3 new William B. Greene texts online

I’m nearing the finish line in my work archiving Greene’s Socialistic, Communistic, Mutualistic and Financial Fragments. The most recent additions include the Letter To The Rev. H. Foote, Minister Of King’s Chapel, which addresses the status of poor working women in the Boston area, and probably reflects the Greenes’ involvement with local labor activism and philanthropic activity. (William and Anna, as well as their daughter Elizabeth, were active in various ways addressing “the social problem” in Boston.) Appendices to this essay include Greene’s translation of St. Simon’s “Parable,” which appeared in slightly-altered form in his early currency writings, and as a straight translation in The Word, plus an excerpt from Adolphe Granier de Cassagnac’s History of the Working and Burgher Classes, which Greene discussed in the 1850 Mutual Banking. (The translation seems to be Greene’s own.)

The Address of the Internationals also appeared in the Fragments, after separate pamphlet publication in 1873. Although this was apparently a work “by divers hands,” much of the language and subject matter is very obviously Greene’s. Note that this piece was issued after the IWA had largely self-destructed, and certainly after the American individualists had been cast out from among its numbers, so it is, perhaps, less a document of the “First International” than a statement of belief in an unceasing revolutionary struggle. Understood in this way, the connections of the International with the Knights Templar and some of the more bizarre elements of the piece are more understandable. The “Preface” ends with a passage which may be familiar to some readers, as it is from the end of The Blazing Star (1872), where Greene speaks of the Paris Commune, and asserts that Paris is (potentially) a “third holy city.”

The other new Greene text in the Labyrinth is The Incarnation. A Letter To Rev. John Fiske, D.D., a theological work from 1848, which follows The Doctrine of the Trinity (1847), and continues some of its arguments. Mutualist readers should look for the bits of autobiography, the continuing attempts to incorporate the work of Pierre Leroux, engagements with the “mediatorial” Christianity of William Ellery Channing and Orestes Brownson (although by this time, Brownson was on a rather different path), etc. As the last few of Greene’s writings from the Brookfield period enter the library, it will become easier to connect the theological efforts with the more obviously mutualist writings. But let me repeat something I said with regard to the 1847 text:

Here is a fine example of the the Rev. Mr. Wm. B. Greene, of South Brookfield, the man who wrote Equality and Mutual Banking. He is a much less familiar figure to most of us than Col. Greene, who befriended a young Benjamin R. Tucker and presided over the meetings of the New-England Labor Reform League, but also, in many ways, a more interesting and vital figure.

And let me go further: To the very end, Greene continued to weave the religious, political and economic elements of his writing tightly together. He also never really abandoned the philosophical and historical theories he developed or adopted early on, though he published comparatively little about them, perhaps considering them of little interest to his later allies. We tend to reduce Greene to the role of caretaker for the land bank idea, or chief inspiration to Tucker; but Greene himself seems to have understood his work as rather more ambitious. If we’re to understand his ambitions, we need to be able to address his whole body of work.

More pieces of the puzzle are on the way: I’m wrestling with some formatting issues, but Proudhon’s Solution to the Social Problem is nearing readiness, as are e-text versions of the texts I used in a short Channing-Brownson-Greene “seminar” my students and I conducted this Spring in my “Great Ideas” class. Those texts will include Brownson’s famous essay on “The Laboring Classes,” together with the Channing essay to which it was a response and some additional contemporary responses to Brownson. They will also include documents by all three writers addressing “The Mediatorial Life of Jesus” and the “doctrine of life” which Brownson and Greene derived from the work of Leroux. Time to get back to the scanner. . .

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