Mutualist Townships: Albert Brisbane and J. K. Ingalls (1849–1850)

In early 1850, The Spirit of the Age featured two proposals for a “mutualist township.” One, by Joshua King Ingalls, was a practical follow-up to his “Method of Transition.” The other was by Albert Brisbane, the well-known popularizer of Charles Fourier. Brisbane was also an acquaintance of Proudhon, having visited him in prison in France. In this sense, Brisbane had the most direct connection to the French mutualist tradition of any of the American writers in 1850. Greene would eventually meet Proudhon, later in the 1850s.

What follows is, in a sense, Brisbane’s mutualist resumé, including his account of his visits to Proudhon, from his Mental Autobiography, and the “mutualist township” proposals from The Spirit of the Age, with Brisbane’s articles followed by Joshua King Ingalls’ and an additional response from “M.”

  • Albert Brisbane, “The Mutualist Township,” The Spirit of the Age 2 no. 12 (March 23, 1850): 179–193; 2 no. 13 (March 30, 1850): 200–202.
  • J. K. Ingalls, “A Practical Movement for Transition,” The Spirit of the Age 2 no. 13 (March 30, 1850): 202–204.
  • M., “Mutualist Township,” The Spirit of the Age 2 no. 16 (April 20, 1850): 250.

[from Albert Brisbane: A Mental Biography, pages 292–294]

Proudhon, one of the boldest and most original thinkers of France, was among the habitués of that time. He was then editing “La Voix du Peuple,” which had a circulation of some 200,000, and endeavoring to convince the upper classes, as well as the masses, that the real cause of the existing troubles was the usurpation and monopoly of the landed property with the capital and credit institutions of the country by the bourgeoisie. He advocated a new theory of political economy: the supremacy of labor, of industrial rights, of justice and equality in the great domain of production, exchange and credit; and, attacking the old system of political economy, he showed the false principles on which it rests, namely: the supremacy of capital (the creation of labor) over labor; the rights of property based on conquest or usurpation, and the sanctioning of the wages system as the normal state of industry. These ideas were very new to the masses of the people, and to the democratic leaders as well. They made their way but slowly. It was Proudhon, however, who really began in France the advocacy of what may be called the political economy of labor—or modem Socialism. He meditated a complete change in the credit system—one of his leading ideas being to reform the Bank of France and render it a national bank, securing credit to ail who could give reliable security.
I knew Proudhon very well, and had frequent conversations with him on the currency question. I used to visit him at Mazas, the prison in which political miscreants were detained at that time. For having written disrespectfully of the conservatives in office, the reactionary government had arraigned Proudhon and condemned him to several months’ imprisonment.
I would like to say just here that the manner of treating political prisoners in France presents a marked contrast with the way in which the same class of offenders are treated in England. The prisoners at Mazas had clean, airy rooms, where their friends were allowed to visit them, and in every respect their treatment differed from that of the ordinary malefactor; whereas, in England no distinction is made between crimes of an intellectual and a moral character—except occasionally where the culprit happens to be a wealthy and influential person. On the occasions of my visits to Mazas I was courteously received by the officials and allowed free intercourse with their prisoner, whom I found located in a large, comfortable room, opening on a pleasant corridor overlooking the court. He received his meals from outside, and any other thing contributing to his comfort sent in by bis friend: his punishment, consequently, was scarcely more than forced seclusion.
In this prison I used to discuss the money question with Proudhon by the hour. It is very rarely that one finds a mind capable of handling the complex question of Credit; but when it shall be better understood and scientifically dealt with, governments will bring about more beneficent results in the commercial and industrial life of nations. I was glad to find that Proudhon and I agreed perfectly as to its principles, which in our opinion could be applied practically in various ways, even in the present state of society. Proudhon combined great clearness of insight and intellectual power with firmness of character. He was a man who feared nothing, and who was endowed with immense moral energy. lie endeavored to call the attention of France to economic reforms, but his vigorous propaganda was only dimly comprehended by the people, and did not, consequently exercise any great influence.

For the Spirit of the Age.



Under this title, I propose a new Organization of the Township, in which the great and beneficent principle of Mutualism will be introduced.

By Mutualism I understand; reciprocity of services, combination in general or collective interests, and cooperation in the higher branches of Industry.

This principle of Mutualism has been applied to Insurance against fire, in which it has been found highly advantageous. It can be applied, and with still greater advantage, to other departments, to the general business and industrial operations of an agricultural and manufacturing township.

The Mutualist principle is also to be found in the Odd Fellows’ Order, and other societies of the kind, and in the commercial reform now in progress in New England, known under the name of Protective Unions.

This great principle is applicable to Commerce, to Credit, (exchanges of products on time,) to Insurance—of crops as well as houses, to various branches of labor susceptible of joint prosecution, to building, &c.

If a body of intelligent farmers and mechanics would unite and found a Mutualist Township, I estimate that they could increase thereby two-fold their prosperity, and augment greatly the sources of their moral and intellectual happiness. It would be most advantageous to our Farmers emigrating to, and settling in the new regions of the West. It would offer them incalculable advantages over the present individual, isolated, disjointed system of emigration and settlement. It would prevent a majority of the evils now attendant upon settlement in new countries, and render such settlement comparatively easy.

A Mutualist Township could be founded in two ways. 1st. By a band of reformers who wish to escape the poverty, anxiety and competional conflicts of our great cities and our populous agricultural districts.

2nd. By a body of Farmers and Mechanics intending n to emigrate to the West, and desirous of avoiding the evils and dangers of isolated emigration, such as unhealthy locations, deception and frauds in the purchase of lands, want of school, of society, of places of religious worship, and other drawbacks on new settlements.

Let us give a general outline of the plan of a Mutualist Township, as it could be carried out by either of these two classes of men.


The proper number of families would be about eighty—sixty farmers and twenty mechanics. The number could be increased or diminished without essentially affecting the plan. Twenty or thirty farmers, and half a dozen mechanics could found a township on the principle proposed: they should, however, reserve space to increase the number to one hundred, for all the advantages of Mutualism cannot be secured on so reduced a scale.


Suppose there are some three or four farmers or mechanics—men of intelligence and means—living in the same neighborhood, who decide upon emigrating to the West: they could form the nucleus. Let them come together, and form a combination or a society for the purpose of carrying out the idea. The first thing they would require is a plan of operations; this I will endeavor to furnish them; it is the result of some reflection, and one which I believe to be practicable and of easy application.

Having agreed upon their plan, the individuals forming the nucleus would advertize in the papers in their part of the country, stating their plan, and inviting farmers and mechanics to join them in their project of emigration and organization of a Mutualist Township.

For such an enterprise active, industrious men—possessing some means—are necessary.

As soon as a minimum number of adhesions is obtained, say twenty, a general meeting would be held, the society organized, and the plan of operations definitely agreed upon.

If it were a band of reformers who took the initiative in the enterprise they could take the same course. Two or three capable and earnest men could form the nucleus, and draw around them the materials—the men and means —necessary to put the plan into operation.

The two primary points to be determined are—1st, the time at which each member desires to emigrate; 2nd, the amount of means which each can furnish in cash, tools, implements, merchandize, and other kinds of portable or available property.

This information once obtained, calculations could then be made as to the nature, character, and extent of the operations to be entered into.


A simultaneous emigration of all the members would not take place, but successive departures, as arrangements could be made to erect houses and locate the emigrants in their new homes.

The society would select one or two judicious men, possessing the requisite knowledge, who would be dispatched to seek for a good and healthy location. Three conditions should be observed in its choice—1st, health; 2nd, a fertile soil; 3rd, means of communicating with a good market.

How often is the isolated emigrant deceived or cheated in the selection of a location, and made to expiate by sickness or death an erroneous choice!

I will mention three regions, which I believe combine all the above conditions, together with cheapness of soil. The first is the Western shore of the Mississippi River above St. Louis; the second, Western Virginia on the Ohio River; and the third, the southern part of Louisiana, bordering on the Gulf of Mexico—the Attakapas country, west of New Orleans. This region of country, for sixty miles back from the Gulf, possesses, owing to the daily and regular sea breeze, a salubrious and healthy climate: fevers commence when you leave the range of the gulf breeze; this region is fertile, and is one of the finest in the United States.

Let us suppose the location chosen and purchased. The next step to be taken is to prepare the tract or domain for the reception of the emigrants. The society would select a corps of mechanics—masons and carpenters—under the direction of a competent business man, who would proceed to the tract and commence erecting buildings.

Plans of houses would be made by a skilful architect and the members would make a selection, guided by their tastes and means. The houses of the members would be erected in the order of their emigration. An individual could reserve his town lot or farm, and wait for two, three or four years before leaving.

Each member would pay for his own house; there would be no mingling of interests and accounts. The means of the members, let me add, would not be put into a common fund, but each would retain possession and entire control of his own property.

Each person could build separately, without any concert with the others, if he wished; but the society, by concert of action and the application of proper business talent, could construct much cheaper than the individual, and combination in building operations would, to a certain extent, be entered into. Arrangements could be made, for example, to buy materials in common, to have a brickyard and burn the brick on the spot, and to raise a fund to support the mechanics while engaged on the work, paying them the balance at a future day, or in such property as the members could dispose of.

As fast as the houses were erected, the members would emigrate and take possession of their new homes. It would, of course, require some months of preparation, after the formation of the society, before the first squad of emigrants could leave.

The immense advantages of a concerted and combined system of emigration, such as is here proposed, will be readily understood by the thinking mind. The members will avoid—1st, frauds and deceptions in the purchase of lands; 2nd, unhealthy locations; 3rd, poor soil; 4th, badly or ignorantly constructed houses, which are often the cause, in new countries, of fevers; 5th, the disadvantages of isolation, such as want of schools, want of aid in cases of sickness, want of society, and so forth; 6th, separation from friends. On the other hand, they will enjoy all the opposite advantages, together with those growing out of the system of Mutualism, which I will proceed to describe.

I have pointed out the manner in which the society could be formed and the emigration organized. I will now explain the organization of the Township itself.


Calculated for sixty farming families and twenty mechanics.

A tract of land containing from five to six thousand acres lying in a body and forming as nearly as possible a square, would be purchased; it would form the domain of the township. This would allow to each farming family nearly one hundred acres, which is more than is necessary with a good system of cultivation; but reservations would be made for the admission of a certain number of additional members.

This tract would be about three miles square—the quarter of a township; it should not be much larger, for the residences of the members being, under the mutualist system, concentrated around a central square, the distance otherwise would be too great to the boundaries of the domain.

In our individualist townships the land is divided in an irregular manner; the houses are scattered incoherently over it, and the inhabitants live separately and isolatedly, with few ties or relations with each other. A different system is to be adopted in the Mutualist Township. The domain would be laid out in a regular manner, as if it were the property of a single individual. The roads and to avenues passing through it would be distributed with a view to facilitate general relations, and place all parts in easy communication, and the farms would be located symmetrically on them, in a way to be the most accessible possible from the center.

In the center of the township, a large square, containing about fifty acres, would be laid out. Here would be the central point or focus of life, and of all general operations. Around it would be located the houses of the inhabitants; in the center would be erected the public edifices;—a Mechanics’ Hall, or a large building with workshops, large and small, for the mechanics; the church and school-house; and a commodious building containing a counting-room, a store, store-rooms, a council hall, a hall for public meetings, a place for social unions and festives, and an inn for the accommodation of travelers.

Before entering into details let us distinguish the branches of Industry, and the interests to which the principle of Mutualism will be applied.

Mutualism and reciprocity can be applied to those branches of business and labor which are of a general character, which do not require the close association of the members, which do not interfere with private life and interests, and with private enterprize. Mutualism would not be introduced, for example, into households or domestic life. Each family would have its separate house, with its domestic interests and affairs distinct and under its own control. But Mutualism could be introduced, for example, into commercial operations. The members could have a common store, buy their goods at wholesale, and sell them at cost price, thus saving the intermediate profits besides the frauds of the present commercial system.

Each farmer would have his separate farm, which he would cultivate as he judged proper, responsible for the amount of his production. Cooperation would not be introduced into this department, at least until sufficient experience in other branches had been obtained. But the farmers of the township could unite in obtaining threshing machines, cider presses, and other agricultural machinery.

Mutualism could be applied to such general matters without interfering in the least with individual liberty or private enterprise, but on the contrary, facilitating them essentially.

Each farmer would manage his own private affairs, those of production among others, but he could combine with the other farmers of his township in the sale of his products. They could have a general store-house and granary on the domain, and an agent in the neighboring city to attend to their sales and purchases.

Each mechanic would have his own workshop, and would ca carry on his branch of industry as at present, but the 20 mechanics could unite and construct a commodious edifice—a Mechanics’ Hall, in which they could have rooms at much less expense and with far greater convenience than in to separate workshops.

Let us lay down the principle that Mutualism will be applied to industrial operations, but not to domestic life and to operations only of a general nature, which are susceptible of combination, and which do not interfere with individual responsibility, enterprise, and freedom of action.

The following are the principal branches in which Mutualism can be introduced:—

Commerce, or sales and purchases.

Exchanges of products between farmers and mechanics.

Credit, or exchanges of products on time.

Public workshops.

Public buildings.

Granaries, stables, and barns.

Agricultural machinery.


Fencing, ditching, and draining.

Herds of cattle and horses; flocks of sheep.

Baking and Washing.

The dairy.

Minor branches of industry, like the raising of poultry, the care of bees, &c.

Let us explain briefly the organization of these elements of the township, preluding with a few remarks on the dwellings.


The houses of the members would not be scattered irregularly over the domain, but concentrated and located around the central square or public place, so as to facilitate communications and public relations. There should be a general unity, though not monotony, in their architecture, and a general symmetry in their distribution. The township should present at its center the appearance of a beautiful village, in which a much higher degree of taste would be evinced than in our present villages. To each house would be attached a piece of land containing from two to five acres, which would form the garden of the family.

This concentration of houses around the public square is important in so many respects, that it is to be particularly recommended to those who wish to organize a Mutualist Township. The farmers would go from their houses to their farms, extending from the public square to the limits of the domain. This may appear too great an inovation at first sight, but when the reader understands the mutualist system of granaries, stables, teams, and agricultural machinery, he will see that any apparent difficulties are overcome.

Each farmer would have, as was stated, his separate farm, which he would cultivate as he judged proper. Mutualism in cultivation, or joint-agricultural orations, could not be attempted, at least in the beginning. It is true that at a later period the members might unite their farms, and introduce a joint system of agriculture; but in this case agricultural labor would have to be systematically organized, which would be too difficult an undertaking in the outset. Let us not therefore undertake to apply Mutualism to cultivation, at least in the foundation of the township.


The members would organize commercial operations so as to avoid the enormous intermediate profits now paid to commerce, and escape the speculations, extortions and frauds practiced by the trading on the producing classes. The labor of the latter would net them one-third more, if they organized exchanges, that is, purchases and sales, properly.

The township would have its store, under the supervision of the Industrial Council. A proper person employed as commercial agent would attend to purchases and sales, and take the place of three or four merchants, and a dozen clerks under the present system. This agent would be paid a fair price for his services, and not allowed to speculate on the community, like our irresponsible merchants.

Stocks of goods would be laid in twice a year, purchased wholesale at the lowest cash prices, and sold at cost, transportation added, to the members. The Commercial Protective Unions of New England demonstrate the practicability of this system.

The farmers and mechanics of the township would exchange their products without any intermediate profit, and make advances to each other of the same, that is, give credit to each other reciprocally.

Credit stripped of the complication now connected with it, is simply an exchange of products on time, that is, an exchange in which one of the products is created and delivered before the other.

There will be no real prosperity for any country until agriculture and manufacture are combined in the same locality. The Mutualist township would effect to a certain extent this desired end, and secure to the members the advantages of such a combination.


The 20 mechanics, instead of building 20 separate workshops, would construct a commodious edifice for their operations with 20 or more rooms for the different branches of work. It would cost less, besides affording far greater facilities for work, particularly as regards power, which they could not obtain in small workshops. A steam engine would furnish the necessary power for all the mechanical operations of the township. With the waste steam the building could be warmed, thus saving fuel and avoiding the danger of fire This edifice could be located on one side of the public square; it would be surrounded by trees, and would form one of the architectural ornaments of the village.

The property in it would be represented by stock, divided into shares; each mechanic would own stock sufficient to represent his workshop, or his share of the building. This stock he would sell as he now would a house or a piece of land. The mechanics should not rent, but should own the building. The rental system is ruinous in the end to the producer, and should be avoided in the Mutualist township.


In the center of the public square would be erected what we may call the Township Hall, with the Mechanics Hall on one side and the Church and School-house on the other. It would be the point where all the business transactions of the township would take place, and all operations of a mutualist character regulated. It would contain the store, the ware-rooms for the deposit of the products of the place, which were destined to be exchanged between the inhabitants or sold on the spot to strangers, a Council room, a hall for public meetings, a place for public amusements, and a small inn for the accommodation of travelers.

The Industrial Council, elected by the inhabitants and entrusted with the general regulation of the industrial affairs of a mutualist character, would hold its meetings here.


I have now to propose an innovation which will conflict to some extent with present habits, and consequently present prejudices, but it is too important to pass it over for this reason; I would call the particular attention of the farmers to it. It will save them over one-half the labor and expense now necessary in the care of teams and cattle, and will free them from being, what so many farmers now are, the body servants of their horses and oxen. It will also save the necessity of fencing, so enormous an expense at present.

Sixty farmers require at present 60 barns and stables, 120 teams, and 200 to 300 cows. The labor of taking, care of these barns, stables, teams, and cattle separately is immense; it is one of the greatest drawbacks on agriculture. The farmer has but little time to devote to high farming, and to the acquisition of knowledge necessary to a scientific prosecution of his business; he is absorbed in the grosser labors of the farm. The mutualist system applied to the care of animals will avoid all this, and open a new life to the farmer, and a new era in farming. A few extensive barns, stables, and granaries, properly located would take the place of the 60 separate, inconvenient, and generally badly constructed barns and stables necessary under the present system. Here would be united and concentrated all the teams, cattle and agricultural machinery of the township. These buildings would be erected at the joint expense of the farmers, each of whom would furnish in cash products or labor, his share toward their construction. (It is possible that one range of rural buildings centrally located, may be made to answer all purposes; a few large barns only would then be scattered over the domain. This is a matter for the farmers to decide upon, guided by the best experience.)

Instead of 120 teams, 60 would answer the purpose,—and if of a superior quality, and well taken care of, they would do more really effective work than 120 ordinary teams now do. Half the number necessary under the present system would be sufficient in the mutualist township, because all agricultural operations—plowing, harvesting, &c.—could be so combined as to avoid complication and waste of time. One hundred and fifty cows of a superior breed, and well taken care of, would give more milk than 300 of our ordinary cows, often miserably neglected. An economy of 50 per cent in teams and cattle, and a further economy of nearly as much in taking care of them, will reduce to a mere trifle comparatively, the labor now spent in the care of animals,—which makes animals of men.

The teams and stables would be taken care of by a body or group of persons who would volunteer to do the work, and who would be paid fairly for their labor: they could earn as much in this department as in any other. The sons of the farmer, and even of the mechanics,—young people who are generally fond of horses—would be naturally attached to this kind of work: it would be open to all. The farmers themselves would often take part in it, and pay in labor for the use of the teams they employed.

The farmers would hire teams to do their plowing &c. The rates charged would be sufficient to cover the expense of keeping the animals, and the wear and tear; no more. It would be cheaper than to keep teams of their own. The farmers would pay for the use of the teams in cash, in products,—hay, oats, and corn,—or in labor at the stables.

The same system would be applied to the care of the granaries and barns. A certain number of persons having a taste for the work, or wishing occupation, would combine and devote themselves to it, receiving the current rate of wages for their labor.

The farmers would draw their grain directly from the fields to the granaries; it. would be thrashed out and would remain without further molestation until sold. All other products,—hay, hemp, peas, beans, &c.—would be transported direct from the farms to the general barns and granaries. The farmers would order their products sold at such times as they judged proper. They would be guided in their decisions by the advice of the Industrial Council and the commercial agent.

Let the reader reflect on the numerous advantage$ which such a system of combination in teams and stables, granaries and storage would secure to the farmers of a township, and he will be convinced that it would be a most desirable innovation I consider it one of the most important improvements connected with the mutualist township. Besides its economies and other material advantages, it would possess one still greater—a moral advantage, that of elevating the farmer above parasitic farm drudgery, and of securing him the time for mental culture.


Threshing machines, plowing, reaping, mowing, and raking machines, and other agricultural machinery of a labor-saving character, would be procured by the town hip, and placed within the reach of all the members. In connection with this subject I will mention that the members would exchange labor with each other. A farmer, if he wished, could obtain the aid of a dozen others, and with good teams and with labor-saving machinery, they would do as much work in one day as he, working alone, could do in twenty, or perhaps thirty. In these exchanges exact accounts will be kept, so that in the end none will be losers, but all gainers thereby.


This is a source of great expense, constant care, and a vast amount of hard labor to the farmer in our individualist townships. It is a kind of labor which is not in itself necessary, like plowing or reaping; it grows out of the defects of our general agricultural system, and is to be classed among the parasitic work belonging to that system. With the aid of the combined stables, barns, and teams, all internal fences will be unnecessary. The cattle will be kept up, or within certain enclosures.

(To be Continued.)





The township would have a common Oven, to which the families could send their bread to be baked. This would save 80 ovens and 80 heatings, a vast deal of useless labor and trouble to 80 housekeepers, and in addition, badly baked bread three times out of five.

A convenient and commodious Wash-house should also be established; here the different families could resort to do their washing, avoiding by this means the dreary recurrence of wash-day at home; or the washing could be done by a group of women, paid at a fair rate for their labor. In either case the most perfect machinery for washing, pressing, drying, crimping, and ironing, should be introduced; the drudgery attendant upon this branch of work could be abridged one-half or two-thirds, and toil and sickness— particularly in winter—avoided to the wives and daughters of the members.


It is a matter of utmost importance to secure regular and profitable employment at all times to all the members of the township. A vast deal of time is lost by our farming population under the present system; the sons and daughters of the farmers, so often without proper spheres of activity on the farms, are reduced to idleness, or forced to leave the homestead for other fields of exertion. Let us guard against this, against the thoughtless and idle life, so common in the country, especially in the winter months. Let us organize certain branches of Industry, so as to open a profitable field of employment for all the members of the township, who otherwise might be idle.

What are the branches of labor that can be prosecuted in common?

The care of herds and flocks, the dairy, the raising of poultry, care of bees, besides those already mentioned.

Members wishing to engage in these pursuits would form companies or groups, each of which would take charge of one of these branches.


Let us suppose that forty young women agree to engage in dairying. Au extensive dairy would be constructed, in which nearly all the operations of the township in this line could be concentrated. It would be built, like the granaries, by the members collectively, each furnishing cash, products, or labor according to his choice, to be repaid in installments out of the earnings of the concern

The members of the company or group—and what I say of this group applies to all others—would introduce a systematic division into the work; one or more persons would take charge of a detail, for the proper execution of which they would be responsible. Each member would be paid according to the time she worked, and according to the value of the work, estimated by the skill or difficulty required in its execution. A member who worked one hundred days would receive twice as much as one who worked but fifty, provided their labor belonged to the same category, or was considered of equal difficulty.

The making and exportation of cheese and butter could be prosecuted on an extensive scale in the township, and would be a valuable source of revenue. A Mutualist operation of this kind has long been in successful operation in a part of Switzerland. The peasant of Jura, finding that the milk collected by a single family does not pay the expense of making an esteemed kind of cheese, called Gruyere, unite and bring their milk daily to a common dairy, where notes are kept of the quantity deposited by each family; from these small collections a large cheese is manufactured, which is divided pro rata among those who contributed the milk to it. The farmers of the township would, in a like manner, send their milk to the public dairy, and receive in return the value in butter and cheese, or their share of the profits when sold. Milk, in large quantities, would also be furnished by the herdsmen.


The raising of animals on a large scale would form a very important branch of operations in the township.

Certain portions of the domain, and the outskirts for the most part, would be fenced off and devoted to pasturelands for herds of horses and cattle, for sheep, and other animals if found profitable.

A group of fifteen or twenty young men, with a few experienced persons to advise them, would engage in the raising of horses; another in the raising of horned cattle, and so with the sheep and swine. In a few years extensive herds and flocks might be raised from a small beginning—from stock put in at first by the farmers.

These herds and flocks would furnish teams for all farming operations; butter, cheese, and meat to the members; hides for the tannery; wool for the cloth manufactory, besides a large surplus for external sale.

The pasture lands would be selected and reserved when the domain was first laid out; they would be collective, not individual property,—and would form part of a collective fund, the revenue of which would be devoted to purposes of public utility—schools, libraries, &c.

Farmers wishing to keep cattle, could have them taken care of by the groups of herdsmen, paying therefore a certain per centage in kind.

An extensive Apiary could be organized on the same plan, as also an extensive poultry-yard. The latter could be attended to by young persons and children combined.

The establishment of a certain number of Mutualist branches of Industry would be of so much advantage—material as well as moral—to the township, that it cannot be too strongly recommended, however much it may be out of the track of present habits.

It would be a source of profit, and a means of industrial education to the younger members of the township, who would mostly engage in those branches.

It would secure regular employment to all who wished it.

It would increase greatly the collective prosperity of the township

It would unite the interests of farming and manufactures, and combine their operations.

It would aid agriculture essentially, by furnishing an abundant supply of teams and other materials; and, by relieving the farmers from an immense amount of useless and extraneous drudgery—care of teams and cattle, fencing, &c.—which will forever prevent scientific or high a farming.


There is one more arrangement which I would recommend; it is a system of Reciprocal Services, or Exchange of Labor. The members of the township should organize a general system of mutual aid, based upon strict reciprocity and equivalence, except in cases of misfortune.

There is a great deal of labor, particularly in agriculture, which requires to be done promptly and within a given time. There are labors also, in which combination multiplies the power of each individual by that of the mass. A farmer has, for example, fields to plow; if he works alone he will spend two or three weeks of solitary labor upon them; he wishes it done in as many days. A be system of reciprocal services should be instituted whereby he could obtain the requisite amount of aid at any given time, by giving previous notice. Crops are to be harvested and gathered promptly to avoid storms and exposure; a sufficient amount of labor must be combined and concentrated at the various points where necessary, and as required.

Books would be kept open at the Township Counting-house, where would be inscribed the names:

1st. Of those members who were in want of employment, and were willing to work for others requiring it.

2nd. Of those who were willing to exchange labor with each other—aiding their neighbors to be aided in turn by sent them.

No settling of accounts would take place between members, as it would unavoidably give rise to bickerings and selfish disputes. Accounts would be settled at the Counting-house; this would take place at stated times, say the quarterly. Each individual would be credited for the labor he had performed, or debited for the labor he had received. Offsets would be made which would balance many of the accounts: balances would be paid in cash or products.


This is an important point and one in which innovation, however essential, will be difficult, owing to acquired habits and prejudices. The present tenure of the soil gives rise to great evils, and would in the Mutualist Township, if not counterpoised by proper regulations, lead to a disruption of the system.

The lands might, for example, be monopolized by a few, and population too much diminished for the operation of Mutualism; or, on the other hand, they might be cut up into too small parcels, which would produce other evils. Mortgages, foreclosures, irregular divisions of the land, and consequent incoherent distribution of the domain, would also take place—sowing the seeds of conflict and disunion.

How can these abuses, as well as the master evil of land monopoly, and speculation in land, be avoided? I will point out three methods, leaving the choice to those concerned.

1st. Represent the entire landed property of the Township by stock, divided into shares. Each person owning a share would be entitled to a farm. The farms would be laid out according to the best judgment of the founders of the township; the size and boundary lines would be decided upon and made permanent—not to be changed except by the collective consent and authority. The farmer could sell his share and leave, or he could make an exchange of farms with any other member, but he could not change the size, boundaries, or shape of the farm. The shares should be held by those only who cultivate the land; and no person could hold more than one share—that is, own more than one farm. By this means land monopoly would be avoided, and land-rents and the tenant-system rendered impossible. The farms would be originally laid out of various sizes so as to suit all wants. Industrial liberty would not be thwarted in any way by this system of stock-property, applied to the soil. The price of the shares would not vary, but would be maintained at the original cost of the land. The improvements put upon it would be sold by him who made them, at such a price as he chose to ask or could obtain.

2nd. The land might be held by trustees, and each farmer own a perpetuate lease of a farm, paying for the lease once for all, not an annual rent. This would be substantially the same as owning the land, save that certain guarantees against monopoly, necessary to the collective good, would be secured.

3rd. The farms might be held in fee-simple as at present, with this simple restriction or sales; namely, that no member could sell his land except to a landless man. If the domain were laid out originally by the founders of the township, and a maximum size agreed upon for the farms, this simple innovation might prevent land monopoly and the concentration of the soil in the hands of a few.

Let me sum up briefly the leading features of the Mutualist Township.

Each family will own its own house, manage its own domestic affairs, and live separately as at present. No innovation is proposed in the family life.

Each farmer will own his own farm, and each mechanic his own workshop, and will prosecute his branches of labor as he judges proper. Each will own the entire fruits of his industry, and will be responsible for his own failure or success.

Domestic life and the prosecution of labor would be an individual affair, and would be left in their present separate and individualist state.

All other interests, branches of business and labor would, as far as possible, be organized, prosecuted, and regulated, according to the Mutualist principle; that is, jointly and cooperatively.

Combined granaries, barns and stables would be built. Extensive agricultural machinery would be purchased jointly. Combination in purchase and sales would be introduced, and a common store would be owned by the township. A combined edifice for the workshops would be erected. Combination would be applied to baking and washing. Concert of action to fencing, ditching, draining. A system of Mutualism would be introduced into exchanges of Labor and into Credit.

Various branches of combined Industry would be organized—cattle-raising, wool-growing, the dairy, apiary, poultry-yards, &c.—which would give occupation to all those who could not find it on the farms or in the workshops.

Thus Mutualism and Cooperation—System and Organization—will be introduced into the higher and more general branches of Industry. Individual responsibility and separate prosecution will exist in branches of an individual character.

For the Spirit of the Age.


A meeting was called in New York, by the writer, on the 26th of February, to arrange preliminaries for a practical effort to change existing conditions. But a small number of those who have communicated their desire to unite, were present, the rest having signified their entire satisfaction in the principles already set forth. Those who were present, but did not propose to join personally, declined taking any formal action, although we had the benefit of their advice, and the expression (in some instances in quite a substantial form,) of their sympathies. The result has been the adoption of the accompanying Constitution, presented with a good deal of diffidence, and rather to invite criticism with a view to its improvement than as a perfected instrument. But this seemed the only way to proceed, as the persons to be practically associated with the movement are scattered over some ten states, and can never be brought together until they meet upon their common inheritance. An unassuming name has been adopted A more imposing title can be adopted when it is earned in regard to location, Western Virginia seems to present the most favorable inducements. Health, a sufficiently fertile soil, good water-power, proximity to immense, universal wealth, and steam navigation, a ready market, mild climate, &c., are secured here. Considering how important health must be to an infant Colony, this location has been thought preferable to one farther west or south, where the increased fertility of the soil is compensated by great distance from market, long winters, or liability to sickness. Several tracts, on the waters of the Henhawas, may be purchased very cheap: and if answering at all the descriptions given, will be very suitable for our enterprise. It is not proposed to purchase, however, without personal inspection. And to enable me to do this, it is necessary that I be furnished the means. About one-half the computed expense of the tour was secured in New York. A few dollars from each individual who has communicated with the writer will furnish enough to meet that expense and some others, which must be met by somebody ere we can proceed. I would request each individual so communicating to state for what sum they can be depended upon towards the purchase of the lands, between this and the coming Autumn. It is desirable that I should be enabled to go as soon as May or June. In this way, and in this way alone, can it be told who are to be depended upon, and who are not; since we are so widely separated.

With regard to qualifications of associates, it is hoped that each one will consider himself a specially-appointed committee for self-examination. Let the question be put and seriously pondered—”Am I prepared for co-operation and self-sacrifice—to be governed by a deep regard for the good of all, and not by personal interest or caprice?” Every individual is better qualified to answer this question for himself than another is for him. Let the answer in every case be frankly given, and the future action made to correspond.

There has been one difficulty of some moment in the details of our plan: the manner in which our real estate is to be held. The joint-stock principle has already been proved defective by trial. Individual property in land is open to a still greater objection, as all experience has proved, by the monopoly in the hands of wealth of man’s natural inheritance. The plan proposed in the following form seems to be the only just one, securing to all an equal right of access to the soil. With regard to its validity, legal counsel will be obtained. The measure of productiveness, from the cultivation of the soil, has been made the measure by which all other labor done for the Association shall be remunerated. This at first, perhaps, may not appear favorable to persons with trades and professions, but it seems right to us; and when it is remembered that agriculture is to be the basis of our movement, and that all, of whatever calling, must look to that ultimately for compensation, and will have to take more or less active interest in it; all objections, we think, will vanish. Every individual can be a cultivator of the soil who chooses; and if he prefers some other employment, it should be in consequence of a natural attraction for it, and not for love of gain.

The expression of interest from friends, and from persons entirely unknown to the writer, except by a spontaneous correspondence, is highly encouraging. An opportunity is now given which may test, in some respect, the foundation on which my hopes are built. Every token of encouragement will be duly acknowledged.

J. K. I.

Southington, Conn., March 6.

We, whose names are hereunto annexed, in order to establish a better system of society, ensure to labor its full award, promote the recognition of man’s rights, and the principles of reciprocal and distributive justice, and to secure the blessings of independence to ourselves and posterity, do associate and severally agree and pledge ourselves to conform to the provisions of the following:


Article 1. This Association shall be known as the Mutual Township (state and county hereafter to be inserted).

Art. 2. The object of the organization shall be the elevation of labor to a condition of independence, by the redemption, reception and improvement of lands, and the of establishment of the various branches of industry upon a basis which shall give to labor its entire products a system of practical education, and a fraternal cooperation with all movements calculated to elevate the social and if civil conditions of the industrious classes.

Art. 3. Any individual may become a member of this aft Association by signing the Constitution and contributing the SUM of FIVE DOLLARS. But to become a Resident in Member it shall be necessary to pay in the sum of TWENTY DOLLARS, towards the redemption of land, for every member of a family brought in by such member. But at the option of the Association single females and minors may be admitted without such payment.

Art. 4. All lands and property owned by the township, shall be held by a Trustee or Trustees, for the resident members as tenants in common. But individual members, as r with the general consent, may appropriate a portion of the and land not exceeding ten acres for each member of the family, and at his or her option buildings may be erected thereon and the land cultivated, for personal benefit, without rent; provided that no such premises shall be loaned be loaned or rented by such person for an income, nor be cultivated then by others for wages differing from an equitable share of the products.

Art. 5. The amount of capital which any individual (whether a resident member or not) shall invest to be controlled by the voice of the Township, shall be guaranteed or be to him or her without diminution of value, to be repaid in each stipulated installments, not to exceed the proportion of one-tenth of the whole in any one year. But no premium or such interest, or dividend to capital, shall ever, in any shape or for any pretext, be allowed; and no guarantee to capital shall be binding for a longer period than twenty years.

Art. 6. Every child belonging to the Township shall be entitled to equal opportunities of education; and if destitute, shall be supported and clothed at the public expense, without being subject to any other labor than what is required of all. And every individual who has been a resident member for one year shall be entitled to support in case of sickness and destitution. Attendance and care in sickness shall be provided for all, by a reciprocal exchange of services, without charge. But individuals cultivating the land, or engaging in any other business on individual interest, shall only be entitled to these guarantees by an equitable contribution to the funds set apart full for such object. And persons entering the Township when sickly or superannuated shall only be entitled to them by a special agreement with the association.

Art. 7. To secure these guarantees and an ultimate equalization of the capital employed by the organization, and likewise to provide for incidental expenses, authorized by the majority of resident members, a proportion of the yearly products, not exceeding one quarter of the whole, the shall be set apart from year to year to meet, as nearly as possible, the expense of these several guarantees.

Art. 8. That individuals may be secure in the event of a closing up of the business of the Association, a strict the and regular account shall be kept of all funds paid in, and the of all labor performed under the general direction, for purposes of improvement, creation of machinery, &c. An account shall be also kept of all labor, productive and remunerative, within each year. And annually, or oftener if convenient, the distribution of the annual products shall be made in a ratio determined by this latter kind of labor, his after the yearly provision is made for guarantees. The individuals performing the first kind of labor shall be paid in the same proportion, out of the division set apart for guarantees, or let their dues remain to their credit as capital to be subsequently equalized, as provided for in Article Fifth. No office or employment shall have attached to it a higher compensation than another.

Art. 9. There shall be kept a storehouse, supplied with the necessaries of life, and each resident member shall be entitled to trade at an advance, on the cost of purchase, as nearly as possible covering the expense of transportation and delivery. And to obviate the necessity for credits, and to prevent over-trading by any, the authorized agent shall award to all labor performed under the general direction weekly or monthly certificates of the amount. These shall d be received at the store, and an amount advanced upon them safely within their probable value. At the periodical settlement, the amount advanced on such certificates shall be deducted, but no charge shall be made for interest or exchange.

Art. 10. In case of disputes arising between members, or between a member and the agents of the Association, each party shall chose a person, and these two a third. These three shall decide the matter of difference; but if such arbitration is appealed from, then it shall be determined in a meeting of the members, whose decision shall be final. For grave misdemeanor members may be suspended or excluded the benefits and privileges of the Association; and any person refusing to abide the decision of the majority shall be regarded as resigning their membership. But no such action of the association shall invalidate any claim for labor or capital, which any individual may equitably possess, nor require a precipitate evacuation of premises to the inconvenience or pecuniary injury of the person.

Art. 11. After ten families shall have moved upon any tract held by the Association, and regularly associated themselves together, it shall be competent for them to elect their own Trustees, establish their offices and groups, manage their own affairs, and enact bye-laws for their own government; also to determine who shall thereafter be admitted into their organization. But in the reception of new members, preference shall be given to such as have contributed to its funds, and those who shall be recommended by organizations which sympathize with our views and objects, and cooperate in their realization. Nor shall such persons be debarred the privilege, at least, of coming upon the lands as individuals (except there are moral objections) while the domain shall exceed the proportion of forty acres to each male resident. Such organization shall be made to represent, as nearly as possible, the town, district, or other corporation in the state where located.

Art. 12. Until such actual settlement has been made and such organization formed, J. K. Ingalls shall be Trustee of this Association, and authorized to receive moneys, purchase lands, for the objects and within the limits specified, and make such arrangements as are necessary to carry the designs of this instrument into practical operation. All investments and contributions shall be receipted by him, with the express understanding and condition that he shall surrender to the first Trustees or Agents duly appointed by the resident members, all property, deeds and titles held by him in trust.

Art. 13. All persons born in the Township, or who may have come in with a parent or parents, and continuing therein, shall, on attaining the age of twenty-one years, have equal right and inheritance with the rest, and all rights, privileges, guarantees and obligations, expressed or implied, shall be understood to apply equally to persons of both sexes.

Art. 14. Amendments may be made to this Constitution by a vote of two-thirds of the resident members, present at any regular meeting of the Association, such amendment having been duly notified at a previous meeting, and provided that no such amendment shall propose to give a premium or vote to capital, or infringe on the rights and guarantees secured herein.


Mr. J. K. Ingalls.

Dear Sir.—In your article in a late number of the Spirit of the Age entitled, “A Practical Movement for Transition,” you say, speaking of the “Constitution,” which forms a part of the communication, that “it is presented … rather to invite criticism with a view to improvement than as a perfected instrument.” So, without further apology, I will make a few suggestions which may aid you in future deliberations on the subject you seem to have so much at heart.

Art. 3. Membership. The laws of the State where you locate may render it necessary to be more exclusive, confining membership or the right of voting to residents and full partners. This matter (the right of voting) should be definitely arranged before subscriptions are taken.

Art. 4 seems to me open to several serious objections. It provides for two kinds of residents; those who may cooperate and those who may cultivate a portion of the land for their “personal benefit,” which latter are to have the use of the soil rent free.

One kind of membership would be preferable; but if it is deemed advisable to have the two kinds then, I think, it would be best, and just, and equitable, to assess upon each lot of the whole domain a tax or rent according to the estimated values thereof—said rents to be paid by the individual-interest occupiers for such lots as they appropriate, and by the association on all the remainder of the domain. It should be sufficient in the total amount for all the strictly public expenditures of the Township, such as for schools, roads, tribunals, town hall, police (if any), fire department, i.e., engines, &c, representation in legislature, &c. It is not only just and equitable to tax the soil for such purposes, but it is the most feasible plan of taxation that can be devised. This tax should not be considered in the light of rent, and it does not, in any good sense, militate against the idea of free soil. The same end may be obtained by renting at public biddings or appraisal, for a term of years, with a provision in the leases that the lessee shall have the option, at the expiration of the lease, of taking the premises at the new appraisal, or of taking his chance at a new bidding; and in case he does not reoccupy, the new occupant shall lease, subject to the payment of an appraised value of the improvements belonging to the former lessee; or the township, at its option, may take the improvements and pay the owner therefor, and re-let at a correspondingly enhanced rent. The surplus of such rents, if any, after paying all public expenditures, should be divided among all the occupiers or residents upon some equitable scale or proportion. Inasmuch as this is to be a Transitional movement, I would not bind those who hire or occupy a portion of your domain not to pay wages for such occasional help as they may need.

Art. 5. In this article you propose to guarantee, without diminution of value, the re-payment of subscriptions or investments. To propose this seems to me to be unwise, fur two reasons. 1st. It may not be possible, and for some years in all probability would not be. It would be likely to lead to constitutional demands upon your resources, which you could not meet, and so to alienations and misunderstandings. 2nd. It would open wide the door fur the dissolution of the association. In all such enterprises there always are some who soon grow cold and disaffected: these, upon the first disappointment or misunderstanding, would demand that their interest should be put in process of liquidation, and should the disturbance be general the effect would be fatal. The old method of representing investments by transferable stock is unobjectionable—especially when guarded by a constitutional provision that only resident stockholders may vote, and by a condition that whenever a stockholder wishes to sell his stock he snail first offer it to the association. The provision that no Premium or Interest, or Dividend to Capital shall ever be allowed, is, I think, the most important and fundamental in the instrument. It must sooner or later underlie all social reforms.

Art. 6. Why should those who work for their individual interest participate in the guarantees specified in the previous clause of this article—no provision being made for their contribution to the guarantee fund. “An equitable contribution to the funds set apart for such object” would not be easy to determine: an attempt to arrange it would be likely to lead to difficulty. Here is another objection to the two kinds of members. If their interests are to be kept distinct in part, will it not be best to keep them as much distinct in details as possible.

Art. 7 appropriates a portion, not exceeding one quarter of the yearly products for incidental expenses, &c If the expenses actually exceed one-fourth must they not be paid? Then why limit this appropriation!

Art. 8. If I understand this article it discriminates in its awards to labor between those who have been employed in prospectively remunerative labor, and those who hare been employed in immediately remunerative labor—paying the latter at once and the former by stock or capital. This could not have been your intention. The provision that no employment shall have a higher compensation than another is manifestly unjust, inasmuch as some kinds of labor are more exhausting and repulsive than others, and should, therefore, be paid for accordingly. The only safe rule here must be based upon the fundamental principle of making the attraction proportioned to the destiny.


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