Warren in New York, 1830

During the week of July 17, 1830, the “equal exchange of labor for labor” dominated the pages of both the Free Enquirer and the New York Sentinel and Working Man’s Advocate. Josiah Warren had two pieces published in the Free EnquirerTo the Friends of the Equal Exchange of Labor in the West” and Improvement in the Machinery of Law“—alongside another piece, “Equal Exchange of Labor,” reprinted from the “Workie” paper. The Sentinel contained another piece on “Female Labor,” which made reference, though not by name, to Warren. Warren had just come to New York, at the invitation of Robert Dale Owen, and he was making something of a splash. Owen was a controversial, but well-connected member of the circles around the Workingman’s Party. By mid-1830, that party had already suffered at least one split, with Thomas Skidmore and Alexander Ming leaving to launch their Friend of Equal Rights and Poor Man’s Party. Owen had opposed Skidmore’s “agrarianism” and his class politics. Owen and Skidmore engaged in a lengthy dispute over the true nature of Skidmore’s proposals in The Rights of Man to Property. They also tangled over the question of birth control, education, and child-rearing practices. It would be interesting to know what, if anything, Warren made of these debates, as he was undoubtedly at least as close to Skidmore on some questions as he was to Owen.

In any event, August saw a similar flurry of activity on the topic of labor-for-labor exchange, including an exchange between Warren and “E. C.” in the pages of the Free Enquirer. In his communication, E. C. expresses his faith in the principles expressed in Warren’s earlier article, and poses a few standard objections to the plan. Warren’s reply deals with these in summary fashion.

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