Lewis Masquerier in “The Free Enquirer” (1834)

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  • Lewis Masquerier, [Letter.] The Free Enquirer (December 7, 1834): 246.

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For the Free Enquirer.

Carthage, Hancock Co., Illinois.

Dear Sir,—I have received the Free Enquirer, and herein enclose you five dollars. I betrayed great ignorance when I wrote for it, last winter, but I had then just waked in my morn of reason, from my night of superstition; and living in these frontier regions, I was not certain that there was a liberal press in the Union. But since then, the Western Examiner in St. Louis, which I patronize, and the Free Enquirer, have informed me of the progress of liberal principles in the U. States. I find we have now seven or eight liberal papers in the United States, and I hope they all will be adequately supported. I will get as many subscribers as I can for the Free Enquirer and Examiner. There are several whole seeing, many half seeing, and a great many quarter seeing persons, in the Christian superstition, in these western regions. You may, perhaps, have seen some prose of mine signed “Palmer,” and verse signed “Vida,” in the Western Examiner, which you may think worthy of being republished in the Enquirer. I suspect that the free press is going no father than to point out the errours of the Christian religion, &c., for I see but little of the social system in it. I wish to see the whole system of error and evil presented in a body, that the whole broadside of reason may demolish it in the whole, and not by parts. Are we to struggle through centuries against the evils of religion only? No,—let us attack the whole of it,—the sooner the whole is presented, so as to be educated in the infant mind, the sooner will it be understood. It will then be more easy to see the whole than barely a part. The greater portion of errour which now governs the moral world, certainly has its origin in the very form of society, resulting from private property. I wish to see the further experiment made of the community property system, and to get good materials for it. I have been endeavoring to learn without Mr. Owen obtained a grant of land on the Rio-del-Norte, for the establishment of his independent communities, but I cannot hear, although I have written to Mr. Robert Dale Owen at New Harmony. He certainly does not live there,*—I get now answers. I have informed several persons of a suitable situation for the establishment of a social community, in the north of this State, at the mouth of Rock River, in Rock-Island County, in Lat. 41 1-2. The land there, with the exception of a few quarter sections, which could be bought, is all subject to entry at the land office in Quincy. Townships 17 north, and ranges 1 and 2 west, includes the country about the mouth of Rock River and opposite the foot of the Upper Mississippi rapids and Rock Island. This land consists of equal parts of prairie and timber, exceedingly rich and dry. Eight miles up Rock River there is a fall of water that might be easily applied to the labour-saving machinery of the society, with a fine site for the community. These two townships are being fractioned, and might be bought for 43,200 dollars. Many a single individual’s estate is adequate to its purchase; but those who amass much property seldom have a desire for anything else. My plan is to occupy a whole county with one or more of these communities; and having no other kind of folks to interrupt us, I think the state, as well as the social system government, could both exist. Mention these notions if you approve of them.

I have been suggesting to an ingenious mechanic, plans for steam, (or other power engines,) for ploughing, ditching, mowing, and reaping.—That there is a fine theatre for them upon these nature-cleared fields; that they are of vast importance for social communities; and would add to the present monopoly of mechanical, that of agricultural labour, and force mankind to think, and drive them into the community system of goods sooner, there can be no doubt.

I should like to see societies, auxiliary to the Free Enquirer society in New York, established more extensively throughout the United State. There are Free Enquirers enough, even in some very small towns, to form societies and branch libraries and book stores to that of New York. The press in New York would the increase its capital and publications, I am willing to take the field, if all our forces are rallied, to accomplish this work.

I regret to hear of the death of Mr. Cohen. The loss of such a man to the cause of truth is great. Thought Free Inquirers may differ on some points, yet it should be with good nature, and not with animosity; though Mr. Cohen certainly did not “assail” Mr. Kneeland beyond the bounds of good temper.

I am delighted with seeing the notice that is taken of the philanthropist Paine, on his birth-day. These festivals ought to be more extensively celebrated. Notice ought to be taken of all the philanthropists on their birth-days. They make the superstitious think, as much as any thing else.—Should not the friends gather all accounts and anecdotes of the life of Mr. Paine, whose principal residence was at and near New York. I have seen or heard of no regular biography of him.** The Christians have one, why should not we have one? There are certainly many persons yet living in New York, who know Mr. Paine personally, and could give accounts of him.

If, now, you should think that my “experience” is sufficient, I should like to become a member of your Free Enquirer church in New York; for according to the constitution of the Free Enquirer society, I find provision is made for the admission of members at a distance. The two dollars will do for the initiation fee. My belief is that the social system is the only true saviour of the human race, and that the only rational mode of worship is acting in obedience to the laws of human nature. Let me know, in some way, whether this reaches you.—Yours, respectfully.


* We believe that R. D. Owen is now at New Harmony.—Ed. Free Enq.

** Several lives of Thomas Paine have been published: one by W. T. Sherwin; one by Thomas Clio Rickman, and another by Richard Carlisle.—Ed. Free Enq.


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Independent scholar, translator and archivist.