Equitable Commerce in 1849

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January 17, 1849

Lecture by Josiah Warren.

People’s Sunday Meeting.—The usual discussion next Sunday will be suspended in order to allow Mr. Josiah Warren, lately of New Harmony, (Ind.,) an opportunity to deliver a lecture on the subject of “Equitable Commerce.” This new mode of Social Reformation is one that Mr. Warren has paid much attention to for several years, and from the very favorable manner in which we have seen him noticed in Western papers, we have no doubt of his being a gentleman of considerable ability and well-qualified to give an interesting and instructive Lecture. His address next Sunday, which he has kindly volunteered to deliver gratis, will be of an introductory character, and followed perhaps by a course of Lectures, if such should be the wish of the meeting. Believing that the subject, as he explains it, is well worth the attention of all classes of society, but more particularly of the friends of Social Reform—such as the Associationists, Protective Unionists, Communists, or whatever other name the friends of Humanity may rally under—we would earnestly ask for Mr. Warren a large and prompt attendance. As proof of the idea that his system of reform is based on practical demonstration, we would state that the settlement of Utopia, (Ohio,) now in a flourishing condition, is founded upon the plan which he intends to make the subject of his proposed Lectures.

☞ The place of meeting is Hancock Hall, 339 Washington street—time, quarter past 2 o’clock, P. M.

The People’s Sunday Meeting,

This Institution holds a public meeting every SUNDAY AFTERNOON, at Hancock Hall, 330 Washington street, commencing at quarter past, 2 o’clock.

☞ On Sunday afternoon next, a Lecture will be delivered by Josiah Warren, from Utopia, Ohio.

Subject—Equitable Commerce: A New Mode of Social Reformation.

☞ The public, without distinction, are respectfully invited to attend.

  • “Lecture by Josiah Warren,” Boston Investigator 18 no. 37 (January 17, 1849): 3.
  • “The People’s Sunday Meeting,” Boston Investigator 18 no. 37 (January 17, 1849): 3.

January 24, 1849

Mr. Warren’s Lecture.

People’s Sunday Meeting.—The lecture delivered by Mr. Josiah Warren on Sunday last, was very interesting, and well attended. We should be pleased to give an extended report of it, but horn the manner in which a great part of the lecture was carried on—namely, by questions from the audience and his answers thereto—we fear we should not be able to do it any thing like justice did we attempt a detailed report, and the whole subject being a new one in this quarter, we should regret very much to say even a word upon it that should tend to give an erroneous impression of its real character. Besides, we are not without hopes that Mr. Warren, before he leaves our city, will furnish us with a series of short articles for publication, detailing minutely the theory and practice of his new Social Experiment at Utopia. By this method, it will not only be well understood in this section, but by means of our circulation it will be spread over the country at large, and thus be ought to the notice of a great many liberal and enquiring minds who might not otherwise have an opportunity to acquaint themselves with its merits. Referring again to Mr. Warren’s mode of lecturing, we cannot well refrain from alluding to a very original feature, which strikingly exhibits his remarkable candor and fairness —and that is, his custom of inviting the audience to raise any objections they may deem necessary for the better understanding of any particular point he is illustrating. No more convincing test than this can be given of a Reformer’s sincerity and honesty; and were the honorable and candid example followed by the clergy, they would no longer have occasion to complain of empty pews, for the intelligent and enquiring would crowd their sanctuaries from floor to ceiling, and soon liberalize the whole church system.

But though we are not able to present in detail the lecture of Mr. Warren, we believe we can state correctly some of his general propositions, and thereby give a faint idea of his system. He took it for granted that the great problem of harmonious society was yet to be solved. His solution was comprised in Equitable Commerce, by which he included all intercourse between men. Equitable Commerce was based on individual interest; every individual is his or her own sovereign, and must always be above or superior to institutions; people (of whom there are twelve families in Utopia) do not sign any pledge, constitution, or regulation—there is perfect individuality there. Again, his plan included the just reward of labor Articles were not bought and sold at Utopia at a value, but at their cost, which cost was regulated by the amount labor bestowed on their production. Repulsive and attractive labor were not paid equally. The per cent. principle was discarded altogether. All worked at Utopia at some trade other, and a hours’ work a day was all that was necessary to obtain a good subsistence. Among other institutions on the premises, was a college for teaching trades.

This, of course, is but a mere outline of Mr. Warren’s theory, which must be patiently studied in order to be understood. We are happy to state that he will continue his lecture next Sunday. All who are interested in Social Reform—and what reflecting man or woman is not?—should make it a point to attend.

  • “Mr. Warren’s Lecture,” Boston Investigator 18 no. 38 (January 24, 1849): 3.
  • “The People’s Sunday Meeting,” Boston Investigator 18 no. 38 (January 24, 1849): 3. [same as previous]

January 31, 1849

☞ Mr. Warren will lecture again before the People’s Sunday Meeting on Sunday next. His last lecture was well attended, and listened to with much interest.

  • [“Mr. Warren will lecture again…”], Boston Investigator 18 no. 39 (January 31, 1849): 3.
  • “The People’s Sunday Meeting,” Boston Investigator 18 no. 39 (January 31, 1849): 3. [same as previous]

February 7, 1849

☞ Mr. Warren will continue his lectures next Sunday before the People’s Meeting. Thus far, they have been well attended, and excited a good degree of interest; and whether he succeeds in convincing his hearers or not, he is listened to with much attention, and his ability and candor universally admired. We give no report of his lectures, because, conducted as they mainly are by means of questions and answers, we find it very difficult to present a clear and concise statement of his theory; and besides, we expect, as we have said before, that he will yet furnish us with a detailed account of it for publication. In the meantime, we advise all who can, to go and hear him; for we are certain, that even if they dissent from some of his principles, they will hear others that will be sure to increase their stock of knowledge.

  • [“Mr. Warren will continue his lectures…”], Boston Investigator 18 no. 40 (February 7, 1849): 3.
  • “The People’s Sunday Meeting,” Boston Investigator 18 no. 40 (February 7, 1849): 3. [same as previous]

February 14, 1849

☞ Mr. Josiah Warren will lecture, as usual, next Sunday afternoon before the People’s Sunday Meeting. The subject upon which he speaks is one that concerns every friend of social reform, but more particularly every friend of labor. Mechanics, therefore, should not miss the opportunity of hearing him.

  • [“Mr. Warren will lecture, as usual…”], Boston Investigator 18 no. 41 (February 14, 1849): 3.
  • “The People’s Sunday Meeting,” Boston Investigator 18 no. 41 (February 14, 1849): 3. [same as previous]

February 21, 1849

☞ Mr. Warren will deliver another of his interesting lectures next Sunday at the People’s Sunday Meeting.

  • [“Mr. Warren will deliver another of his interesting lectures…”], Boston Investigator 18 no. 42 (February 21, 1849): 3.
  • “The People’s Sunday Meeting,” Boston Investigator 18 no. 42 (February 21, 1849): 3. [same as previous]

February 28, 1849

Ho! For Utopia.

Since the inquiry and interest excited by Josiah Warren in his account of the attempt now making in Utopia, on the Ohio river, to reduce to practice his views on Commerce, or rather on Production and Distribution, we have heard several persons express a determination to go to Utopia. We would earnestly caution one class of persons in particular against connecting themselves with any such movement, for that movement’s own sake.

Every pioneer attempt, thus far, has been burdened with a large proportion of well-meaning persons whom the active world distinguishes as “shiftless:” meaning honest, upright individuals, to whom, for lack of productive energy, the necessity of labor is a galling bondage. No new movement can have sufficient surplus productive energy to support such.

No person should meditate joining any practical attempt at social reform who cannot fight his way against all antagonisms in the present hurly-burly called society. The energy required here is equally necessary there. It requires indomitable energy, integrity and firmness of purpose to carry out principles of this kind, and however well-dispositioned such persons may be towards such efforts, their prayers are better auxiliaries than their presence. Want of prudence, foresight, and energy, were the weaknesses of Brook Farm, Sodus Bay, Skaneateles, &c., and those who cannot provide for themselves here, had still better remain here to burden the many who regard such burdens as legitimate, than to remove to Utopia to burden a few who are striving to introduce a principle of society which shall lighten all burdens, or do away with them entirely.

If we rightly understand Mr. Warren’s exposition, thus far, he is seeking to introduce a system of exchange of property which shall entirely destroy the present system of “profits.” Thus he who devotes ten hours’ labor to the production of a silk shawl, now valued at seventy-five dollars, has earned no more, is entitled to no more, and shall receive no more, then he who has devoted ten hours’ labor in sawing fire-wood, now valued at one dollar. Any person who can steadily adhere to useful and productive labor can be guarantied a subsistence at Utopia; but a man with a half-broken constitution, a sickly wife, and six or seven half-fed, half-clothed, and wholly uneducated children,—though the picture is terrible any where, what must it be for a new movement that must create itself, while creating the elements of its subsistence? If praying were of any use, we would pray fervently that some order would speedily arise from the present weltering chaos of sin, strife, and wretchedness, which should at least guarantee food and education to the young, if it could go no further for the next five centuries.

People’s Sunday Meeting:—The lectures of Mr. Warren before this Society were finished on Sunday last, and at his request will be made the subject of discussion next Sunday. The public are invited to attend and take part in the debate. The meeting is free, and fifteen minutes are allowed each speaker.

A pamphlet, now in press, explaining minutely the theory upon which Mr. Warren has been lecturing, will be offered for sale at the meeting next Sunday.

The People’s Sunday Meeting,

This Institution holds a public meeting every SUNDAY AFTERNOON, at Hancock Hall, 330 Washington street, commencing at quarter past, 2 o’clock.

☞ On Sunday afternoon next, a Free Meeting will be held, at which any person so disposed, can speak on the following question:—

Subject—Equitable Commerce: A New Mode of Social Reformation.

☞ The public, without distinction, are respectfully invited to attend.

  • “Ho! for Utopia,” Boston Investigator 18 no. 43 (February 28, 1849): 3.
  • “People’s Sunday Meeting,” Boston Investigator 18 no. 43 (February 28, 1849): 3.
  • “The People’s Sunday Meeting,” Boston Investigator 18 no. 43 (February 28, 1849): 3.

March 7, 1849

People’s Sunday Meeting:—By reference to the advertisement of this Society, it will be seen that Mr. Warren will deliver next Sunday a lecture on Music and Singing. We understand he has a new and original theory on this very pleasing subject, and being also practically acquainted with it, having for some years past been an occasional teacher, we have no doubt of his ability to five an interesting and instructive lecture. We ask for him a crowded Hall.

☞ The position he takes is, that the reason why people do not generally succeed to their satisfaction in their attempts to learn music is not because music is too scientific for the masses, but it is because Music is not scientifically written.

Equitable Commerce: A new Development of Principles, for the harmonious adjustment and regulation of the pecuniary, intellectual, and moral intercourse of mankind, proposed as elements of New Society, by Josiah Warren. Second Edition. Utopia, Ohio: Published by Amos E. Senter: 1849.”

We have not yet had an opportunity to examine this pamphlet carefully, but from a cursory glance at its pages, we are satisfied that it is written with much ability, and with a sincere desire to promote the happiness and improvement of mankind. Independent of Mr. Warren’s peculiar theory, it contains reflections upon the existing state of society, particularly as it regards the great question of Labor, which must be both interesting and useful to every friend of humanity, and more especially to those who are interested in the welfare of the working classes. When we have become better acquainted with the merits of the work, we shall speak of it more at length.

☞ The book is for sale at this office. It contains 63 large octavo pages.—Price, 25 cents.

The People’s Sunday Meeting,

This Institution holds a public meeting every SUNDAY AFTERNOON, at Hancock Hall, 330 Washington street, commencing at quarter past, 2 o’clock.

☞ On Sunday afternoon next, a Lecture will be delivered by Josiah Warren, from Utopia, Ohio.

Subject—A New Mode of writing Music.

☞ The public, without distinction, are respectfully invited to attend.


THE SECOND EDITION OF “EQUITABLE COMMERCE, a new development of principles for the harmonious adjustment and regulation of the intercourse of mankind,” is just published and for sale at the Investigator Office, 35 Washington street, and at Bela Marsh’s Bookstore, 25 Cornhill, Boston. Also at Utopia, Ohio, where the principles are in practical operation. Address “Josiah Warren, Utopia, Rural Post Office, O.”

March 7, 1849.

  • “People’s Sunday Meeting,” Boston Investigator 18 no. 44 (March 7, 1849): 3.
  • “Equitable Commerce,” Boston Investigator 18 no. 44 (March 7, 1849): 3.
  • “The People’s Sunday Meeting,” Boston Investigator 18 no. 44 (March 7, 1849): 3.
  • [Advertisement for “Equitable Commerce”], Boston Investigator 18 no. 44 (March 7, 1849): 3.

March 14, 1849

People’s Sunday Meeting.—Mr. Warren’s lecture last Sunday afternoon on Music was well attended, and listened to with much interest. He commenced by going into a long and critical examination of the present system of teaching the art, and after showing the difficulty of acquiring it in consequence of the vague and ambiguous mode in which it is written, he presented his new system of writing music, which he maintained was so simplified and easy to understand as to be readily acquired by the masses. He has paid much attention to the subject, having been in early life a musician in the orchestra of the Federal Street Theatre in this city, and for the last twenty-five years an occasional teacher. His new system is therefore the result of long and careful study, and notwithstanding he might have it patented, and no doubt make not a little money by it, yet with his characteristic liberality he foregoes the advantage of money and fame, and gives his discovery freely to the public. We are not able to criticize his system and show all its merits, but we understood him to say that it bears about the same relation to the present method of writing music, that phonography does to the old system of spelling.

At the conclusion of the lecture, the audience gave him a unanimous vote of thanks.

  • “People’s Sunday Meeting,” Boston Investigator 18 no. 45 (March 14, 1849): 3.

March 21, 1849

People’s Sunday Meeting.—Next Sunday afternoon, the question of Equitable Commerce, or Mr. Warren’s new plan of Social Reformation, will be discussed.

The People’s Sunday Meeting,

This Institution holds a public meeting every SUNDAY AFTERNOON, at Hancock Hall, 330 Washington street, commencing at quarter past, 2 o’clock.

☞ On Sunday afternoon next, a Free Meeting will be held, at which any person so disposed, can speak on the following question:—

Subject—Equitable Commerce: Or Mr. Warren’s New Plan of Social Reformation.

☞ The public, without distinction, are respectfully invited to attend.

  • “People’s Sunday Meeting,” Boston Investigator 18 no. 46 (March 21, 1849): 3.
  • “The People’s Sunday Meeting,” Boston Investigator 18 no. 46 (March 21, 1849): 3.

April 11, 1849

Equitable Commerce.

The following article on this subject by Josiah Warren, its discoverer, will be read with interest by his friends in this city and throughout the country :—

To the Editor of the Investigator:

Dear Sir:—In accordance with your request, I would gladly make use of your columns as a medium through which the public might get some idea of “Equitable Commerce,” but I do not know that I could re-state the subject in any better form than that in the pamphlet entitled “Equitable Commerce,” from which you are at liberty to extract whatever you judge may be useful.

There are some points, however, that I would wish to impress most emphatically, and these may justify reiteration. To do this subject justice it is necessary to examine it by itself, and not judge it by the experiments that have so often failed. Communism, Fourierism, and all the great enterprises for social reformation have (as far as I know,) been based upon a Unity of interests. Equitable Commerce is founded on exactly the opposite principle, that of the most complete Individuality of interests. One of the great ideas of Common Property and Fourierism was, to neutralise the antagonism of interests, to disarm competition of its desolating power, and to make the interests of men harmonise and co-operate with instead of clashing with, and destroying each other. The inventors of these systems seem to have had this object in view in proposing a Unity of interests; but after a full and fair trial of this idea in a great variety of different forms at New Harmony with Mr. Owen in 1825 and ’26, I was most thoroughly satisfied that no amount of philanthropy, wisdom and capital combined could make these enterprises based on United interests succeed; and that if we could not preserve the Individuality of interests and yet make them harmonise and procure the required co-operation, that our cause was hopeless. I believe it is admitted by all who have examined “Equitable Commerce,” that simple equity is sufficient in itself if acted on, to neutralise destructive competition and to produce all the co-operation and all the economies aimed at by common property or by Fourierism.

The great obstacle to the understanding of this subject is its extreme simplicity. You can hold your finger so near your eye that you cannot see it. Some people think that a subject of this magnitude cannot be examined without spectacles: and their first step is to refer immediately to those who wear them, or to procure a pair for themselves; never thinking of the expedient of using their eyes. The editor of the “Bee” in this city, after examining the work on “Equitable Commerce,” says “he cannot for the life of him see the pith of the principles,” while a farmer in Indiana said that ”they had all the features that a great redeeming revolution ought to possess.”

The editor of time Boston Post, after implying that he had read the work, seems to come to the conclusion that all such attempts to remodel society must be abortive, and that we must content ourselves with taking care of and preserving ourselves without infringing our neighbors rights! He probably read the work through with spectacles—if he had used his eyes, he must have perceived that this was exactly the substance of “Equitable Commerce.” It is proposed as a means by which each one can preserve himself without encroaching upon the rights of others. This I understand to be exactly the reformation required—the problem to be solved!—However, it is not necessary that these editors should be able to comprehend the subject. It depends for its development upon the simple, unpretending common sense of those who see and feel the need of it. Diversity, of opinion or capacity, is no evil where conformity is not required. Equitable Commerce is founded on the broadest admission of individuality in all things, and the difference, therefore, even in the estimate of the subject, is not only harmless but beneficial, as it illustrates individuality itself, and serves to moderate enthusiasm, which might defeat the best of enterprises.

I very much doubt whether any merely verbal statement of the subject an establish its claims to confidence, and it is for this reason that the theory has been for twenty years kept in the back ground, while a silent but practical development of its details has been going on in different departments of business and investigation. It only remains to put these parts together at some one place, so that the whole may constitute a practical demonstration. This is now being done at Utopia, on the Ohio river, forty miles above Cincinnati, where those particularly interested, would do well, before forming an estimate of the subject, to spend two or three weeks in investigating details; but I would not advise any one to come to that place to settle or to stay any length of time without making enquiries by letter relative to the demand for his labor, accommodations, &c. Letters should be addressed to some one in “Eutopia, Rural Post Office, Ohio.”

The length of an article often prevents it being read, I will therefore defer any thing further till a future opportunity.


  • “Equitable Commerce,” Boston Investigator 18 no. 49 (April 11, 1849): 3.

May 16, 1849

Equitable Commerce.

We extract the following paragraphs from a pamphlet with this title, by Josiah Warren, published at Utopia, Ohio:—

If a traveller in a hot day, stops at a farm house and asks for a drink of water, he generally gels it without any thought of price. Why?—Because it costs nothing, or its cost is immaterial. If the traveller was so thirsty that he would give a dollar for the water rather than not have it, this would be the value of the water to him; and if the farmer were to charge this price, ho would be acting upon the principle that “The price of a thing should be what it will bring,” which is the motto and spirit of all the principal commerce of the world; and if he were to stop up all the neighboring springs, and cut off all supplies of water from other sources, and compel travellers to depend solely on him for water, and then should charge him $100 for a drink, he would be acting precisely upon the principle on which all the main business of the world has been conduced from time immemorial. It is pricing a thing according to “what it will bring,” or according to its value to the receiver instead of its cost to the producer, For an illustration in the mercantile line, consult any report of “prices current” or “state of the markets” with comments by the publisher—the following is a sample, copied a paper nearest at hand:—

“No new arrivals of flour—demand increasing, price rose since yesterday at 12 o’clock, 25 cents per barrel.

No change in coffee since our last.

Sugar raised on Thursday a cent per pound, in consequence of a report received of small crops; later arrivals contradicted the report and prices fell again. Molasses, in demand, and holders not anxious to sell. Pork, little in market, and prices rising. Bacon, plenty and dull, fell since our last from 15 to 13 cts. Cotton, all in a few hands, bought up on speculation.”

It will here be seen that prices are raised in consequence of increased want, and are lowered with its decrease. The most successful speculator is he who can create the most want in the community, and extort the most from it. This is civilized cannibalism.

The value of a loaf of bread to a starving man, is equivalent to the value of his life, and if the “price of a thing” should be “what it will bring,” then one might properly demand of the starving man, his whole future life in servitude as the price of the loaf! But any one who should make such a demand would be looked open as insane, a cannibal, and one simultaneous voice would denounce the outrageous injustice, and cry aloud for retribution! Why! What is it that constitutes the cannibalism in this case? Is it not setting a price upon bread according to its value instead of its cost?

Josiah Warren, the indefatigable pioneer of Reform, accompanied by Amos E. Senter, and his accomplished wife, passed through here last week to join the brotherhood who give “Labor for Labor,” in Utopia. A few friends called upon them, and had a graphic sketch of the cheering reception given to friend Warren’s views, in Boston; where, during their exposition in public, the closest scrutiny of questioning brough only satisfactory responses, and faully satisfied the most skeptical opponents of progress, that “Equitable Commerce,” which makes “cost the limit of price,” is the true method “for the harmonious adjustment and regulation of the pecuniary, intellectual, and moral intercourse of mankind.”—[Pittsburgh (Pa.,) National Reformer.

  • “Equitable Commerce,” Boston Investigator 19 no. 2 (May 16, 1849): 2.
  • “[From the “National Reformer”], Boston Investigator 19 no. 2 (May 16, 1849): 3.

July 18, 1849

☞ Josiah Warren, Utopia, (Ohio,)—Your friends here would be glad to receive from you a letter for private or public use, in relation to the condition and prospects of your Society, which is an object of interest to them, and which, they hope, is realising all its expectations.

  • Editor, “To Correspondents,” The Boston Investigator 19 no. 11 (July 18, 1849): 3.

July 25, 1849

Josiah Warren—and “R. H.”

We lately received a private letter from a very old friend (R. H.) of Hamilton, Ohio, in which was the following pleasing allusion to Mr. Josiah Warren, and as we know it will be read with interest by his numerous friends in this city, who remember with much satisfaction his recent visit here, we cannot very well resist the temptation to publish it:—

“By your excellent Investigator, it appears that Mr. Josiah Warren has been with you on a visit. His practical knowledge and reforming philosophy must have been a rich feast for the mind of reason and liberality. His company and conversation were always coveted by me. His mind was always filled with useful thoughts which, could they be practically established, would be a blessing to the human race.

“When he lived in Cincinnati, perhaps twenty years ago, I got acquainted with him, and always gave him a call when I went to the city. I was often at his ‘time magazine.’ In 1833 he published a small paper which he called ‘The Peaceful Revolutionist,’ several copies of which I have now on hand. He always appeared to me to be a practically-mechanical philosopher in all the arts and sciences to which he directed his attention—one of time most inventive and ingenious men I ever fell in with, and yet at the same time one of the most modest and unpretending. To give you some idea of his ingenuity, the press on which his paper was printed, was his own invention, and some, if not all of it, was made with his own hands. He also made the matrices or moulds for the types, mixed the metal, cast the types, was the compositor, pressman, roller-boy, (I believe you call it) editor, and publisher. He invented other matters besides those relating to printing, and withal was a very excellent musician.

“In health and prosperity may he live to old age, and consummate all his good and useful intentions.—Oh! that he could be my neighbor, and I, in my ‘downhill of life,’ be charmed with his music.”

There are several other matters in our old friend’s letter, which, though intended only for our eye, are good enough for the “public eye,” yet as we might be trespassing on his good nature if we presented them, we forbear; but there is one other thing we must give, whether or no—and that is, the secret by which he has contrived to reach, in a hale and hearty condition, to more than three score anti ten years of age. Hear him, you that want to live long:—

Six days I work. The first day of the week I read or write. I rise at 5 in the morning, and retire at 9 in the evening. Through life, so far, always temperate. Never used liquid fire of any kind, not even wine—tobacco never, in any way.”

There! young men!—that is the rule by which to secure long life; and short and simple as the rule is, it is worth more, though here you have it gratis, than all the pills and powders and drops that Dr. Bolus and all his tribe have ever sold—yea, than “mandragora or all the drowsy syrups of the East.”—The hand-writing of our aged friend is really beautiful, looking more like the easy, graceful, and flowing penmanship of a young man of twenty than the usual stiff arid awkward writing of a veteran of seventy odd; and this fact, of itself, convinces us that he is one of that rare class of men who can exclaim with old “Adam” in the play:—

“Though I look old, yet I am strong and lusty
For in my youth I never did apply
Hot and rebellious liquors in my blood
Nor did not with unbashful forehead woo
The means of weakness and debility;
Therefore my age is as a lusty winter,
Frosty, but kindly.”

After this, it is quite unnecessary to declare that our venerable friend is an “ultra” Infidel, a regular “out and outer”—that would seem to follow as a matter of course. But he is more than this—he is a pioneer in our movement, and was hard at work in the Liberal cause upwards of twenty-five years ago. Referring to the fact he says:—

“In my old age it is a great satisfaction to me to look back twenty-five years, when I was one of the volunteer rank and file of the army of Free Enquirers—and to a later clime when I was a cash-in-advance subscriber of the Investigator, and the first agent West of the Mountains, as you will see by looking in the first volume of the paper.”

But we must take leave of our old fiend, for the present, and we do it hoping that his last days will be his best ones, and that his sterling example of temperance, honesty, industry, arid integrity, will be universally imitated by all Infidels, young and old.

“Josiah Warren—and ‘R. H.’,” Boston Investigator 19 no. 12 (July 25, 1849): 2.

September 25, 1849

Letter from Josiah Warren

We have been much pleased by the perusal of the following letter from our worthy friend Warren, and have no doubt hut our readers will examine it with equal interest. This question of social improvement and happiness—in which our intelligent, persevering, and thoroughly practical friend has been laboring arduously and most faithfully for many years—is evidently the great question of the day; and now is the particular time, for men who possess sound views, and who appeal not only to men’s feelings but to their reason, judgment, and understanding, to come before the public, and never cease to agitate, peacefully and moderately, but at the same time vigorously, till some practical measures are put in operation to remedy the condition of the industrious classes. We have great respect for such reformers as Josiah Warren—a gentleman who relies entirely upon his works to prove his theory. But we are keeping our readers from his interesting letter.

New Harmony, (Indiana,) Aug. 26, 1849.

Dear Friend—Your paper lies before me in which you express surprise that you have heard not from me or from Utopia. There is one reason for my silence that will sufficiently explain it, though others will appear as I proceed. For the last three months, I have been entirely disabled in my right hand, a part of the time equally disqualified (by excessive pain and weakness,) in body and mind, for any correspondence. Even now I am obliged to write every thing with my left hand, which is rather a tedious process.

I would gladly make use of your excellent paper as a medium of communication, particularly because I should expect, by this means, to bring our subject in contact with minds best qualified to judge of it; but I admit that I have become rather disinclined to talk or write, and more inclined to speak by practical things. When, in 1827, the ideas of Equitable Commerce first occurred to my mind, when all our experiments in community of property had entirely failed and all was given up in despair, I spent several days in attempting to explain the simple ideas that seemed to me quite tangible and fully competent to produce all the results aimed at by common property without any violation of the individuality of person or property and without any of the friction and turmoil that had completely worn us out. I talked with, at least, a dozen of the most competent and enterprising of our associates, till I and my subject were exhausted, but all to no purpose,—not one of the in had the least idea of what I meant, and more than one stared at me as if they thought me insane, and more than one pronounced me so. I knew very well that I was, or that they were, and I perceived that the decision must rest with practical proof. I went back to Cincinnati, to the store I had formerly kept, and began to make arrangements for applying these new ideas of Equity to the business of Merchandising; thinking that if the ideas were really true and if I was not insane, the machine would work in a certain manner; and that as soon as a few friends were thus made we would abandon the city, form a village in which the principles might be applied to Mechanism, to Education, and to all the business of social life; and then call public attention to it. This was the plan, in case all proved sound and right; but if the principles failed under investigation, or did not work rightly, then I had resolved to slide into a common store and give up all such enterprises. I talked but little, and only to a few of my former friends, most of whom I believe thought I was insane and were afraid to come near my strange store—four of my most sincere friends promised, however, to come and purchase some little things just to gratify me. I waited their four different appointments, and was four times disappointed—they did not come. At last, I almost hired one person to come and purchase to the amount of a dollar upon the promise of taking the goods back again if he wished it. He saved fifty cents in spending his dollar on the new principles, and did not wish to “rue bargain.” He talked to another, and he to a third, &c., and in about six months you could have walked on the peoples’ heads from the door to the counter. This shows the difference between talking and acting. The rush of business was perfectly overwhelming—so bewildering and so exhausting that I was obliged to shut the store a part of the time, for it was impossible to bear the fatigue of repeating the same explanations to every customer. Heretofore I could get no attention; but now, having touched their interests in a way that they could understated, it was very naturally excited. I do not complain of this—it was exactly in accordance with one of the fundamental ideas that originated the arrangement, which was, that the instinct of self-preservation is very necessary, very justifiable, and very unconquerable, that it is not to be annihilated or found fault with, but only regulated by Equitable principles so as to act only within legitimate limits. The establishment was popularly denominated the “Time Store,” and many of the present citizens of Cincinnati and the surrounding country will remember it and its bearings on their interests and the surrounding retail trade.

I cannot now give you a history of all the circumstances that delayed the contemplated village till time year 1833, when it was begun in Tuscarawas County, (O.,) which, after two years, we were obliged to abandon on account of the extraordinary sickness of the location; and after laying by, some years to repair pecuniary damages, the subject was again broached to the citizens of New Harmony and the surrounding country in 1842 by another “Time Store.” I will refer the curious to any of these citizens for an account of its practical operations and its effects upon the interests of its customers and the mercantile business in general in the surrounding towns and country; but although the rush of customers was similar to that in Cincinnati, out of all the hundreds of people that dealt at these stores, and acknowledged themselves benefited, I do not believe that there were twelve persons who understood the principles which gave rise to the operation, although they are as old and as self-evident as the principles of gravitation or any other law of nature. They all understood clearly enough that it was for their interest to deal there, and that was sufficient to induce them to break through the stone walls of habit and surrounding fashions, and to push them into acting their part in the practical working of principles, which, when theoretically stated, they could not possibly comprehend! Now, herein is my hope for the redemption of society—if a few ingenious students of truth are found to pioneer in remodeling institutions and customs upon true principles, the masses can take advantage of their labors and act with them, without waiting to become philosophers. The masses made use of weights for their ordinary purposes long before Newton promulgated ad explained the great principle of gravitation upon which they acted, and which, to him, unlocked the grand secrets of the solar system; and all are benefited by the heat and light of the sun, although very few have minutely studied his relationship to the surrounding planets, or contemplated the sublime and beautiful harmony of of their movements, and so it may be with moral principles. In 1842, I sent a statement of the principles of Equitable Commerce to fifty of the most prominent reform papers of that time, but I never saw one word in allusion to the subject in either of them. In 1847, a gentleman in Ohio who felt great interest in the subject, purchased six of the books and wrote six letters to six of the most prominent reform Editors of the time, urging them to examine the subject and to give it publicity—the only response was, a bare acknowledgement from one of them that he had received the work! I saw two of them when I was in your city last winter, and both of them acknowledged that they had never read it; and they said that they were “unable to review one-half of the books presented them for that purpose.” I have no doubt of this, and therefore I have not sent the work to Editors of newspapers to be reviewed, and the public in general know nothing of its existence. Where, then, is the hope of progress? In action! action!

Again, such is the indefiniteness of language that whenever it is employed on any abstract subject, or in treating theoretically any new subject, the best selected words are subject to so much misinterpretation that it is next to impossible to establish a right conception of the simplest abstract truth, unless it is accompanied with familiar practical illustrations. Equitable Commerce is continually interpreted in the most limited sense even by critics as referring only to the business of buying and selling; although it is defined on the title page of the work, as referring to all time intercourse of mankind. The effect of thus misinterpretation is, to give the subject a merely mercenary character, when its moral features are the most important. This is easily corrected, certainly, but our attempts at correction lead us immediately into a wider and wider field of words where we are soon lost sight of. Where is our remedy? Where can it be found but in action which cannot be misinterpreted nor misrepresented?

If we cannot get even the title of a work rightly construed even when accompanied with a full and complete definition, what prospect is there for written disquisitions upon deep-seated, far-reaching principles? I confess I see none but in action, which is made to be the interpreter of principles, and as far as they can be made to go together, I feel that progress is made; but beyond this, words seem to be out of place on a subject as new as ours.

I know you will agree with me, in this, and you will not be surprised, after the history I have given you, if I sometimes refrain from talking or writing event where it might be useful, because I have so frequently found it useless. I have, however, always entertained the design of publishing the notes that I have taken during the practical development of these new principles; as I was satisfied that they could be explained in no other way than by being closely accompanied by the most familiar examples. These notes or practical illustrations I intend to embody in a volume, which, being bound up with the theory already printed will represent the subject in a complete form. In the meantime, I will communicate with your readers occasionally in proportion as I fund them interested, and hope they will feel free to ask any questions of a practical nature or make any remarks that they may think useful in bringing out the subject; for it is in the form of question and answer that this can be the most successfully accomplished.

Utopia is progressing by natural degrees, according to the means employed, and although we cannot make any display to the eye, or exhibit any thing very astonishing to the common mind, yet to one who wishes to study principles, some points of great interest have been attained when compared with the means employed; but a person requires to be on the ground himself to get what to him would be the exact truth, and I would much prefer that the accounts of this place should be given by some other person. I am now in New Harmony on a visit home, but when I return to Utopia, which will probably be in about three weeks, I will send you the names of such citizens as are willing to undertake to answer enquiries.

In one of your articles published while I was in Boston, (but I did not see it till I returned to Utopia) though the article is very truthfully and carefully worded, some mention is made of the College which I spoke of as being a part of our design—this has been understood by some, as stating that it was already in operation, which is a mistake—the first shops are only just commenced.

I fear I have said too much already for one communication, and therefore will only add my best wishes.

With much respect, yours,


☞ The letter of friend Warren, in another column, should not be passed over on account of its length. It is the first of a series of familiar correspondence on one of the most important questions of the day, and will be found very interesting.

  • “Letter from Josiah Warren,” Boston Investigator 19 no. 21 (September 26, 1849): 3.
  • “To Correspondents,” Boston Investigator 19 no. 21 (September 26, 1849): 3.

October 3, 1849

[notice of an article received]

  • “To Correspondents,” Boston Investigator, 19 no. 22 (October 3, 1849): 3.

October 10, 1849

☞ The second article by Mr. Josiah Warren, on “Equitable Commerce,” will be found on the fourth page under the head of Social Reform. It will repay a careful reading.

☞ We propose, as opportunity may present, to offer from time to time under this appropriate head, a series of original articles from Mr. Josiah Warren, briefly explanatory of the principles composing his new Social Reform which he denorninates “Equitable Commerce.” Mr. Warren is one of the ablest as well as oldest Reformers in this country, having been engaged in numerous movements undertaken within the past twenty years for the benefit of the producing classes; and notwithstanding one after another of these enterprises failed of their object, he was in nowise discouraged in his philanthropic design, but firmly believing there was a right system somewhere, he persevered and experimented until he finally struck out the plan of “Equitable Commerce,” a partial description of the principles of which he commenced in our paper of week before last. The following is his second article upon the subject, and we ask for it, with the others that may succeed it, an attentive perusal, feeling satisfied that our readers will be interested in the able manner in which Mr. Warren presents his original and pleasing views.]


Equitable Commerce.

No. II.

Mr. Editor:—In consequence of the equitable manner in which you have treated the Utopian propositions, and from the interest manifested by the friends at the “People’s Sunday Meeting,” (in the subject of Equitable Commerce,) I am induced, notwithstanding my despair of newspapers as a medium of reform) to give to your readers a few facts and thoughts on the subject, with the hope that they may act as an entering wedge to the public mind; after which, we can follow it up to any extent or in any form that the “demand” may call for.

Your readers are already aware that the theory is printed, and for sale at your Office; and you are at liberty to make any extracts from it that you may deem useful. My more particular object in these communications is, to show up the practical workings of these “new principles” which are proposed as the solution of the great problem of the age—the “elements of true society.”

I am aware that I am subjecting myself to the charge of strange presumption in thus boldly and broadly taking my position; but I do it because it is my position, and I wish to talk so as to be understood. Is this not excusable?—Is not temerity indeed, called for, from those who think they can mitigate any of the evils with which we are beset, or avert any of the calamities with which our social fabric is threatened? Nay, more—Is there any rational excuse that we can offer for timidly shrinking from the heaviest responsibility or the most onerous notoriety when it becomes necessary to assume either in the promulgation of discoveries for which the world is suffering?

To ages of degradation, injustice, and misery of society, is now added the absolute starvation of labor. At this point, labor must and will recoil. It has recoiled, and all society is convulsed—its heaves and throes are felt even here. No one can afford to fold his arms in fancied security and say that “The present state of things will do for him.” The present state will not, cannot continue—even while we talk, the very ground on which we stand is moving; and, without waiting to contemplate the dazzling and sublime prospects presented to us in the beautiful and harmonious workings of truth and equity, our subject becomes narrowed down to that which every one can comprehend,—the simple point of self-preservation! And the first question is, “What shall we do to be saved?” Sixteen thousand of the most enlightened nation have fallen by each other’s hands in two days, in one effort for reform; but the condition of the survivors is more desperate than ever. The problem is yet unsolved, and the cry still is, “what shall we do to be saved?”

Some hundreds of experiments have arisen by the desperate devotedness of some of the better humanity, only to fall and crush the fortunes and the hopes of their noble projectors; but out of the very ruins, the almost smothered appeal still whispers, “what shall we do to be saved?”

We know that to this question a multitude of responses are sent forth, all differing from each other, and that to most minds, this difference neutralizes all; but we have no objection to this individuality. We recognize it as Nature’s greatest law of order, harmony, and progress. Let us have the benefits of the division of labor even in the work of reform—let every one test his ideas—let us have liberty of action—let us have a thousand experiments going on at once, and we may make a thousand times more progress than if one only was the mode to which all the members of a society or a nation should be required to conform!

This is the first great feature of Equitable Commerce. It is considered that equitable liberty demands that every individual should be and remain free to act upon its principles or not—to be and remain above, not under its prescriptions; and in this it differs fundamentally from enterprises of the kind that have come to our knowledge. In all societies or attempts at reformation, I believe that some principles or propositions have been laid down as the law or the institution, to which each member was expected to conform, or come under; and this was required on the ground that the public good was of superior importance to individual good. To this fatal delusion is attributable all the horrors of the French Revolution, and all other revolutions. Revolutions propose a governing and a governed party but neither would exist where every individual as acknowledged to be a sovereign!

The public good must consist of the good of the individuals who compose the public. If every individual is happy, the public are happy; then the whole business of the legislator or the reformer is, to build up the individual, to make the individual happy; and the very first and most indispensable step towards this is to make him feel liberty or security of condition, which he never can feel while he lives under human institutions.

Human institutions must not rise above humanity!—We make institutions for our use, but not to crush ourselves. The superiority or supremacy of persons over institutions will be found to be the very first step in any harmonious or successful social state. It is the first element of true society, and I have introduced and dwelt upon it here from pure necessity in order to disarm the very reasonable repugnance that is naturally felt against any system of reform on account of their infringement of liberty, by their demand for conformity.

The idea of the sovereignty of man over his institutions was the great leading idea of the celebrated Declaration of American Independence; but it was the collective man,—a figurative, an unreal man. It was the mass who were to make institutions to which every individual was to submit or surrender his natural sovereignty. But where is the sovereignty of a people after every individual is deprived of it and is obliged to submit to institutions interpreted and administered by one or a few? No. The sovereignty of a people must consist of the sovereignty of the individuals who compose the people. This sovereignty of the individual will be found to be not only the corrective of man’s relations to laws and governments, but being constantly borne in mind and carried into all the ramifications of social life, it becomes a harmonizing and regulating power of unspeakable magnificence and beauty. All the principles and practice of Equitable Commerce is subordinate to this great idea of personal equity, or natural liberty; so much so, that no one in Utopia is bound or pledged to act even on Utopian principles; in this experiment, the man is above, not under his institutions—every one is free to act upon them or not; and at such times and in such manner as each may individually choose: and the farther this liberty is carried by any one even in opposing the subject, the farther does he carry out one of its most important principles!

In reducing this idea to practice we are struck with amazement that a principle so true, so harmonizing and so dazzlingly beautiful, so indispensable to successful society, should be new in practice. There are obstacles to the practical operation of this great humanizing principle; but where these begin, is the point for reformation to commence. These obstacles are found just in proportion to our connections with each other. Therefore, the less our interests are combined or “united” and the more they are individualized, the faster and the nearer we approach to harmonious and true society: and the road of reformation therefore lies in the direction precisely opposite to combination or “united interests,” which has been the basis of all the radical reform movements known to us. It is entirely futile to think of carrying out individual rights while our interests are united with others. This is equally impracticable in any combination, from the smallest partnership to a national organization. Let three persons have an equal interest in a house. One would like to let it, another prefers to sell it, and the third wishes to pull it down—each having an equal interest at stake, has an equal right to decide—these three equal powers balance and neutralize each other, therefore no decision can be had on the ground of right. Expediency or compromise must he resorted to before any decision can be had. Yet there are no principles known (to the public) that can regulate compromise, and the most peace loving, most accommodating, generally are found undermost. The only condition upon which each could exercise his right of decision is that of having his house individually, and so far disconnected from the others that he could tear it down or let it without disturbing them. It is only in proportion to the individuality of our interests that our rights of person or property can he exercised. United interests and compromise, when there is not much at stake, may sometimes afford preponderating advantages, but a fatal mistake has been made in taking the exceptions for the rule and making them the basis of society.

The true business of him who would assist in establishing the rights of mankind, averting the immeasurable confusion with which society is threatened, in establishing order, harmony, and prosperity, consists chiefly in inventing modes by which united interests can be individualized without sacrificing the advantages of society, and by which labor may receive its just compensation.

The equitable reward of labor being a distinct branch of our subject, it is deferred till the next communication.


New Harmony, (Indiana,) Sept. 9, 1849.

  • [“The second article by Mr. Josiah Warren…”], Boston Investigator 19 no. 23 (October 10, 1849): 3.
  • Josiah Warren, “Equitable Commerce. No. II,” Boston Investigator 19 no. 23 (October 10, 1849): 4.

October 24, 1849

[notice of an article received]

  • “To Correspondents.,” Boston Investigator 19 no. 25 (October 24, 1849): 3.

October 31, 1849

☞ Mr. Warren’s third article on “Equitable Commerce,” will be found on the 4th page. It deserves to be read carefully, for it is the production of a strong minded man.


Equitable Commerce.

No. II.


Although society is indebted to labor for every thing that distinguishes civilization from barbarism, it has never yet determined on what constitutes its equitable reward!

The only sentiment that takes the place of a principle of equivalents is, that “the price of a thing should be what it will bring.” If this is the true principle of equivalents, society is now just what it ought to be, for it is precisely what this sentiment has made it. The speculator, who purchases up all the flour within reach just before a scarcity, waits till the other supplies are stopped, and then sets his price, limited only by the wants or suffering of the community, may “make” ten thousand dollars by two days of his labor, with which dollars he can get ten thousand days of the hardest and most valuable labor for his two days spent in injuring the community. A lawyer obtained ten thousand dollars for ten or fifteen hours labor; he saved his clients from the penitentiary, and therefore his labor was “worth” and would “bring” that price. The lawyer could obtain with his dollars, two hundred thousand hours of the hardest and most useful labor for this fifteen hours of his own! If this be a correct principle, we can find no fault with the lawyer nor the speculators who seized upon the grain sent to the starving Irish, and then demanded of them whatever they could give for bread as their only reprieve from a lingering and horrid death. The speculators demanded no more than the grain “would bring!” Or why blame the landlords, the usurers, the governments, the mode of trade, or any imposture that contributes to reduce the people to starvation? None of them get any more than their commodities “will bring.”

If it is not already evident that this cannibalism is the principal root of the master evils, of our social state, it will be so upon a little reflection.* This is the principle of getting whatever we can. It is essentially the sentiment that might constitutes right. It has set man against man, and driven men into National and other combinations for protection against each other. These combinations must be managed by governments. These demand the “surrender” of the natural rights of mankind, and here is, at once, the grave of liberty and the germ of domestic discord, of private suffering, of political crimes and violent revolutions! Behold in the absence of equivalents, the origin of Rich and Poor, and all the invidious warfare between wealth and poverty; the ruinous fluctuations in prices and in business, the fear of poverty, and the all-absorbing pursuit of gain; the perpetuation of ignorance for the sake of profit; all the insecurity of person and property, and all the crimes, punishments, and other sufferings which, of necessity, result from these causes. In this iniquity of trade behold the deep-seated germ of speculation, at once the curse of individuals and of nations!—the fatal pit-fall of the working classes, the subtle and all-pervading poison of the social condition!

What, then, is it that constitutes pecuniary equity?

If the public are suffering for flour so that they could be induced to give twenty dollars a barrel for it, this would be the value of the flour to them; but if it cost the speculator only five dollars, then to make this value the basis and limit of price is cannibalism. Yet, the man who devotes himself to supplying the wants of the community with flour must be remunerated, and what is his just compensation? He must be paid for his labor and expenses in purchasing, carriage, insurance, taxes, rent, clerkship, the labor of handling, selling. &c. But all these items are entirely distinct from the value of the flour to the purchaser—they embrace only the different items of cost! And this cost being paid in equivalents would seem to constitute his just remuneration. To work out equivalents, then, it becomes necessary to disconnect, to individualise the idea of value from that of cost. The value is a consideration that belongs entirely to the purchaser, and an equitable respect to his natural right of “individual sovereignty” absolutely forbids any other one from meddling with it. The enquiry now is, therefore, how can cost be equitably remunerated? And first, what is cost?

The word is subject to several different interpretations which make confusion. Equitable Commerce “individualises” and selects one which we believe to be essentially its nature, that of pain, repugnance, sacrifice of ease or pleasure, and equivalents become based upon the great pivot of all action, the consideration of pleasure and pain; so that any two performances involving the same degrees of pain or sacrifice, are considered as equivalent to each other. Whatever requires the same sacrifice of ease or pleasure as a bushel of wheat, is considered as an equivalent for it.

We now want the means of measuring these degrees of pleasure or pain. This is obtained by comparison, upon the same principle by which we obtain arithmetical numbers, commencing with a unity, an “individual” thing.

Let a pound of potatoes be the commencing point—the unit. Then, any labor that “costs” doubly as much as the pound of potatoes is priced at two pounds. If fifty pounds of potatoes require two hour’s labor in their production and contingencies, then 25 pounds per hour would be the natural compensation for the labor bestowed upon them, and any other two hours service equally repugnant in its performance and contingencies would be considered an equivalent for them, or would be rated at 25 pounds per hour. If the labor exchanged for them were only half as disagreeable as that of raising potatoes, then it is rated as equivalent to twelve and a half pounds per hour. Thus we make use of the potatoes or some other staple article as the carpenter his foot rule to measure and compare one thing with another. One who should work two hours up to his ankles in snow-water, might consider the cost to him equal that of working four hours in raising potatoes, and he would then charge the product of the four hours, or hundred pounds of potatoes as the equivalent of his two hours, while the performer of a piece of music who receives more pleasure than pain in the act and its contingencies, has no ground of price, although it may be of great value to all within hearing.

On this principle, any labor equally disagreeable itself and in its contingencies would be an equitable compensation for the flour dealer before mentioned, for lawyers, for law-makers, for money-lenders, for landlords, for any branch of trade, for government officers, or for any other labor whatever.

The results to which this principle would lead are certainly very startling; but if the principle first proposed be properly appreciated, they are not alarming. In contemplating one branch of equity, let us not forget that of equal or greater importance—equity towards persons, or the absolute sacredness or sovereignty of every individual. If this be properly regarded, no one will be even censured for the position in which he is found. The great universal instinct of self-preservation will act and ought to act either with or without our consent, and where there is nothing but confusion and only a choice of wrongs presented, who will be found in the right position? Who indeed can tell what is the right position?

If the cost of labor be the true principle of equivalents, then is it impossible for any one to be now in the right position, nor can he find it until an entirely new set of practices shall assist him. Some of these are so new that they are almost bewildering; and it is only by degrees that he can act his part in them. But if this be the true principle of equivalents, then is it the true remedy for the diseases of society, and we shall seek in vain for their antidote in any other quarter. Nothing but the right will work rightly.

Twice three will not make seven nor five nor eight, although we may think it ever so expedient. The demands of truth are exact and absolute. All the powers on earth cannot compel twice three to make any more or less than exactly six; which they do without any aid from us. We have only to learn the fact and make use of it. All the powers known to man cannot produce true society without ABSOLUTE TRUTHS for its basis and these would do it about as independently of our aid as twice three make six. Our social reform consists much more in what we have to leave undone, than in what we have to do. The extreme simplicity of what we have to propose is the chief obstacle to its being attended to and understood. Volumes of books and newspapers have been written, and society has been repeatedly agitated from centre to circumference in attempts to adjust the circulating medium. Talent, genius, and political power have exhausted themselves in attempts to make seven from twice three in regard to money; when the simple truth is, that no money ever known is at all fit for a circulating medium. All the propositions or arguments relative to it must be based on the idea of public justice or equity among men, or they are unworthy of the subject and of notice; but no money known to us can effect this. A man, in exchanging his labor with another, should obtain an equivalent in labor for the labor he bestows.

If I give ten hour’s of my labor for five dollars, I cannot tell how much labor the dollars will procure me. I hire one carpenter with the money, I may obtain forty hours of his labor; if some other carpenter I may obtain perhaps thirty hours, and different quantities of labor from the same persons at different times. If I hire a physician, I may obtain one hour of his labor for the ten of my own. If I hire a lawyer with my five dollars, I may obtain five minutes of his labor with the ten hours of my own. If I purchase flour with my dollars, I may, at one time, procure a barrel; and three months afterwards, I may obtain only a half of a barrel!

Money is unfit for a circulating medium. We must have a circulating medium that will, at any time, procure me ten hours of equivalent labor in return for my ten hours; and therefore, in equitable commerce, when I part with my labor and it is not convenient for the receiver to give me an equivalent in labor on the spot, he gives me a note on himself, or on some other person, for ten hours equivalent labor, which I may either keep till I want it redeemed, or pass it to another, who may pass it to a third, &c., and thus these labor notes become a circulating medium in harmony with equity, and affording facilities for business infinitely above and beyond those ever afforded by money of any kind. But this is too simple to be readily appreciated.


New Harmony, (Indiana,) Sept. 20, 1849.

* See more on this subject in “Equitable Commerce,” Article Reward of Labor.

  • [notice], Boston Investigator 19 no. 26 (October 31, 1849): 3.
  • Josiah Warren, “Equitable Commerce. No. III. What Constitutes the Just Reward of Labor?,” Boston Investigator 19 no. 26 (October 31, 1849): 4.

November 7, 1849


“Man Above Institutions.”

Mr. Editor:—I have read with much pleasure the communications of friend Warren in illustration of his new system of “Equitable Commerce,” and find that many other readers of your paper with whom I am acquainted are of the same opinion. I hope, therefore, that he will continue to write, for he is evidently a gentleman of ability, reflection, and experience; and such kind of writers are very valuable helps to the cause of truth and free enquiry. But there is one principle in his theory that to me looks unsound, and the principle I refer to is contained in the idea expressed in the heading of this article—namely, that man is above institutions.

Now to support this principle unqualifiedly, seems to me a mistake and subversive of the very freedom that friend Warren wishes to secure. For what is an institution? Why, simply a plan or system established by the voice of a majority. True, it may be a plan that works injuriously, and then again it may be a good and salutary plan; but the principle itself is a sound one, else how are we to establish any institutions at all?—Does not the very idea of institutions presuppose some number of persons to establish them? It appears so to me; and to say to the contrary, is about the same as saying that we have no need of institutions. I grant my friend that there are bad institutions, but it hardly follows as an invariable consequent that there are no good ones, nor that there cannot be more good ones. I know of some institutions, at any rate, that are beneficial—for instance, the Temperance Societies, the Odd Fellows, and numerous other Benefit Societies, the Protective Unions, the Infidel Relief Society, the People’s Sunday Meeting, &c., &c. All these are good and valuable institutions—established for praiseworthy objects and productive of the best results. Why wish to be above them? My doctrine is, let bad institutions he remedied or abolished, as soon as may be, but let the good ones be retained.

Perhaps, however, I do not understand the principle as Mr. Warren himself does, for to my mind it is entirely inapplicable to people living in society, and is adapted only to the isolated and individual state where there is no need of institutions. Yet he calls it “the first element of true society.” To me, it seems to subvert all society, rendering such a thing as society impossible. For what is society? Union, fellowship, company—an institution, is it not? Now in order to be above this institution, must we not go out of or away from society? I think so. The difficulty with my worthy friend is, he appears to confound good and bad institutions together, and yet at times he is sufficiently discriminating. Thus he says, “Human institutions must not rise above humanity,” meaning that they must not oppress it. Of course not, but it does not follow that they cannot exist in accordance with humanity, for the very institutions that I have named disprove the idea. They help humanity, and hence it would be unwise to be above them. If every person was just like friend Warren—thought and acted exactly as he does, very probable we should not need institutions, for all persons would be precisely the same in feeling and action; but as we know this is not the case, that mankind are various and different in this respect, besides being oftentimes sluggish, unconcerned, and ignorant, I can see no other practicable way of effecting any particular general good, except by making it the basis of an institution and then bringing to bear upon it the united power of that institution. In all physical matters, requiring great strength, we work upon this method. Ten men can lift a log that one man could not move. So in morals. Temperance, Anti-Slavery, in fact all kinds of reform, are sustained by institutions, whereas those people who do not belong to these institutions—who are above them, are not as a general thing the supporters of these several reforms. If they were, then Temperance, Anti-Slavery, &c., would find their friends outside of these institutions, but we all know that such is not the fact; nor is it perhaps too much to say, that it is these very institutions that keep these reforms alive, and that were it not for them, they would die out.

The principle, therefore, taken unqualifiedly, “that man is above institutions,” is unsound—at least, I mean to say that I am not able to view it in any other light. I think it it would be more proper to say, “men and institutions,” for it is useless to deny the fact that we have some institutions, at any rate, that are good ones. Let these remain as they are, and let those that are bad be reformed, or, if this is not possible, then let us come out from the, and they will die of themselves. Friend Warren’s principle, as it presents itself to my mind, is applicable only to people living out of society. I see no benefit from it to those who live in.


Charlestown, Oct. 30, 1849.

  • Common Sense, “Man above Institutions,” Boston Investigator 19 no. 27 (November 7, 1849): 1.

November 14, 1849


  • Worker, “A few Words about ‘What Constitutes the Just Reward of Labor’,” Boston Investigator 19 no. 28 (November 14, 1849): 1.
  • “To Correspondents., Boston Investigator 19 no. 28 (November 14, 1849): 3.

November 21, 1849

☞ Mr. Warren’s 4th article on “Equitable Commerce,” will be found in to-day’s paper, under the usual head. Like the other articles of the series, it is worthy of a careful perusal.


Equitable Commerce.

No. IV.

The Marquis of Worcester, sitting leisurely by his fire and-looking at the tea-kettle, observed the rising and falling of the lid caused by the boiling water, and recognized a power in steam, and his fertile mind immediately conceived the idea of taking advantage of this power for useful purposes. No one knows how far he may have foreseen the revolutions which this simple phenomenon would produce; but had he, at that time, ventured to announce a hundredth part of what it has already accomplished, he would have been treated as a madman. The means would have been considered too simple for the conversion of wildernesses into cities!—too weak to take up cities as it were with its fingers and sprinkle their contents over the open country!—to bring the ends of creation to be familiar neighbors and, by competition, to compel the working classes to demand a total revolution in social institutions!

We do not know that we are very much indebted to the man—the Marquis of Worcester—but we certainly are to the very simple phenomenon of the expansive power of steam.

Society has more to learn with regard to Equity than it had to learn of steam; and it would be dangerous to any one’s reputation as well as destructive to his usefulness and peace, to announce a tenth of the bright visions that burst upon the sight of those who undertake to explore the enchanting and unfrequented path of Universal Equity!

Will it be believed that it has power to neutralize the antagonisms of nations and of individuals? To make each one, in the pursuit of his own private interests, to build up rather than to destroy others—or, in other words, that it naturally and harmoniously solves the great problem of “Co-operation?” That it disarms cannibal competition of its powers of destruction, leaving all its harmless and life-giving energies untouched? That it makes machinery work for the working classes instead of against them—that it multiplies, a hundredfold, the facilities and economies of social life—that it neutralizes all the common elements of disputes and strife, and seems to restore to man his lost equilibrium? No, all this is too much to believe—do not admit it then—is not Equitable to require belief. It is the blessed privilege of those who investigate to see and know. Contemplate what would be the effects of admitting and sacredly respecting the absolute sovereignty of every individual, (which is only the embodiment of personal Equity,) through all the ramifications of social life. Contemplate, also, the practical operation of the cost of Labor as the basis and limit of price, in all pecuniary commerce. If these two roots once become familiar to the mind, we need not ask for belief in regard to their fruits.

I have said that Equity had power to neutralize the antagonisms of nations and individuals. Let us test this.

Out of the organic and circumstantial diversities or “individualities” of men grows the right of individuality, or sovereignty in each. This “sovereignty of the individual,” (which I recognize as the natural and Equitable Liberty of mankind,) entitles every one to differ from all others in politics, habits, manners, dress customs, language, religion, or anything else (at his own cost) without being molested or called to account by others. These ideas being applied in all our intercourse would neutralize a large portion of the elements of strife among mankind. A large portion arises out of the ambition of rulers, commanders, &c., none of which could exist where every one was sovereign! For although every combined movement must have an individual head, yet sovereigns may be led without being made the food for criminal ambition, and this sovereignty of the individual would constitute the legitimate and efficient check to all those criminal schemes of personal glorification which have always been the curse of nations; but the greatest portion of the antagonisms of nations and of individuals have their origin in the unprincipled pursuit of property.

The Cost of Labor as the regulating principle and limit of prices in all pecuniary commerce would make each nation and individual interested in promoting each other’s interest, for the same reason that they are now antagonists; (that is, self-interest.) If I am to give for my supplies, whatever the holder “can get” according to my necessities, my interest teaches me to provide against necessity, and subject myself to as little of it as possible, and to accumulate without limit for the future, and to get my supplies for a price as much against the holder’s will as possible; and all being similarly situated, all are striving against each other. I am not interested in the expenses or losses, or inconveniences incurred in the manufacture or production of my supplies until their cost begins to affect their price. But if I am to have them at what labor they may Cost, then I immediately become interested in reducing that cost, by saving expenses, by preventing losses, by contributing whatever I can to make the labor as light and as agreeable as possible, and in doing this for my own private interest, I benefit equally every other receiver of the goods; each of whom doing the same for themselves, would benefit me and all the rest, and “each would work for all, and all for each.” The same with nations as with individuals. Thus does simple Equity outstrip all the cunning expedients of man, and solve for him the great problem of co-operation instead of antagonism—harmonizes the interest of the individual with those of the public, and lays the true foundation for the Brotherhood of mankind.

Would Equity neutralize the destructive action of competition and leave all its harmless or beneficial features untouched?

If two nations or two individuals are engaged in the same business, as there are no limits fixed to the prices of their products, it becomes the interest of each to break the other down, to monopolize the trade, and have the whole control of the business and the prices. In Equitable Commerce, the Cost of the labor bestowed being the limit of price, no extra profit could be obtained by breaking down a competitor, and the antagonism is neutralized.

At one of the Equitable stores some shoes were offered to the keeper at twelve cents less than they could be made for; but as every thing was sold for Cost, the keeper was not interested in assisting to grind down prices, but paid the customary price. It may be said, that the cheaper he sold the more custom he would get, but he has no object in getting any more custom than will employ his time; for, whenever it should become necessary to employ a clerk, on the principle of Equivalents he would have the whole proceeds of his labor—his employer would desire no profit from him; and thus the motive to monopoly is neutralized.

A Mr. C. offered a hogshead of sugar to the keeper so far under the ordinary price, that he would have lost five or six dollars, but strong necessity urged him, and he could do no better. Had the keeper of the store sold goods in the common way, his pocket would have prompted him to have taken advantage of the owner’s necessity, and have taken the sugar at his offer; but as it was to be sold at Cost, he was not interested in taking this advantage, and therefore paid him the market price. Thus did Equity neutralize that antagonism which would have oppressed the owner of the sugar, and have given the keeper the power to undersell his competitors in sugar which would, in turn perhaps, have induced retaliation on some article in order to keep their customers, &c., &c. But this destructive action was neutralized, while, at the same time, the same Equitable principle was acting with tremendous and irresistible competitive power in compelling all surrounding capital employed in the same business to limit its demands to the level established by Equity. But this was all harmless and beneficial to the public.

If I set up an Equitable store, boarding-house, or any other establishment, and do not conduct it Equitably, the remedy is in that competition based on Equity which would expose and supplant me.

A destructive competition often arises between those of the same business, when there are too many in it to find employment. If they have been induced to crowd into that business beyond the demand, for the sake of great returns for little labor, or to escape abused labor at starvation prices, the remedy is in Equivalents, and nothing but Equivalents for all. If they are driven into that business, because being bred to it, they think of no other, or cannot get access to any other, the remedy is in acquiring a new business which is indemand,” and Equity opens the door to all businesses at the Cost of acquiring and communicating the knowledge.

Does Equity make machinery work for the working classes instead of against them?

If the workmen were paid in Equivalent labor for their labor, and if the products of machinery were priced at the cost of the labor in them, and an Equivalent in labor demanded for them, none but those who labored could get them, and machinery would work exclusively for the working classes. If money in any quantity should be taken for these products instead of labor, the whole subject becomes involved in inextricable confusion. No quantity of money as now known and used can be shown to be an Equitable compensation for any given quantity of labor. Therefore, in Equitable Commerce we keep money entirely by itself; paying in money for that which is purchased with money, dollar for dollar, but not labor for dollars. For instance, the price of a certain kind of shoes is 22 cents in money (for the materials) and five hours Equivalent labor. When we make the materials instead of purchasing them with money, then the price of the shoes would consist altogether of labor; and thus by degrees we may get rid of money altogether.

This is the mode or institution proposed, but it is also proposed that those who act in it should be “above the institution”—free to make any exceptions to the rules, which may, in their opinion, be necessary for their convenience; for, in a progressive stage, many will find it necessary sometimes to sell their labor for money, in order to procure those things which we cannot, at first, produce within the circle of Equitable exchanges.

[To be continued.]


New Harmony, (Indiana,) Oct. 5, 1849.

  • [notice], Boston Investigator 19 no. 29 (November 21, 1849): 3.
  • Josiah Warren, “Equitable Commerce. No. IV,” Boston Investigator 19 no. 29 (November 21, 1849): 4.

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1849 was an important year in the development of the movement for equitable commerce. It saw the publication of the second edition of Josiah Warren’s Equitable Commerce: A New Development of Principles for the Harmoneous Adjustment and Regulation of the Pecuniary, Intellectual, and Moral Intercourse of Mankind, Proposed as Elements of New Society (Utopia, Ohio: Amos E. Senter.) But it was also a year during which Warren spent a great deal of time in and around Boston, addressing the People’s Sunday Meetings week after week. The material collected here is drawn primarily from the Boston Investigator, which followed Warren’s campaign closely.


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Independent scholar, translator and archivist.