Joshua King Ingalls in “The American Socialist” (1877)

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  • Joshua King Ingalls, “More About the Liberal Club,” The American Socialist 2 no. 21 (May 24, 1877): 163.
  • Joshua King Ingalls, “The Wage Question,” The American Socialist 2 no. 38 (September 20, 1877): 298.
  • Editor, “Reply To Mr. Ingalls,” The American Socialist 2 no. 38 (September 20, 1877): 300.
  • Samuel Leavitt, “A Hotel and Cottage Association,” The American Socialist, Jan 31, 1878; 3, 5.

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New York, May 4, 1877.

EDITOR AMERICAN SOCIALIST:—Your intimation that the readers of your journal could bear a stronger light on what was deemed a dissolution of the N. Y. Liberal Club, induces me, who have been a member almost from the foundation of the Club, to offer a few words. However correct your previous correspondents may have been in particulars, the general truth of the question cannot be communicated in any such flippant manner.

The Club was organized some seven or eight years ago, by an effort at union among the various shades of Liberalism; represented by well-known persons from one sect of the Positivist school, by others from the ranks of Spiritualism, Free Religion, Free Thinkers, and the skeptical world generally. The progressive Hebrew was represented here as well as the ultra liberal Christian.

While friendly toleration prevailed, it answered well the purposes of a Lyceum, and many able papers have been read there, on almost every subject of science, art, literature, etc., including ethics, politics and economics. Not as much can be said for the discussions which generally followed the reading of such papers. In these, each section generally mounted its hobby, and rode it, gloriously oblivious to its relation to the subject presented, and of the points made by other parties, unless there was an opportunity for personal or sectional hits. On the whole, however, the Club has done good service in “the agitation of thought,” and would have continued useful, but for the development of personal antipathies. These were mixed to a certain extent with sectional, perhaps I should say, sectarian strife. Veil it as we may, the genuine bigot is as often found among unbelievers as believers, and the disciple of the development theory, or of the no-soul or no-God hypothesis, is often as impatient of contradiction, and intolerant of “invasive thought,” as any Catholic or Calvinist.

Allowing much for the desire for orderly methods of investigation, which doubtless actuates the section of Positivists, to which I have referred, there is still manifest a tendency to methodological despotism, not only incompatible with the desultory debates that often enlivened, if they did not enlighten, the audiences; but which would seek, by intellectual “bull-dozing,” to discourage all reflection not consisting of induction from positive knowledge.

As the names of Prof. Wilcox and T. B. Wakeman have been mentioned, I trust I shall be guilty of no discourtesy in alluding to them. The former, though chivalric, is somewhat of a martinet in parliamentary discipline, and proved quite a “thorn in the side” of Ormsby. He also disgusted Mr. Wakeman, the leading mind of the dissenting Positivist school, and who care nothing of parliamentary law, but only for the “three stages” and the “relativity of all knowledge,” and knows no rights but only duties. The explosion proceeded from these conditions; the caucus which nominated Mr. Sterne, and the question of moving or not moving to a new hall only being the occasion of the rupture. To blame one party or another seems to me unreasonable. It is a pity they could not have gone on together; but as they could not, let them do the next best thing, pursue their separate courses without rancor.

With the exception of the Positivists to whom I have referred, there is no real partisan significance in the disruption. The extreme free-thinkers are about equally divided between the new and the old Club. Liberal Religionists and Spiritualists go with each division, and but that their meetings are held on the same evenings, large numbers would attend both meetings; which, indeed, are well and respectably attended. The friends of free thought need not be alarmed, nor its enemies be elated with the idea that Liberalism will die because the Club has become divided.



New York, Sept. 10, 1877.

Editor American Socialist:—I am tempted by the leading article of your paper for Aug. 30th to say a word upon a subject of deep interest. Hall truths are a most prolific source of error. This is the trouble with our political economists, when they attempt to treat of the labor question. An important factor is invariably omitted, namely, the relation of the worker to the thing produced.

I find no fault with the Shakers or others who employ hireling labor, put out money to usury, or profit by any other method of advantage-taking. As a means of protection to themselves against the destructive competition of the business world, or as a means to hasten the adoption of Communism, it is perhaps excusable; but as a principle, it has no shadow of defense; and if “Labor Reform agitators” regard it as a violation of the principles professed by Communists, they compliment the principles, though they may not do entire justice to the practices.

Whether it is an “injury or a benefit to the laborer to be hired and paid liberal wages,” is very wide of the real question. If a benefit is the immediate result, it would to that extent be an encouragement to remain in that false and immoral relation, and put off, rather than promote, a salutary change. Plainly, it is a question of principle, about which there need be no more obfuscation, by special pleading, than as to whether any other form of wrong-taking was right.

Communists certainly can not contend that the control of wealth may be properly taken from the producer. So far as I am informed, every successful Community has guarded it with scrupulous care: on the ground unquestionably, that it belongs to the Community producing it. That they generously share with poorer Communities (of their order) is true, and even to some extent with the world’s poor. But as to the fact of en active and vigilant control, there can be no question. Have they then settled the labor question, or only ignored it? Would an able-bodied member be justly entitled to share in the results of the combined labor, who persisted in idleness? Are not all the comforts, enjoyments and refinements of life the result of faithful work and earnest endeavor? If so, ho has no claim in or out of Community, who will not when capable reciprocate the service he requires. Doing unto others as we would have others do to us is the ground-work of the Christian principle. “He that will not work, neither shall he eat,” is good Scripture.

Since all wealth is derived from work, ho who would seek wealth or the enjoyment of it without work is consciously or unconsciously plotting to rob the worker of what he has produced. Our present system of trade being but a modification of the brigandage and piracy of earlier times, still sanctions practices of the vilest rapacity. It is therefore difficult for the individual, and even for a small Community, to follow principle in dealing with the world. On this ground and no other can 3. even arouse myself in acquiring profit from hireling labor, whether directly or by indirect methods, as of rents, usance or other devices. And now I can not see any different principle, whether these things are done by an individual or a Community. I acknowledge and deplore these false conditions, end will do all in my power to promote a public sentiment which will make Christian honesty possible.

The statement in regard to the Oneida Community and its employees is exceedingly interesting, but is far from conclusive. In the partnership with which I am familiar it happens that the three partners (Communists in business matters) with their families number nearly the same as the men and boys they employ in their factory. Yet if the families of the employees were also counted they would number at least three times as many. It further appears that for three or four years peat the amounts divided between these partners as profits has in each year been nearly the same as the amount paid in wages.

Now businesses are not all alike profitable, and the proportion of employers to employees varies widely in different branches and instances. But I am satisfied from a long examination of the subject, and from such statistics as are available, that from a general average of all successful industrial operations a very similar result would be shown. In the case of the O. C., it is not stated whether the one-half shared by the Community represents net profits after compensation to such work as has been done by members of the Community has been made. If so, the statement might mislead: since the employees have the whole cost of their own support and of those dependent on them, to be deducted from their share.

That the practice of a Community is excusable in this respect as that of an individual, or of an ordinary partnership would be, is not questioned. But it would be difficult, I think, to show that it involves a different principle, or is more just or liberal. During the last four years of depression, the firm to which I have alluded has constantly paid wages far in advance of what labor could have obtained if the rule of competing rates had been strictly applied, and the same could be said of thousands of employers all over the country. But all this does not prove the wage system any the less cruel or unjust, only that most men in or out of Community are too humane to take full advantage of it.

I wish to say a word with regard to the quotation from Mr. Nordhoff. I have never supposed there was any “necessary and natural antagonism between labor and capital;” hut when asked to infer thence that capital can not be used to distress the industrious poor, the “ignorance,” if any, is betrayed on the other side. We are compelled to conclude that he is ignorant that capital has been employed to furnish manacles for slaves, and ships to transport them to bondage in a strange land; that it is employed to-day in corrupting legislators, forming credit mobiliers, in plundering the impoverished workers of their right to land and home, and in every system of stock-gambling and corporate monopoly which greed can devise. In order that capital may be serviceable “to the whole mass of those who have no capital,” it is not only necessary that it should be employed, but honestly employed. When used to promote “wicked, wasteful war,” or to “corner” faith-fail industry, monopolize the land (industry’s only resource), or organize raids upon the earnings of labor, It is made a fearful instrument of wrong. “Hiding in en old stocking or in the ground,” can do labor little harm, theoretically. To be of service, it must be used in no such way as to exploit from work a moiety of its productions. Such use is not honest, but dishonest in the last degree. That the adoption of honesty in our useful industries, end a reciprocal system of exchange, would unfold a grand and universal cooperative movement, seems so clear to me, that if permitted I may sometime try and make it clear to your readers.

J. K. Ingalls.


WE publish this week a letter from Mr. J. K. Ingalls, in which he criticizes the attitude of the Communities on the Labor Question, a set forth in our issue of August 30th. He entirely ignores the first part of our argument, in which it was shown that within the Communities themselves, which comprise an average slice of the general population, there is no distinction of classes into rich and poor, but all share equally in the benefits of wealth. We argued that if this fact could be made universal the whole question would be setttled; but as the Communities can not compel the rest of the world to communize as they do, the next best thing for theta to do, pending that consummation, is to hire people who are benefited by a chance to earn wages. Mr. Ingalls takes the position that on principle there is “no shadow of defense” for the employment of hireling labor by the Communities, although he says that “as a means of protection to themselves against the destructive competition of the business world, or as a means to hasten the adoption of Communism, it is, perhaps, excusable.” He afterward speaks of the relation of the hireling to his employer as a “false and immoral relation.” His idea evidently is that in a perfect state of society the hiring of one man by another will be regarded as immoral, and in this we quite agree with him. We do not believe that in Heaven one part of the people hire the other part to work for them, any more than they do within the Communities. But the society of this world is unhappily, far from having attained that perfection. Here the results of labor are exchanged by means of a system of buying and selling, of which the hiring of labor is only a part. So long as the present system holds there can be no distinction between buying labor and buying any thing else. When a person buys a hat or a pair of shoes he buys the material of which they are composed plus the labor of making them. The firm who manufacture the shoes buy the leather and the labor separately at different prices, and sell them together in the finished shoe at one price. But it is no worse, in a moral point of view, to buy labor and material separately than to buy them together, as every one must do who buys any thing whatever.

Evidently the whole system of buying and selling must be done away before the hiring of labor can be avoided. And this doing away with buying and selling is just what the Communities are preaching to the world and practicing within their own circles. On the same principle that the labor reformers condemn the buying of labor, the Communists condemn the buying of any thing. They would like to ea all property owned in common, each person equally enjoying the benefit of it, each laboring in the occupation he is best fitted for, and none laboring more than four or five hours per day. But on the ground of unavoidable accommodation, they buy of those who will go on with the buying system, and in so doing are just as free to buy labor as any thing else. It s evident enough that the rich can and do, in many cases, oppress the poor terribly under the present system of private ownership and competism; but we think the only way for the poor to escape from the oppression is to throw up selfish ownerships entirely and work together in some form of Cooperation or Communism.

We content ourselves with this general answer to Mr. Ingalls, not caring to enter into a great scattering controversy on all the points which turn up in his letter, or to go into a minute defense of our own position. We agree with nearly all that he says, it we are allowed to put our own construction upon it. For instance, the point he makes in regard to the relation of labor to production is all right to us, with the understanding that labor with the brain is as valuable and has as good rights as labor with the hands. “If a man will not work, neither shall he eat,” is a good rule; but the author of it expressly and repeatedly declared that spiritual labor entitles a man to eat, as well as manual labor. Such rules must not be taken in the narrow sense which is given to the word labor in the popular controversy between “Labor and Capital,” because it is quite likely that there is as much real labor on the side of Capital as on the other side.

Indeed, there seems to have been no need of our answering Mr. Ingalls at all; for he justifies himself, and of course justifies us, on the practical point of doing the best one can with a difficult case of conscience in the present state of things.

We are perfectly aware that the Labor Question is one on which it is very difficult to bring all classes of people to an agreement, and that consequently the discussion of it on abstract theories would never terminate, if left to run its course. What is wanted is the best practical suggestion for relieving the poor from their troubles. We have made and are making our suggestion. It is a peaceable and feasible one. Let those who criticise it, also suggest a better plan—if they can. We trust this answer will require no further debate.


New York. Jan. 22. 1878.

W. A. HINDS—Dear Sir: In answer to your questions I reply: A large number of persons were ready to join the Potomac Colony from many States. In one Ohio village alone thirty meet weekly to prepare for the undertaking. But when we in New York found that the friends at Washington were determined that the affair should be only a matter of business, we did not dare to summon our correspondents. As most of those interested had become so through us, the announcement in my paper that we had disagreed with the Washington people naturally brought the undertaking to naught. Messrs. Daniels and Durant made no effort to keep that movement up, and we formed the “Peacemaker Society,” which bides its time, but will attempt nothing hastily.

We were tempted, contrary to our better judgment, by the offer of Mr. Daniel’s place, to essay a big, sudden movement. I trust that we will not be induced again to venture on an attempt at integral association that is other than a slow, sure growth from a perfectly harmonious nucleus of persons who, while aiming practically, and secondarily, at material prosperity, make moral and spiritual growth their first consideration. Keeping this idea steadily in view, we are cautiously preparing to establish a gathering-place of progressive people near this city, which, while remaining a permanent and pleasant home for persons who do not wish to venture into integral life, will enable those who desire to form that intimate acquaintance with other Socialists which should precede the establishment of a unitary home.—to see each other eye to eye for a sufficient length of time.

The spot chosen for our “Hotel aid Cottage Association” is a tract of twenty acres called Falls Glen, situated, not as some suppose on the low lands near Plainfield, N. J., but in a sort of “happy valley,” watered by two mill-streams, hill-sheltered and abounding in beautiful scenery, both level and rugged, in that spur of the Orange mountains which presents its bold front close by the village of Scotch Plains or Fanwood, on the New Jersey Central Railroad, twenty miles from New York. This is the nearest approach of the mountains to the metropolis in that direction; and this Washington valley is famous as a place where New York and Brooklyn people who are drifting into consumption can speedily recuperate.

The land, two mill-dams (sixty horse-power when united), old mill, two dwellings, etc., are owned by that veteran associationist, Tappan Townsend, who first fixed my mind on Socialism twenty-five years ago, by his earnest advocacy of it in Spiritualistic meetings. I will not burden your readers, who are well-informed on associative methods, with minute particulars of our programme. These are given in my Eclectic and Peacemaker, copies of which will be sent to inquirers. The following items will suffice; We contemplate going only one step beyond those eminent conservatives who bought a strip of laud at Long Branch and divided it into cottage lots, except a central plot upon which they built a unitary house, where they have kitchens laundries, parlors, billiard and smoking rooms, etc., for the use of the lot-holders. The only striking feature we will add will be suites of rooms in the central buildings for those who prefer such to cottages. One-third of the plot will be reserved for Cooperative uses, including a union store and stables. The rest will be in cottage lots, the owners of which will be free to use and sell them at will, subject to no more restrictions than obtain in any “village park” such as “Rutherford.” As soon as we have contributors enough to buy the place out and out including a large share retained by Mr. Townsend, we will form a Cooperative Society and bring the place and plan to the notice of the general public, by giving the facts to the papers. Meanwhile we want a few more subscribers to the original purchase. The place is very cheap. It would be useless for us to disclaim any speculative object in this connection. Those at least who know J. K. Ingalls will be assured that while he is a principal figure in the movement speculation will be absent. Visitors to the city will find Messrs. Wood and Holbrook of the Hygienic Hotel well informed about this movement. And by the way, and finally, a “Sanitarium” is among the proposed features.

Yours etc.,



About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.