“Brook Farm” (Nov. 1842)


THE subjoined Letter from a highly esteemed friend and distinguished literary lady, giving some notice of Brook Farm, or the Community at West Roxbury, Mass., was addressed to me while Editor of the Boston Quarterly Review, and would have appeared in the last number of that journal, but for the want of room. This will explain its personal address and allusions. It is laid before the readers of the Democratic Review, because its details can hardly fail to interest them, and because it gives me an opportunity to offer some additional remarks on the importance of establishments like that of Brook Farm, in working out the moral, intellectual, and physical amelioration of mankind, especially of the poorest and most numerous class.

  That there is something defective in our social organisms, that mankind are susceptible of a far higher degree of moral and physical well-being, than they have ever yet attained to, has become a very general conviction, and is every day becoming wider and deeper. The spread of Christian principles, the great doctrines of the unity of the race, human brotherhood, and democratic equality, has enlarged men’s hopes, and made quite apparent the glaring disproportion there is everywhere between the actual and the possible condition of mankind. Everywhere do men feel that they have not reached that social state, which they are bound in religion and in morals to labor to realize. Everywhere is the question raised, How shall the actual condition of mankind be made to correspond to the Christian Ideal? How shall be introduced that equality of moral and physical well-being which is the expression of the equality of all men before God and the State?

  This has become, in fact, the one great, all-absorbing question of the age. Every man who has the least moral life, in some form or other asks it in deep earnest, and with an anxious heart; and whenever it is once raised by an individual or a community, it will not down at the bidding. We may seek to hush the matter up; we may denounce those who boldly challenge its discussion; but it has taken so strong a hold on the more advanced nations of Christendom, that it is useless for us to attempt to link the question; nothing remains for us but to meet it, seriously, solemnly, in a spirit corresponding to its importance, and to give it such answer as best we may. The present social condition of mankind cannot last for ever; something better is reserved for man on earth, than he ever yet has found. How shall he obtain it? Various answers have been given, from time to time, which it may be well in passing briefly to notice.

  1. The first of the answers worthy of our attention is the CLERICAL answer, usually given in the words of Jesus, “Seek first the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” This answer is true from the point of view from which it was originally given; but as commonly interpreted m these days, it is not sufficiently practical. What is the “kingdom of heaven?” What is it to!’ seek” it? Where and how is it to be sought? In what consists its righteousness? How is that righteousness to be obtained? Unquestionably we are to seek the kingdom of heaven, and its righteousness; but is there any difference between doing this, and seeking the moral and physical well-being of mankind on earth? That we are also to seek the kingdom of heaven by seeking to make all men obey the new commandment which Jesus gave us, namely, that we love one another as he loved us, is unquestionably true; but how are we to make all men love one another, and be willing to die for one another, as Jesus did for us? The Clerical answer is rather an exhortation to seek an answer to the question raised, than the answer itself.

  2. A second answer may be termed the ETHICAL, insisted upon mainly by moralists, philanthropists, and especially by those who follow theories rather than experience. It is variously given, but in our times most frequently m the words self-trust, self-reliance, self-control, SELF-CULTURE. Its essential feature is man’s sufficiency for himself, and, therefore, that he must work out, by his own isolated, unaided efforts, his own salvation, whether temporal or eternal. It implies Idealism in philosophy, Egoism in morals, Individualism in politics, and Naturalism in religion; and is, therefore, necessarily atheistical in its spirit and tendency. But man is not sufficient for himself. He cannot perform any act, even the slightest, external or internal, save in conjunction with what is not himself. He is the subject that acts, and, therefore, cannot be the object on which he acts. He that cultivates must be other than he who is cultivated. We never cultivate ourselves by direct efforts at self-culture; we cultivate one another,—ourselves only in seeking to cultivate others. This is what is implied in the fact that we are social beings; that we can live and grow only in the bosom of society.

  The whole of this answer proceeds on a false assumption. We form only to a limited extent our own characters. They are in a great measure the result of circumstances over which, as isolated individuals, we have and can have no control. Much depends on who were our parents and ancestors; on the community in which we are born and brought up; on the early training we receive; the early bias given to our minds and affections; and the habits we are suffered to contract before we are old enough to reflect and judge for ourselves. Evil communications corrupt good manners; and good communications purify corrupt manners. When so much depends on that over which we can exercise at best only a feeble control, and in general np control at all, which is the use of talking about self-culture? We are all members of one body; the whole body must suffer with each of its members, and each member with the body. In this isolation, presupposed by the doctrine of self-culture, no man lives or can live. The lot of each man is, for time and eternity, bound up with that of all men.

  The advocates of self-culture, as the medium of social regeneration, proceed on the hypothesis that the evils mankind endure are merely an aggregate of individual evils, the result, in all cases, of individual ignorance and vice. But this hypothesis, in the sense they affirm it, is without any foundation. Mankind is not a mere aggregation of individuals. The race is older than individuals, and is the parent of individuals: for individuals are nothing but the various phenomena through which, or by means of which, the race manifests itself. Society also is older than individuals, and by virtue of the one life which runs through all men, making them all one in the unity of the race, has its unity, and a sort of entity of its own, by which it is superior to individuals, and docs and can survive them. There are very few evils that spring from the depravity of isolated wills, or that mere private morality, stopping with the isolated individual, can cure. What we complain of in the actual condition of mankind is the result of no one cause; has been produced by nobody in particular; but is the growth of ages, the product of causes as old and as wide as the race, and as diversified as its members. It is idle, then, to suppose that any one individual can, even in his own individual case, throw off the burthen which all humanity has been through all its existence engaged in placing upon his shoulders. Individuals, be they never so enlightened and virtuous, must suffer, the world being as it is. The wickedness of one man carries mourning and desolation to hundreds, nay, thousands of hearts. A single bad law, touching social and political economies, enforced by the supreme authority of the state, makes the great mass of the people poor and wretched for hundreds of generations. Who can estimate the amount of public and private wrong, individual vice, crime, poverty, and suffering, occasioned by the combined influence of our banking and so-called protective systems? Ages will not undo the mischief they have done. Their deteriorating effects will be felt on this country, and, therefore, on the whole human race, in a degree, as long as we are a people. Private virtues are no doubt the great matter, the one thing needful; but it is only when they are directed to the removal of the depravities of the social state that they become efficient agents in the amelioration of mankind.

  Another mistake is involved in this theory of self-culture. Its advocates allege that knowledge is power, and infer that a man can always take care of himself if he only be enlightened. This is only another phase of the same notion, that all the causes of evil are purely individual, and may be easily removed by each individual, so far as himself is concerned. Knowledge is no doubt power; and I, if I am the only enlightened man in the community, can make all the rest labor for me; it is power also, if all the community are enlightened and direct their efforts to organic amelioration. But knowledge cannot prevent a man from being hungry, from having the heart-ache, nor his coat from becoming rusty or threadbare. Suppose all your operatives in Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, and Lowell, should become as knowing as Locke or Newton, the factory system remaining all the time unchanged, and they continuing to be operatives still, how much would their material condition be improved? Their sufferings would be increased a hundred-fold. The nearer the condition of brutes you can keep men and women, if they are to be treated as brutes, the greater the service you do them. Individuals undoubtedly rise by means of knowledge from a very low estate; but it is usually only by making their knowledge the means of laying under contribution the labors of others.

  Nor is this all. It is impossible to practise, however enlightened or well disposed we may be, all the Christian virtues in society as it is now organized. Consider two men about to make a bargain, endeavoring to do by each as each would be done by, while each is doing his best to observe the maxim, buy cheap and sell dear, without which, trade on which so much now depends could not prosper at all! Do I observe the Christian law of love, and treat a man as I would be treated, treat him as my brother, when I make him my servant,—my hired servant if you will,—my drudge, whom I must needs consider unfit to sit with me at my table, or mingle with my friends in the drawing-room? Yet I can live in society as it is, only on condition that I so treat him. There is not a luxury I enjoy, scarcely a necessary of life I obtain, but has cost the tears, the groans, the agony, the blood, or—which is worse—the brutalization, of some brother for whom Christ died, who was made with a rich undying nature. Think of this, ye who recline on your soft couches, tread the rich carpets of Turkey, and receive the light through purple silks of India!

  After all, our main inquiry is as to the means of ameliorating the condition of the poorest and most numerous class. These have no time nor opportunity for self-culture, even admitting self-culture to be all its advocates assume. I know what they who have always had leisure, and have always been in easy circumstances, may allege; but I know also, how extremely difficult it is for a man to work twelve or fourteen hours out of twenty-four, or even ten, and have any power for intellectual pursuits. Here and there one may do the labor and study too; but in most cases, only by the loss of health and almost of reason itself. Tired nature demands rest, and the working-man, when his work for the day is over, especially when he works with as much intensity as he does in most Protestant countries, must lie down and sleep, or keep himself awake by artificial stimulants. The history of the laboring classe1 in all ages and all countries, proves this beyond all question. Cultivation to any considerable extent is compatible only with leisure and easy circumstances. Instead, then, of enjoining culture as the means of social amelioration, we should effect the amelioration as the condition of the culture.

  3. The third answer worth considering, is that of the POLITICIANS. This implies in this country the complete establishment of what may be termed democracy, or more definitely, political democracy. This consists m making every man, who has not by crime or misdemeanor forfeited his manhood, an equal member of the state or body politic;—that is to say, in the establishment of universal suffrage and eligibility. But these we already have established so far as they can practically affect the question under consideration; yet they do not prove to be the sovereign remedy it was hoped they would. The evils complained of exist here as well as in Europe, and every day become more wide-spread and intense. New England and the northern Middle States, m their factory system, are rapidly reproducing Old England; and thus far experience proves that the more extended the suffrage, the greater will be the influence and the more certain the triumph of wealth, or rather of the business classes. The great mass of our operatives are every day losing somewhat of their independence, and sinking into the senile condition of the operatives of the old world. Every day does something to prepare them to be the mere tools of those who have the disposition and the skill to use them. We may deny this; we may flatter the people; talk of their intelligence, virtue, firmness, and incorruptibleness; but we shall do well to remember the election of 1840,—an election which is a lucid commentary on many popular theories, full of instruction to those who are not past learning. That election demonstrates this much, that when the leading business interests of the country unite, though for purposes glaringly selfish and base, the result at the polls is never problematical.

  Some have seen this; nay, the friends of the people very generally see this, and deplore it. They seek to remedy it by UNIVERSAL EDUCATION. The people, say they, are honest, but they are deceived; they mean right, but they are misled by ambitious and designing politicians, by corrupt and selfish men of business. We must enlighten them. We must educate them, so that they shall know what are their rights and their interests. Well, and what then? Do you suppose that the evil lies no deeper than the people’s ignorance of their rights and interests? The people are as a mass no doubt tolerably honest and well-meaning; but they are not free to act according to their own convictions. The result of an election is rarely determined by the wisdom, the virtue, or the intelligence of the great mass of the electors. It is time for us to cease this mischievous nonsense we have been for so long a time in the habit of uttering about the wisdom, virtue, and intelligence, of the people. Were we in Europe, and did we understand by the people, the unprivileged many, in distinction from the privileged few, there would be some meaning in what we say; for it would imply that these unprivileged many are as competent to the management of their own affairs, as the few are to manage their affairs for them, and better too; which is unquestionably truth. But here, where there are no privileged orders, where the term people means, not as in Europe, the plebeians, but the whole mass of the population, whether rich or poor, learned or unlearned, refined or unrefined, these praises of the people are worse than idle. The result of an election here, I think I may say, is invariably determined by the necessities which grow out of the condition and relations of the mass of the electors, and would be the same, the political and domestic economies remaining unchanged, whatever the extent to which you should carry the education of the people.

  Formerly, before the banking and protective systems had destroyed our old system of Home Industry, the mass of our people were independent; because there rarely intervened any interest between the interest of the consumer and that of the producer; the consumer was the employer, and consumption and production regulated each other, in each immediate neighborhood, without being dependent on the general state of trade throughout the world. Now, the consumer ceases in a great measure to be the direct employer. The employer is now a middle man, capitalist, speculator, factor, or, as the French call him, l’entrepreneur, who comes between the producer and the consumer. I will not say that this change is unfavorable to the actual increase of wealth in a nation tum. In the light of what is called political economy, which interests itself in the question of the production of wealth, rather than in the happiness of the people, I will not say but this should be regarded as a progress; yet touching the independence of the people, it makes all the difference in the world. Say, I am a shoemaker. Under the old system I made shoes for the consumer, and received in exchange such articles as he produced, which I needed for the support of myself and family; I was as independent as he, because if he did not employ me must go without shoes; and he as independent as I, because if I would not make his shoes I must want the means of subsistence. Now I am employed to make shoes, not because my employer must have them or go barefoot, but because he would derive a profit from my labor. Consequently, whenever he a can derive no profit from my labor, he will cease to employ me. Consumers buy shoes because they need them, and must buy them whether they buy them cheap or dear; but the shoe-dealer will contract for the making of shoes only when he can sell, or has a reasonable prospect of selling them, at an advance. He believes that to enable him “to do this, the Government must adopt what is called the protective policy. I must support this policy, or the policy that enables him to derive a profit from my labors as a shoemaker, or else he must cease to employ me, and then how am I to find the means of subsistence for myself, my wife, and children? Here is the difficulty. The employer of the operative, and the purchaser of the surplus produce of the farmer, what I call the business man, may be an enlightened, honest and benevolent individual, but he cannot do business unless he can derive a profit from it. The new relations created by the banking and protective systems have however rendered him absolutely indispensable both to the producers and the operatives. Hence the necessity imposed upon both producers and operatives to support that policy which will enable him to derive a profit from employing the labor of the one, and from buying the produce of the other. Both of these classes to a very considerable extent become dependent on the business class. Now, you may educate as much as you please, but so long as this dependence remains, your elections will have virtually but one termination. The business men, not through their wickedness, not through their inordinate selfishness,—for the business class is as enlightened, as liberal, and as high-minded as any class of the people,—but through laws which even they cannot control, become the actual rulers of the community. It is useless to contend against them. True wisdom consists, not in endeavoring politically to wrest the power from their grasp, but in so constituting the state, he that one branch of business is always able to interpose an effectual veto on the efforts of another to obtain any exclusive privilege or undue advantage.

  I am far from intending in these remarks to undervalue the importance of a well-ordered commonwealth, or to speak lightly of universal suffrage or universal education, for both of which I have contended when to do so was less popular than it is now. Every man, who can substantiate his claim to be a man, should be admitted an equal member of the body-politic under the dominion of which he was born; and that community which neglects to bestow the best education in its power on all its children, of whatever condition, and of both sexes, forfeits its right to punish the offender. What I mean is simply that universal suffrage, and universal education, do not give us the power we need to introduce the moral and physical equality demanded. We must change our political and domestic economies before they can effect anything; and they who suppose universal suffrage and education able to effect the change needed in these economies overlook the laws which grow out of them, and which override all the other laws of the commonwealth, and in a majority of cases of individual action. These economies must be changed by other agents than suffrage and education.

  4. The fourth answer is that of the POLITICAL ECONOMISTS, and is sometimes expressed by the term FREE TRADE. So far as it concerns trade in its strict technical sense, I certainly am an advocate for its entire freedom. Nothing can exceed the absurdity, unless it be the wickedness, of the so called protective or American system. But the principle of free trade is sometimes extended beyond the province of trade proper, to man’s whole intercourse with man. Its advocates contend that government is a necessary evil, and therefore the less of it the better. Its sole province is to maintain an open field and fair play to individual enterprise. This is the laissez-faire doctrine, and was maintained with great force and consistency by the lamented William Leggett. It presupposes that in all the concerns of life FREE COMPETITION between individuals will regulate everything, produce justice, harmony, universal well-being. To the Gospel principle of LOVE, it opposes the principle of COMPETITION, and bids each look out for himself. If all men were born with equal powers and capacities, moral, intellectual, and physical, and could all, from the first moment of existence, be placed in circumstances precisely equal, so that no one should have any natural or artificial advantage over another, this doctrine would have some degree of plausibility, although even then it would be fatal to all social as to all political order; but diverse and unequal as men are by nature and condition, no greater calamity could befall a people than the serious attempt to carry it out in practice. It is nothing but the doctrine of pure Individualism, which is the principle of anarchy, confusion, war. Government is not a necessary evil, finding its excuse only in man’s depravity; but is a great good, and a necessary organ of society for the maintenance of its own rights, and the performance of its own duties. It has more to do than merely to protect individuals; it has a positive work to perform for the common weal. The saying that “the world has been governed too much,” I am far from accepting. There has not been too much government, but wrong government, government falsely instituted, and maladministered. Freedom does not consist in the absence of government, but in the presence of a government that ordains and secures it. Liberty is always the result of authority, the creature of civil society, and impossible without it. No doubt much should be left to the individual; but all true government consists in such a constitution of society as leaves each individual to move on freely without obstruction so long as he keeps in the right line of duty, but compels him to feel, the moment he attempts to depart from that line, that the way is hedged up, and that he cannot proceed a single step. But without insisting on these views of government, which are not precisely those of any party in this country, the doctrine of free trade, meaning thereby anything beyond the opposite of the restrictive and monopoly system,—the doctrine, as it is sometimes called, of free competition,—we must all admit cannot introduce or preserve the equality we are in pursuit of, unless we can secure to all equal chances. Equal chances imply equal starting points. Do we all start equal? Has he who is born to no inheritance but the gutter, an equal chance with him who is born to a good education, an honorable name, and a competent estate?

  5. The fifth answer is that of the SOCIALISTS. This is subdivided into the agrarian, the no-property, and the community doctrines. Of the agrarians we have in this country very few, if any. The project of introducing a better state of society by an equal division of property, finds with us no advocates. Thomas Skidmore, since deceased, some years ago, in his “Rights of Man to Property,” a work of very considerable ability, makes something of an approach to it; but my own scheme, which made so much noise in 1840, and which was called agrarianism, was nothing like it; for it concerned merely the reappropriation to individuals of that which had ceased to be property, through default of ownership, and was merely a project to modify or change our probate laws. The agrarian scheme would accomplish nothing, even were it just; because were property made equal today, with the existing inequality in men’s powers and capacities, it would soon become as unequal again as ever. Moreover the right to property is sacred, and the Legislature has no right to disturb it. The Legislature has discretionary power only over that portion of property which becomes vacant through default of ownership, whether by the death or abandonment of the proprietor. It may say how that shall be reappropriated. But this at any one time is but a very small portion of the whole property of any community.

  The no-property doctrine has but few advocates. It is sometimes set forth by philanthropists who are deeply impressed with the doctrine of Christian beneficence. From the fact that my neighbor, who has the ability, is hound in Christian love to administer to my necessities, it has been inferred that therefore I have a right to that portion of his property which I need more than he. Justice, says Godwin, is reciprocal. What it is just for my neighbor to give me, it is unjust for him to withhold; and what it is unjust for him to withhold from me, I have a right to claim as my due. But this would banish from the world all such virtues as generosity, charity, and gratitude. I have the right, if I have the means, to be generous, and I am no doubt guilty if I do not relieve the wants of my brother, as far as I have the ability; but I am not accountable to him. If I do not, I am not to be condemned as unjust; but as ungenerous, unfeeling, inhuman. Moreover, admit that he who has the greatest need has the best right of property in what I possess, who shall be the judge of this greater need? If he, then no security for property then no industry; then no production; and then all must starve together. If I am the judge, it amounts to acknowledging in me the right of property.

  The community doctrine is also subdivided. We have, first, the answer as given by Owen and his followers, secondly, as given by Fourier and his disciples; and thirdly, as given in the experiment at Brook Farm. Owen’s system was discordant. In all matters except property, it was a system of pure individualism; in property it was the denial of all individualism. Individualism cannot co-exist with a community of property. Either individualism will triumph and dissolve the community, or the community will triumph and absorb the individual. The first was the actual result of Mr. Owen’s experiment at New Harmony; the last would have been the result had he succeeded in fairly introducing his system. Mr. Owen also overlooked the necessity of marriage laws to restrain the passions and preserve the family; and of religion to kindle holy aspirations, to exalt the sentiments, and produce a community of feeling. The experience of the race may be said to have demonstrated, that no scheme of social organization will succeed which does not recognize as its basis, individual property; civil law, or the State; and religion, or the Church.

  Of Fourier I must speak with some diffidence, not having as yet been able to submit to the drudgery of fully mastering his system. He seems, however, to have taken juster views of man and society than Mr. Owen; but his metaphysics, though broad and comprehensive, are often unsound; and his theodicea, or theodicy, is, if we understand it, nothing but material pantheism, a polite name for atheism. He denies, at least according to his able and indefatigable American interpreter; Mr. Brisbane, the progress of humanity, and proceeds on the assumption of that greatest of all absurdities, the perfection of nature. The only progress he admits for man, is simply a progress in his power over external nature. This progress may be completed in time; the race then will be thrown out of work, come to a stand-still, which is only another name for its death. Moreover, his scheme is too mechanical, making of the phalanx not a living organism, but a huge machine. It 1s withal too complicated, and too difficult to be introduced, to meet the wants of our people. Its details are not always satisfactory. Its operations will fail to diminish inequality in wealth or condition. Too much goes to capital, not enough to labor. How obtain equality or anything approaching it, when capital draws four twelfths, skill three twelfths, and labor only five twelfths? Then again how measure skill? Skill has various degrees. How determine these several degrees? And shall every degree of skill be rewarded alike? If we make skill one of the bases of the distribution of the fruits of industry, what shall prevent the perpetuation of the very evils we are seeking to redress? Skill, which comes under the head of spiritual superiority, belongs to the community. If God has made me with talent and capacity superior to my brother, it is not that he would confer on me a personal advantage, and enable me to lay his labor under contribution; but that he would impose upon me the duty of performing more valuable services to the community of which we are both members. Nor am I quite satisfied with the rank assigned to woman in the Phalanx. In every reorganization of society, which shall be an advance on society as it now is, the equality of the sexes must be recognized, and male and female labor receive the same compensation. I say equality of the sexes, without intending to deny that the talents of the sexes as well as their appropriate spheres in life are different. Equality does not exclude diversity. Woman should not handle the spade and mattock, nor man the distaff; nor would there be wisdom in shutting up man in the nursery and sending woman to the legislature. Each sex has its peculiar talents and virtues, and its appropriate sphere of duty; but yet there 1s no reason why one should be placed above or below the other, or receive a higher or a lower rate of compensation for its labors.

  For my part, I am disposed to regard with altogether more favor the establishment at Brook Farm, which seems to me to escape all the objections we have raised against Owen and Fourier. It is simple, unpretending, and presents itself by no means as a grand scheme of world reform, or of social organization. Its founder,—and I speak from personal knowledge, for it has been my happiness to enjoy for years his friendship and instruction,—is a man of rare attainments, one of our best scholars, and as a metaphysician second to no one in the country. No man amongst ns is better acquainted with the various plans of world-reform which have been projected, from Plato’s Republic to Fourier’s Phalanx; but this establishment seems to be the result, not of his theorizing, but of the simple wants of his soul as a man and a Christian. He felt himself unable, in the existing social organization, to practise always according to his conceptions of Christianity. He could not maintain with his brethren those relations of love and equality which he felt were also needful to him for his own intellectual and moral growth and well-being. Moved by this feeling, he sought to create around him the circumstances which would respond to it, enable him to worship God and love his brother, and to live with his brother in a truly Christian manner. A few men and women, of like views and feelings, grouped themselves around him, not as their master, but as their friend and brother, and the community at Brook Farm was instituted.

  The views, feelings, and wants of these men and women are those of the great mass of all Christian communities; and the manner in which this establishment at Brook Farm responds to them, suggests and points out the method in which they may be responded to everywhere. The mode of introducing such an establishment is exceedingly natural and simple. The theory to be comprehended is the Gospel LAW OF LOVE, and the rule to be observed is HONOR ALL MEN, and treat each man as a brother, whatever his occupation. In other words, the community is an attempt to realize the Christian Ideal, and to do this by establishing truly Christian relations between the members and the community and between member and member.

  To make this experiment requires no rupture with society as it is; imposes no necessity of protesting against any existing organism. Men and women may engage in it without foregoing any of the relations they already hold with society. This is a great recommendation. Owen and Fourier are too radical. They propose, with “malice aforethought,” the reorganization of society. This community propose no such thing. They do not break the law of continuity. The transition from what is to what they are attempting is easy and natural.

  A community on the plan of Fourier or of Owen aims to be a little world in itself, and to be a complete substitute for the larger associations of the State and the Church. Communities like this at West Roxbury leave the State and Church standing in all their necessity and force. They are mere aggregations of families, as a family is an aggregation of individuals; as the family is more than an aggregation, as it is in some degree an organism, having its own life and unity, so, also, is the community more than an aggregation of families, it is a one body, has life and unity of its own; but is, after all, like the family, a member of a larger whole. It enlarges the sphere of the family, or rather seeks not to supersede the ties of blood, but to extend the family feeling and relations, if I may so speak, beyond these ties. It essentially breaks the family caste, while it preserves the family inviolate. This is a consummation much to be wished. The family is and should be sacred: but the family caste, to borrow the expression of M. Leroux, is one of the scourges of humanity.

  The community feeling is introduced, but without destroying the individual. Individual property is recognized and secured. But by making time, not skill nor intensity, the basis according to which the compensation of labor is determined, and by eating at a common table, and laboring in common and sharing in common the advantages of the individual excellence there may be in the community, the individual feeling is subdued, and while suffered to remain as a spring to industry, it is shorn of its power to encroach on the social body. So far as I can judge there will be in this establishment rarely any clashing between individuals and the community.

  Establishments like this are easily introduced. Owen and Fourier require immense outlays for the commencement of their schemes. A Phalanx cannot well go into operation without a capital of half a million. A simple establishment like the one at Brook Farm has gone into operation with less than five thousand dollars, and would be able to do well with ten or twenty thousand. This is a very great consideration. Fourierism is obliged to enlist in its scheme heavy capitalists, and in order to enlist them, is obliged to make the investment of capital in the Phalanx desirable as a business operation; which can be done only at the expense of labor. But the most desirable thing is not to find out a profitable investment for capital, but a ready means by which they who have no capital can place themselves in such relations that by their mutual labor and support, they can secure all the real conveniences and advantages of the highest civilisation. This may be done on the plan of Brook Farm. An outlay of fifteen or twenty thousand dollars will enable some twenty or thirty families to associate, and by their industry to sustain themselves in competence and independence, and to secure to their children the advantages of the choicest education, and themselves all the pleasures and enjoyments of the most refined society.

  It is proper, however, to remark, that Brook Farm is not an establishment for the indolent, nor for those who are in need of charity. It is an INDUSTRIAL ESTABLISHMENT. Industry is its basis and its object. It is established on the principle that man must obtain his bread by the sweat of his face. This must be borne in mind in attempting like establishments. The founder of this establishment very justly remarks: “Every community should have its leading purpose, some one main object to which it directs its energies. We are a company of teachers. The branch of industry which we pursue as our primary object, and chief means of support, is teaching. Others may be companies of manufacturers or of agriculturists; or may engage in some particular branch of manufacture or of agriculture. Whatever the branch of industry agreed upon, it will be necessary to make that the principal object of pursuit, as the only way in which unity and efficiency can be secured to the labors of the community.”

  Of the advantages of associated and attractive industry there is no occasion to speak. They are well known, and have been ably presented by Mr. Brisbane, in the pages of this Journal and elsewhere. The common merit, and the chief merit of the schemes of Owen and Fourier, is in their proposing associated and attractive industry. These Mr. Ripley secures at Brook Farm, without their complicated machinery, and multiplicity of details,—of details often frivolous; at any rate foreign to the habits, tastes, and convictions of the American people, Families of moderate means associating in this way, by their union and cooperation may obtain an industrial and pecuniary independence to which they cannot aspire under existing social relations. What we most want, is such an arrangement as shall secure to every man a competence as the reward of his industry, and which shall render industry in any or all of its branches compatible with the highest moral and intellectual culture, and the greatest delicacy and refinement of manners. This we cannot have as things are; but this by means of association on the principles of the Brook Farm establishment we may have. And when once this is obtained, when I am once sure that by the labor of my hands I can earn an honest and an honorable livelihood, and without being obliged to forego any of the real advantages, pleasures, and refinements of society and social intercourse, I shall no longer feel that I was cursed by my Maker, when he commanded me to “eat my bread in the sweat of my face.”

  There is another point of view in which I should like to consider communities of this kind, had I the time and the room at my command. I mean in their relation not only to industry, and to domestic and social economies, but to the CHURCH. The day is coming when we shall learn that we worship God only by serving man, and that the Church, instead of being a company of teachers and exhorters, organized merely to teach men their duty and to exhort them to do it, will be a company of men and women associating for the express purpose of doing their duty; of worshipping God not in types and shadows, through symbols, but in spirit and in truth, by organizing all the relations of life in harmony with his will. These communities are models of what must hereafter be the social elements of the Christian Church. It is only by adopting, as was in some degree attempted originally by the monastic orders, the democracy of the Church, industry as a branch, if I may so speak, of the temple service, and thus writing “holiness to Lord” on all things, as the prophet says, even on “the bells of the horses,” that a truly Christian state of society will be realized. In this way we may have a true Catholic Church; a really republican state; a wise political economy; an intelligent, virtuous, refined, and happy people.


August, 1842.

  “MY DEAR SIR: I have made my visit to the Community, as it is called, at West Roxburv, and find that it more than answers the expectation held out in that account of it, which appeared in the Dial last January. I mean that the degree of success already attained, is greater than it was there intimated it could be, for many years to come. In a pecuniary point of view it is not failing, and that is success, considering the great embarrassments under which they began. There are seventeen associates. Had each of these been able to contribute one thousand dollars a-piece, they would be at this moment under no embarrassment at all, but instead of that, not one third of the sum was contributed. For the cost of their farm, as I understood it, they are paying interest; but by means of the farm and the school, they are able to pay this interest and to feed themselves; although there are seventy people already there, and the number will be one hundred in the course of the winter. The joining of a few associates or even one with some money, would render them quite independent. But they feel they have gained so much morally and intellectually, by having been so poor, as to have had none join but those to whom the accomplishment of the Idea appears worth working and suffering for, that it is no longer to be feared, that they will be tempted to receive among them any, of whom money is the chief recommendation. They prefer to sacrifice many conveniences, to endangering the social and ideal character of their company. Several mechanics who have been hired to do jobs upon the place, I mean carpenters, blacksmiths, shoemakers, tailors, have at first expressed themselves amazed, that people should go together, of such apparent inequality, and make a common cause, and share the fruits of their labors equally among themselves; but after seeing the operation for weeks, they have desired to join, and to forego some of the income they were already receiving from their trades, in order to have the enjoyment, the moral advantage, and the intellectual improvement, of a social life on principles so consistently democratic and Christian; and more especially, in order to have all their children have every advantage of education to which their abilities can do justice. I speak of facts. The association has actually under consideration such propositions. Also, one of the farmers, the most thriving one, whose farm joins theirs, has for the sake of his children made them the offer, if they can meet him half way, of throwing in his farm and becoming one. He would be richer in dollars and cents to remain as he is, but this additional money could not buy for him that education of all his children, which he must receive in this community, if he is one of them; to say nothing of his own enjoyment and improvement. To me, it is an inspiring thought, that they have already showed to the agricultural population around them, that with the cultivation of the earth may be combined an intellectual and tasteful life, and that the true democratic equality may be obtained by levelling up, instead of levelling down.

  But let me speak of the education in detail, and show that the children of the actual associates have even greater advantages than those sent there, though for the latter, it is, I think, the best school I ever saw. I will begin with the a-b-c-d-arians. There is one lady among the associates, who loves to keep a regular school on the old-fashioned plan, with a kind but efficient discipline of rules and lessons. She has as many of the younger scholars as the parents wish. But some parents prefer a different system,—in which their children are only confined a very short time, while they can be individually attended to by the teacher. And there are among the young women, several who take two or three at once-making one little class, and enlist their undivided, unwavering attention for an hour, or an hour and a half, and then let them play all the rest of the day. These children, in this way, get more instruction and do more intellectual work, than in ordinary schools, and yet have none of the weariness and bad physical and moral effect of confinement. They are never obliged to sit still and do nothing; nor do they in this plan become troublesome to others. There is so much room, they can spread round, and find infinite amusement on the place. I never saw children at once so happy and so little in the way of other people. There seemed to be great love for the little things, in all the men and boys, as well as the women; and I observed that when the young men went to walk in the woods, or about any out-of-door occupation, they would let two or three children go too, and keep their eye upon them, and so relieve the mothers and make the children happy, and this without troubling themselves either. Children from the ages of nine or ten up to thirteen and fourteen, go to the school of a gentleman who has been a very successful teacher for many years, and understands the drilling processes. But of this class also, if there are any, whose parent~, on account of their health, or peculiar genius, or sex, wish to receive separate attention, there are found those who will attend to them in the desirable way. Then there is a very fine teacher of Greek, and another of Latin, and another of Mathematics, among the gentlemen associates. Several teach German, French, Italian and Spanish, and I do not know how many other things. One lady has classes in History, Moral Philosophy, various branches of elegant literature, and with all her cares, (one of which is the care of a house of fourteen rooms), she told me she had not for more than a year set aside two recitations! This will show what real method lies under the graceful exterior, where not mathematical lines, but only the curves of beauty appear, This lady told me, too, that never in her life had she had so much leisure and enjoyment of herself, for hours together, and never had the occupations of life been so little fatiguing to her.

  I would have you observe that grown up persons, as well as children, are members of these various classes. The workmen in the field partake just as much as they please, of these means of education. One man, who does as much hard work, if not more than any one on the place, and who never learnt any language, and is forty years old, a husband and father, having been engaged in a mechanical trade all his life, studied German last winter, on Ollendorf’s method, with the greatest perseverance. They had eighty recitations a week, last winter. All have access also to all the books owned by any of the members, the most of them being collected in a charming room, designated as the “Library,” of which all are free, young and old.

  In another common parlor there is a piano-forte, and there, in the evening, the lovers of music congregate, and hear fine music from some of their number, sometimes songs, and some times psalms, and sometimes the deep music of Beethoven. Mr. J. S. D. superintends the musical department of the teaching. The very little children have to sing by rote; those who are old enough, are taught by the Manual of the Academy of Music. Instrumental music is also taught to all who have the ability and desire to learn. It struck me how beautiful it would be, if some of those noble Italian exiles should go and join their number, who could throw in their music and their beautiful language, and receive in return the realization of the dreams of their youth; but all this will come in good time.

  To go back to the children. The greatest advantage is, that the life is so natural, it makes a discipline without the ugly forms. Every body works and studies, and so the children work and study from imitation and in spirit. I never saw such habits of disinterestedness—so little personal selfishness. Children were requested by all parties to do all sorts of things; and if one had refused, another would have been called upon, as the only rebuke. The punishment of appearing selfish, and not being in the general spirit, precludes all others. Of course, I do not mean to imply that any circumstances of social arrangement will destroy all moral evil. I know there are those which originate in the constitution of every finite creature, and which are only to be set aside in their principles and consequences, by a deep internal struggle, where there is no witness but God, by whose sovereign mercy alone is the great victory accomplished, and each individual introduced into “the company of the first born.” But there are innumerable social vices, and deformities of character, which are exasperated, if not produced, by the unsanctified conventions of our common life, and which here do not appear; and there is no telling how much more those who are good have the advantage of their goodness, and those who are morally inferior are assisted, by living where there is such a general spirit and such habits among the adults. Country employments and country scenery, too, has an immeasurable effect upon children’s tempers. I would repeat, that I am not one of those who believe that the issues of the human constitution, under any earthly circumstances, can be perfect goodness;—that finite creatures can ever be other than pensioners of the Love revealed in Jesus Christ; but I do believe that infancy and youth would shine with moral beauty, as a general rule, if society and education did their part. Some people seem to be dreadfully afraid that God will not have anything to forgive, and so the doctrine of forgiveness be proved unnecessary, if we admit that children can grow up, unselfish in their habits and lovely in their general characters. Such persons have, it seems to me, very little appreciation of the depth, and extent, and excellence of that Law, the violation of which is sin; for it seems to me that we may be very high in the scale of excellence, in the eyes of our fellow creatures; our faults may be not even perceptible to them; and yet we may be so far below that Ideal, which shines into us from God, that we shall yet require all the comfort of St. Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith. I see less self-righteousness likely to be generated, under the views and habits of this community, than ordinarily; and to stand a better chance of being corrected. Should man, in the progress of wisdom and love, be elevated above all social crime and wrong, there will yet, as I think, be sin possible to him, great enough to have him feel the whole opposition between the law of finite natures, and that Law of the Infinite God, which Christ mysteriously reveals to him, as a glory to be had.

  This is rather an episode in my letter, dear sir, but I must needs dwell a little upon the subject, because the majority of people l hear talk, seem to be in one of two extremes, equally erroneous. One set of people make no evil but social evil, and seem to think that if wars and fightings, murders and drunkenness, theft and deception, are driven from the earth, the whole holiness and glory of humanity is attained, even up to the measure of Christ Jesus; while others think, that because the Bible and the Spirit of God within us teach that man, even when pure as the heaven of heavens, is not clean BEFORE GOD, he must necessarily unfold, in the process of his development, all the crimes to which he can be degraded; and that a systematical effort to prevent this, by removing occasions and exasperating causes of crime, is opposing the system of Providence, and practically denying the philosophy of Christianity. I have heard it gravely urged against this little community, that it aimed at a state of enjoyment and general excellence, which would result, if it succeeded, in a state contrary to what the Bible declares to be the general character of human nature. I dispute the fact. I believe human nature may attain to a state of excellence that shall seem to realize Isaiah’s visions of the millenium, and still the inhabitants of the earth will be even more disposed to use, with respect to themselves, the deepest language of contrition and humility which the Bible contains; for then they shall see God, by reason of their purity, so much more, that they shall still more earnestly feel the prayer,

“Forgive our virtues too—
Those lesser faults—half converts to the right.”

It is because I think thus, that I do not condemn utterly that other class of errorists, who suppose evil so very superficial; and that if we could eschew bad organizations of society, and act out our instincts, we should be as perfect, as human beings, as the animal creation is perfect in its way, and the vegetable creation in its way. In their faith in the better issues of human instincts under favorable circumstances, they go upon a fact. Human nature is capable of great excellence, beauty, and purity, when it draws only upon the original gifts of the good God of nature, common to all men; and there is a sort of blasphemy to me, in speaking irreverently of the virtues of Solon and Aristides, Anaxagoras, and Plato, and Socrates; of Regulus, and Brutus, and the Antonines; and even of many a beautiful child and adult of the present day, although he has not yet entered into al the depths of the unsearchable riches of Christ. To be arrested at the point of attainment of any of these persons, would indeed be to be damned, (if I may use old-fashioned phraseology.) Such minds we may call a sort of heaven, but I think these persons would say, that to be condemned to an everlasting self-development in that same heaven, and receive nothing from without, or from the deeper within which is a without to the individual; in short, to have no more grace of God, would make it to them a hell. Indeed, the Swedenborgian hells are neither more nor less than for the individual to be given up to his individuality; and so Swedenborg says the damned are often not without their enjoyments; which whole system shows how deeply he looked into things. But what is such enjoyment to the action upon an infinite good? The joy of immortality, and the only doctrine of immortality which is not a misnomer, consists in believing that man never is absorbed in the Infinite, but is CONSCIOUSLY RELATIVE for ever and ever. This is, if I read it aright, your own doctrine of life, as you have stated it in your letter to Dr. Channing, which I believe people do not understand, because you have couched it so much in theological formulas, that they do not see it to be something they have not thought.

  At Brook Farm there may be more inclination to the error of believing that self-development, on the original stock of human nature, is the true way, than to the equal error of supposing it necessary to undervalue and be unfaithful to this original stock, which prevails in the world. But there are those there, who are the predominating life and strength of the place, who transcend both errors; and there is nothing in the plan of their life which favors either.

  But I will leave moralising and theologising, and return to an account of what I saw in my visit.

  With respect to the labor, which is the material wealth of the establishment, and the body of its life, they intend to have all trades and occupations which contribute to necessities and healthy elegancies, within their own borders, so as not to buy them from without, which is too expensive; but at present their labor is agriculture, and the simplest housekeeping. They have above a dozen cows that they take care of, and sell all their milk at the door; they cultivate vegetables extensively, and sell them in the markets of Roxbury and Boston, and this branch of their industry may be almost indefinitely extended. They cultivate grass also, and sell hay very profitably. I do not know about their grain, not being wise enough in those matters to understand what I saw. The farm is not wholly under cultivation, because they have not yet force enough to do all they wish. Fifty more men might be profitably employed on it. Teachers, scholars, and all, work. Their Greek teacher spends several hours a day in taking care of the fruit, which hereafter, they think, will constitute a great part of their wealth. Every one prescribes his own hours of labor, controlled only by his conscience, and the spirit of the place, which tends to great industry, and almost to too much exertion. A drone would soon find himself isolated and neglected, and could not live there. The new comers, especially if they come from the city, have to begin gradually, but soon learn to increase the labor of one hour a day in the field, to six or seven hours, and some work all day long; but there can be no drudgery where there is no constraint. As all eat together, they change their dress for their meals; and so after tea they are all ready for grouping, in the parlors of the ladies, or in the library, or in the music-room, or they can go to their private rooms, or into the woods, or anywhere. They visit a good deal; and when they have business out of the community, nothing seems more easy than for them to arrange with others of their own number, to take their work or teaching for the time being; so that while they may work more than people out of the community, none seem such prisoners of their duties. The association of labor makes distribution according to taste and ability easy, and this takes the sting out of fatigue. Then I believe bodily labor does not fatigue so much, when the mind is active and elevated by noble sentiments; and certainly, intelligence and the spirit of improvement, give the advantage of saving themselves drudgery, by all the devices of our mechanical age. Perhaps they might go into vagaries in labor-saving expedients, but that their narrow pecuniary means checks all freakishness of mind in this respect. They put their hands to the plough in good earnest, and do their work by main strength, and not by stratagem. As the pupils work more or less, it makes the school a most desirable one for farmers’ children; and I hope many a young man will be saved to the healthy pursuits of agricultural life, by this establishment, whose laudable desire for intellectual improvement and for bettering his condition in life, would drive him inti) our crowded professions and city warehouses.

  For the women, there is, besides many branches of teaching, washing and ironing, housekeeping, sewing for the other sex, and for the children, and conducting all the social life. They have to hire one washerwoman now, but hope, bye and bye, to do all the washing within themselves. By the wide distribution of these labors, no one has any great weight of any one thing. They iron every forenoon but one; but they take turns, and each irons as long as she thinks right. The care of the houses is also distributed among those who are most active, in a way mutually satisfactory. And so of the cooking. In nothing did they seem to feel so immediate a desirableness of improvement, as in the kitchen department, and the eating rooms. These are all in the old house, and not at all convenient. Their next building is to be a kitchen establishment, and convenient dining hall, which will enable them to appear much more to advantage; besides leaving the old house, which they call “the Hive,” to be entirely used for sleeping rooms and parlors. A more spacious and convenient dining-hall will enable them to be less confused and more elegant at table, than which nothing is more important for the general tone of manners. There is no vulgarity now, because all the people have the sentiment and desire of improvement; but many hue not been in society, and these need to have things so arranged that the table manners of the more educated and best bred should have a chance to be observed, and do their work of refinement. The manners of the children also can then be more easily attended to; and when this is brought about it seems to me that in the article of elegance they will not fall behind the rest of the world. Without any wearisome etiquette there would be the beauty that naturally hovers round “plain living and high thinking;” and of which nothing now hinders the full development but their crowded and inconvenient eating apartments. I ought to say that though a commons table is preferable to most, yet any individual family, by taking the trouble on themselves, can have some or all of their meals at their own rooms; and now any individuals who wish, on account of ill health or for any other reason, to take a meal alone, can easily do so; and constantly there are those who are thus favored. You would hardly imagine that so many individuals should have their own way so constantly without clashing. For a time they did not have any regular housekeeper, but this office passed from one to the other; for they were afraid that the pride and tyranny of office might interfere with the freedom of individuals, and they preferred the inconveniences of frequent change, to the evil of that fixed vexation. But at last a housekeeper appeared, so fit, that they created for her the office! This woman went out to sew for them a week as a sempstress, during which time she used her eyes and ears and mind to such purpose that at the end of the week she wanted to join. The associates proposed that she should remain two months, without committing herself; and then, if she continued in the same mind, she should be considered to have joined from the first. During these two months she employed herself variously, and showed so much delicacy and tact, as well as ability and housekeeping talent, that they all agreed she should be queen m that department, and they would obey. I do not know what measures they would take to dethrone her if she should grow naughty, but at present she reigns by the greatest of King Alfred’s titles, the divine right of might and virtue,

  I do not seem to myself to have told you a moiety of the good which I saw; I have only indicated some of it. But is it not enough to justify me in saying they have succeeded? It seems to me, if their highest objects were appreciated, they would challenge some of that devotedness which makes the Sisters of Charity throw large fortunes into their institution, and give themselves, body and soul, to its duties. It is truly a most religious life, and does it not realize in miniature that identity of church and state which you think is the deepest idea of our American government? It seems to me that this community, point by point, corresponds with the great community of the Republic, whose divine lineaments are so much obscured by the rubbish of imported abuses (that, however, only lie on the surface, and may be shaken off, “like dewdrops from the lion’s mane;”) and whose divine proportions are now lost to our sight by the majestic grandeur with which they tower beyond the apprehension of our time-bound senses. For the theory of our government also proposes education (the freest development of the individual, according to the law of God) as its main end; an equal distribution of the results of labor among the laborers, as its means; and a mutual respect of each man by his neighbor as the basis. Only in America, I think, could such a community have so succeeded as I have described, composed of persons coming by chance, as it were, from all circumstances of life, and united only by a common idea and plan of life. They have succeeded, because they are the children of a government the ideal 0£ which is the same as their own, although, as a mass, we are unconscious of it; so little do we understand our high vocation, and act up to it. But these miniatures of the great original shall educate us to the apprehension and realization of it, as a nation.

  Some people make objection to this community, because it has no chapel in it. But I think this is an excellent feature of it. There are churches all round it, to which any can go as they please; and there has been a service within it, which such might attend as were not pleased with any neighboring church; and this might be resumed if there were not seen to be a general preference in the, churchgoers to go out. The children are gathered on Sundays spontaneously, to sing hymns, the natural devotion of children, and to be read to by those who wish to do so; and there is perfect freedom to do anything for social religious worship, that is felt desirable by any, provided only nothing is prescribed to one another authoritatively. I meant to have asked you in some detail whether it would not be possible for this community system to be introduced into our cities by persons of different employments who were willing to associate, and throw in their small capitals, combining and living together in some large hotel, or block of houses, agreeably situated, and perhaps having a country house attached? I have no head to make arrangements, but I should like much to have such a thing planned out. What do you think?

I am truly your friend,
&c., &c.