Paul Brown, whose Twelve Months in New Harmony I posted some time ago, was, from various indications, a friend of Josiah Warren. He was also the most articulate voice in favor of property-in-common that we have from the New Harmony community. He was the author of a number of books, on a range of subjects, as well as some uncollected writings, under the title “Gray Light,” which appeared in the New Harmony Gazette. I’m working on transcribing Gray Light, which is probably one of the five or six most interesting uncollected works I’ve run across in the last few years. In the meantime, Google Books has made available The Radical and Advocate of Equality, a very interesting collection of papers from 1835. I frequently disagree with Brown, who must have had some lively debates with Warren about property, but I think he is one of the most important voices in that “first mutualist moment” of 1825-7, ranking right up there with Warren, “The Mutualist,” and Owen himself.
For several years I had been addicted to the contemplation of a new social order, in which all property should be held in common stock, being fully persuaded that this was the only equitable mode of subsisting of mankind in a state of society. I was driven to meditate on this subject by my suffering from the inadequacy of the existing institutions to extend justice to the poor, and the odious grinding influence of individual wealth and unequal usurped power, which in several instances had borne grievously afflictively upon me. I became acquainted with several persons in New-York City and in the state of Ohio, who were in the same train of speculation. […]
The inception and first instance of any mode, when not immediately perceived, is not an object of intuition or demonstrative knowledge. Such as that of the commencing of a customary way of subsisting, among the individuals of a race of animals with whatever degree of intelligence endued, must be abstracted to the most general sense, before it can be an object of assurance. To go to particulars, as of time, words, &c., is to carry the subject into the province of fiction. If we take into our purport the ideas of the names or shapes of persons,—the place where and the time when, i. e. the number of revolutions of the earth since, such a circumstance took place, as the herding together of several individuals of the human species, or the consociating of two individuals of that species, we cannot make the proposition an object of assurance, by the scale of a dialectic process. True logic excludes sophistry. […]