Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Mutual Banking Writings of William B. Greene

Kevin Carson asked me about the differences between the various editions of William Batchelder Greene's work on mutual banking, so I tackled the collation project this afternoon. I've loaded an updated version of the William B. Greene page at Libertatia Labs to help clarify things. Please pardon the very betwixt-and-between state of the site. I'm working hard to get a bunch of new material up, as well as redesigning the site.

The important works are:
  • Equality. West Brookfield, Mass.: O. S. Cooke, 1849. [published anonymously] [74 pages]
  • Mutual Banking. West Brookfield, Mass.: O. S. Cooke, 1850. [95 pages]
  • The Radical Deficiency Of The Existing Circulating Medium, And The Advantages Of A Mutual Currency. Boston: B. H. Greene, 1857. [239 pages]
  • Mutual Banking, Showing The Radical Deficiencies Of The Existing Circulating Medium, And The Advantages Of A Free Currency. Worcester, Mass.: New England Labor Reform League, 1870. [52 Pages]
  • Mutual Banking. Modern Publishers, Indore City, India, 1946

plus a couple of short sections in Socialistic, Communistic, Mutualistic and Financial Fragments (Boston: Lee & Shepard, 1875) and a series of articles published around 1849 in the Worcester, MA Palladium. I have yet to see the articles, so I can't comment much, except to say that they are explicitly mentioned in Equality as the source of much of that work. The Fragments contains a couple of excerpts, slightly rewritten from the 1870 Mutual Banking, plus "Mr. Phillips on the Currency."

There were a few surprises as I worked through the various texts. First, despite the difference in length--239 and 52 pages!--the 1857 and 1870 editions are largely identical. The 1857 Radical Deficiency includes the texts of the "applications" of several Massachusetts towns for permission to start a mutual bank. The 1870 New England Labor Reform League edition has a preface by Ezra Heywood and a new "Conclusion." Second, these editions essentially amount to an edited and somewhat secularized joint reprinting of Equality and and the 1850 Mutual Banking.

The major sections of the 1857 and 1870 works are as follows, with the source of each section in the 1849-1850 works noted:

  • The Usury Laws [from Equality]
  • The Currency [from Equality]
  • The Currency: Its Evils, and Their Remedy [from Equality]
  • Mutual Banking [from Mutual Banking, 1850]
  • Petition for a General Mutual Banking Law [from Mutual Banking, 1850]
  • The Provincial Land Bank [from Mutual Banking, 1850]
  • Money [from Mutual Banking, 1850, originally "Capital"]
  • Credit [from Mutual Banking, 1850]
  • There's a bit of shuffling and streamlining of several sections in the 1857 text. Some of the less businesslike language is cut from the earlier editions. The 1850 edition has a substantially less elaborate "petition" in that section, but the 10-point petition used in later editions is appended at the end of the text.

    The Modern/Gordon Press edition that is available online generally follows the 1857 and 1870 editions, but with even more simplification and streamlining.

    That leaves the whole sections simply dropped from the two early works. Equality has a section on "Equal Laws and Equality Before the Law" and an introduction to "The Banking System" which were dropped, as was the entire second half of the work, "Equality , No. II: To the Philosophers and Politicians." Equality II is an important piece, tying Greene's political and financial work to elements from his critique of transcendentalism. It contains one of his strongest defenses of individualism and some of his strongest criticisms of "socialism." I want to come back to this work in another context, because it anticipates some concerns I think the historians have tended to associate with later works. It should be read with the essays in The Blazing Star, some of the more esoteric Fragments, the A Priori Autobiography, and, probably, with the elements left stranded in the 1850 Mutual Banking:

  • an Introduction, covering the development of mutualist thought from Sparta to the
    Christian communion
  • a section on "The Proletariat"
  • "Usury," a section dealing with the problem in largely religious terms
  • "The Cherubim," a short, esoteric essay on human unity
  • And that's pretty much the story. It's likely that an inclusive edition, containing the important text from all editions, would run to something like 80 pages, with modern type and such--an ungainly thick pamphlet, but maybe still worth putting out there.

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