either actual improvement or symptoms of approaching improvement.

The present however is a very remarkable era in the history of our race. We are surrounded by symptoms of changes new in their
nature no less than great in their promised results. Everything announces that we are gradually approaching a new state of society, and that events are in progress for the ushering in an age of true civilization. It is not merely the unusual excitement which now generally pervades the human mind from which we may augur important results; it is the novel nature of that excitement and the novel subjects on which it promises to expend itself which present the finest encouragement to the hopes of the philanthropist.

It has been only in accordance with the leaning of popular sentiment and tendency of modern enquiry that we have lately essayed to direct the attention of our fellow citizens to a subject which whenever thoroughly investigated will be found to involve every interest common to the family of human kind—to each of us individually and to all of us collectively. The confused, no less than the false ideas prevalent respecting the nature of property and uses of money, will be found the fruitful source of all the varied evils which afflict us in our present demi-civilized state of society.

By demi-civilized state is understood that in which the disguised coercion and subterfuges of law are substituted for the open violence of brute force, and in which the specious usurpations and frauds of a false money are brought to supercede the rude disposition of the stronger arm, the hatchet, the sword and the bastinado.

The first or savage state, may be defined as that in which the right of the strongest, in the literal sense, prevails: this is the age of ignorance. In proportion as the intellectual powers of man gain ascendency over the merely physical, we enter into the demi-civilized state. Here fraud takes the place of violence. The right of the subtlest and the richest is now paramount; this is the age of error. In both these states the passage from one to the other is for the most part, slow and gradual, excepting when some rare and unexpected events impart a sudden and unusual impulse to the human mind, and, raising it for a season above the petty interests and prejudices of its age, make evident to all observing eyes its progress towards the reign of peace and of reason. Such events constitute those epochs which we denominate revolutions. These epochs, however glorious in their results, when occurring during our passage through the two states of ignorance and error, or violence and fraud, are marred, more or less, by passionate contention or even by appeals to the sword; and it is only as we enter the last bright age of real civilization that we can see the door for ever shut on violence and injustice, and that our nature, content to yield itself to the gentle guidance of knowledge, can move onwards peacefully in the path of reform towards a state of general happiness.

Of this third state, or last best age of man, we shall see the dawn when the government of one nation shall have righteously applied itself to the securing the equal protection, instruction and just training of youth. The people who shall first apply their will and their wealth collectively to this object will open for the race of man that truly golden age when vice shall disappear with ignorance, poverty with false wealth; when ease and affluence shall be the reward of industry, when property shall be distinguished to be in reason, and acknowledged to be in fact, no other than the fruits of human labor, when the trade of the world shall be the single exchange of those fruits, when the money of the world shall be the simple representative of those fruits or of the creative or otherwise useful labor of man emitted and received by each individual laborer, and when, an independent and easy existence being thus secured to all, liberty shall gladden the hearts, loosen the tongues and animate the lives of beings all equal in rights, in opportunities, and in condition.*

The people who will first apply the power of government to the righteous and rational object here designated, we feel convinced will be the American; and this because they have pushed moral enquiry and discovery farther than other nations.

It may be well to observe that the word moral has been here used intentionally in the place of political. The words are, or rather ought to be, synonimous, and the practical evils which have arisen out of the fictitious nominal distinction established between them are more numerous than we would undertake to enumerate. In nothing has man been the victim of his own misapplied ingenuity, and perhaps we might add, in nothing have the mass of human kind been more duped by the few, than in the matter of government. In nature and reason there is no such science as that of government, or politics, or legislation, or law, or whatever imposing name we choose to employ, distinct from the moral training of the human mind and the human feelings. Free government or social order, must and can only be the simple result of rational education; and the people who shall once organize and carry into universal effect, a system of enlightened, industrial and protective education may lay aside their penal and their civil codes, their statutes and enactments, and confine their legislative operations to the simple regulation of such matters as shall be found positively and immediately to regard the comforts and convenience of the whole mass of society.

The tendency of passing events, and the leaning of the human mind as influenced by the same, designate generally the approach of the age of true civilization to which we have adverted. The reforms which will mark that age and which are even now in preparation, will be of a far different character from those which we are accustomed to denominate political: they will be, distinctly and evidently, moral and social.

It is the great edifice of human society which is about to undergo minute investigation preparatory to thorough repair. The strong holds of all concentrated power and monied usurpation are being now entered by determined enquirers bent on discovering the sources of that oppression which bows down the necks of the laboring many without any real benefit to the few. The questions now arising regard not abstract forms of national government, nor abstract dogmas of religious faiths: they regard the every-day interests of human beings. Men are not now disputing about republics and monarchies; they are not divided into protestants and catholics; they are enquiring why thousands are starving, when the fields are loaded with grain; why thousands are naked, when every market is glutted with articles of raiment; why thousands are houseless, while houses are without tenants, or house builders without employment; and they are divided into those who wish to see secured the good of all and those who wish to live at the expence of the good of all. They are not discussing whether this man or that man would make the best minister of state, or whether the Koran or the Bible presents the most rational or the least extravagant scheme of theory; they are examining why human suffering keeps pace with human production; why wealth dwells with idleness, and want with industry; why monied or landed possessions are hedged round with protecting engagements, and the labor of man, (which is the true wealth of the world,) is at the mercy of every wayward circumstance—strained to excess, wasted, misapplied, and vexed with every discouragement.

The curiosity of the age, is being fast diverted from old and false, into new and useful channels; and this, because the spirit of enquiry is now kindling among the mass—among those who hitherto, void of instruction and consequently of rights, were but the tools of the few, but who, now awaking to knowledge, begin to scan the weight of their sufferings and to search out means for their remedy. The spirit of enquiry once kindled among the mass, reform must move on, and move in a direction truly favorable to the general good. It must also move on in the spirit of peace, for violence is only the result of popular ignorance. In proportion as a people prosecute enquiry do they awake to reason, and consequently, to justice and humanity? Illiterate slaves who break their chains commit rapine and bloodshed; free men, bent on improving their condition, move quietly and patiently, though steadily and firmly. It is such and such alone who can commence the era of true civilization. France and America at this hour afford beautiful illustrations of this truth. May both hold on their course in the same spirit in which they have commenced it! May both co-operate in opening for the world the last best age so long dreamed of, and so often dispaired of, by philosophy—the age of just knowledge, Just practice, and true civilization.

F. W.

* For a satisfactory elucidation of this passage the reader is referred to our essays on Wealth and Money in the four last numbers of the 2nd Vol. of the Free Enquirer.

Frances Wright, “The Nature of True Civilization,” The Free Enquirer 3 no. 1 (October 30, 1830): 6–7.

We have received and have for sale at our office a few copies of John Gray’s “Lecture on Human Happiness.” This is an excellent pamphlet which was originally published in Great Britain, and was re-printed in Philadelphia.

The Free Enquirer 3 no. 2 (November 6, 1830): 16.

I have received J. W.’s friendly communication. I do not doubt the fact he states; but I am convinced that an incorrect cause is assigned for it. In thousands of other instances the cause assigned produces no such effect. Yet I am much indebted for the communication, and, my correspondent may rest assured, I shall make careful enquiry into the matter.

The Free Enquirer 3 no. 6 (December 64, 1830): 48.

About Shawn P. Wilbur 1983 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.

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