Wednesday, August 31, 2005

"Fact and Rumor," 1886

From the Christian Union, June 3, 1886:

Concerning the Unitarian the Rev. William B. Greene, of West Brookfield, this story is told. A man died in the neighborhood, and the reverend Colonel was called upon to officiate at the funeral. Some time afterward, on inquiring why he was summoned to the funeral of a man not of his flock, he was told: "Mr. --- did not believe in much of anything, and we thought your belief came the nearest to nothing of anybody's, so we sent for you!" --- [[Worcester Spy

I guess that's one way of looking at Greene, though sometimes I'm inclined to think very few people believed as fervently as Greene.

Almost daily updates on the WB Greene pages in the Libertarian Labyrinth now. . .

Sunday, August 28, 2005

"Will" Greene's Small World

I haven't posted much recently because the research for the chapter on William B. Greene suddenly blossomed into the makings of a book on its own. So I'm running with it, and hope to have a basic manuscript together around the first of the year. There are a few things I probably won't be able to do in that time, some research travel I doubt that I can fit in, and this will hardly be a finished or definitive account--but it will be substantially more than we've had in the way of a biography of Greene, and I think it will give an adequate, and very different, picture of him.

The Boston area in the mid-19th century was in many ways a very small place, where everyone knew (or knew someone who knew) pretty much everyone else. Greene's arrival in Elizabeth Peabody's bookstore simply ensured that his world would be that much smaller, and crowded, sometimes uncomfortably, with other brilliant and difficult characters. Anarchist accounts have tended to treat Greene as a bit isolated and aloof, but just a dip into the research pool reminds us that:
  • Greene's initial champion, Elizabeth Peabody, was the sister-in-law of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Horace Mann.
  • The Yankee beauty, Anna Shaw, whom he eventually married, was a student of Margaret Fuller, and a participant in her "conversations," as well as being a friend of Sophia Hawthorne. Apparently, her beauty impressed Emerson, on one of his visits with the Hawthornes, just as she impressed Theodore Parker, whose subsequent bad blood with William B. Greene seems to have be based in mutual jealousy.
  • Greene was of the "Bachiler" line and had "the Bachiler eyes," a trait he shared with "the Whittiers, ... Daniel Webster, Caleb Cushing, [and] Nathaniel Hawthorne." [see Annie Fields, Authors and Friends] John Greenleaf Whittier was a friend, and Frank Preston Stearns recalls a talk with Greene as the only time he heard Whittier "speak on a religious question."

Greene plays a role in all sorts of marvelous moments. The Hawthornes visited the Greene's in Paris. A framed print in the Greene's home occasioned an epiphany about same-sex desire for Margaret Fuller. Louisa May Alcott included "Will Greene" among the models to be incorporated in one of the character illustrations for Little Women. Greene is supposed to have talked Julia Ward Howe into giving her first public address, while she was visiting his troops during the Civil War, where he served in the defense of Washington. His nephew was Robert Gould Shaw, whose letters became the basis of the film Glory. And so on. . .

It also appears that one of the most significant influences on Greene was Orestes Brownson, who introduced him to French social thought. It will be necessary to account for a strong dose of Saint-Simonian influence in Greene's work--something that has only been addressed a bit in the literature on transcendentalism.

I'll blog the nice bits as they arise. This is pretty exciting stuff--at least for an anarcho-nerd like me.

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.

    Wednesday, August 17, 2005

    A Mutual Skual?

    It looks like we'll be trying to put together some sort of more or less decentralized alternative education project here in Bowling Green in the very near future. The need for something of the sort impressed itself on me yesterday afternoon with the kind of urgency i know better than to ignore. A lot of things have been leading me towards this i suppose. I've been reading about the Concord "conversations" while researching William B. Greene. I've been talking to my new neighbors, who all seem bright in ways that probably aren't going to served well by standard university fair. I've been thinking a lot about whether public educational institutions can be expected to actually provide the sort of engagement with important controversies, like that surrounding evolution and intelligent design, that i was talking about yesterday. And i've been dusting off the notes for a short course on Midwest Radicalism (New Harmony to Lawsonomy, more or less) that i've promised to teach in some informal setting this fall. Currently, i'm a teacher without a classroom, doing a lot of very informal educational work in front of coffee shops, on streetcorners, on the back steps at 3am with a half-rack of Natty Light, etc. And, honestly, that stuff is often as good as what goes on in university classrooms, but that's not saying all that much. So. . .

    I did some solitary brainstorming yesterday, over a nice Grounds for Thought dark roast, and then ran what i came up with past as many of the usual sympathetic suspects as i could find on short notice. The response was positive, so here's something like a proposal:

    This MUTUAL SKUAL (yeah, forgive me, ok?) will present short courses (1-5 weekly meetings of 2-3 hourse each) on a variety of topics. Instructor/facilitators will be encouraged to make an argument, be specific, even or especially where it generates controversy. Topics should be chosen to meet current, local needs (particularly as they're unlikely to fly without that consideration.) Locations for meetings should likewise be selected with an eye to appropriateness, taking advantage of opportunities for mutual aid with sympathetic organizations and businesses. Course materials should be heavy on sources for additional reading. Mostly, we'll be in the business of kick-starting conversations in other forums. Course structure will be left to instructor/facilitators, though some "templates" will be provided. Types of courses might include:

    Close Reading Course:

    Week 1: Presentation and start of discussion; selection of text
    to engage closely.

    Week 2: Close group reading of selected text; discussion and

    Example: An introduction to Christian anarchist Adin Ballou,
    and a reading of parts of
    Christian Nonresistance, at a local
    campus ministry.

    Policy Related Course:

    Week 1: Presentation and distribution of related bibliography;

    Week 2: Participants share results of individual research and
    respond to moderator's proposals.

    Week 3: Discussion and organization of actions to be taken

    Example: Discussion of questions about evolution and
    intelligent design in school curricula, leading (if its deemed
    necessary) to some steps designed to deal with the actual
    implementation of new curricula. (Ohio is already
    facing all of this.)

    Plenty of other structures are possible, including a farely traditional, if examless, lecture-discussion-with-assigned-readings format, which is probably what i'll do with the radical history course.
    Support for the project will be provided in the form of a website with syllabi, discussion forums and such. Asynchronous interactions between face-to-face sessions will be encouraged, as will participation by folks outside the immediate vicinity, by way of the online forums. Lectures could be recorded and provided as audioblogs or podcasts. Other forms of nontraditional education in the community (or in other communities, if the project proves transplantable to other spots.)
    "Tuition" for the face-to-face gatherings would be "punk-priced" at $1/hour/participant, probably as a "suggested donation." Course materials, where necessary, would be handled in as close to a "cost the limit of price" manner as possible.
    Ideally, some rough, generalizable guidelines should be possible so that individuals in other areas could extend the web of mutualist education.
    I've got some fairly ambitious thoughts about all of this, but that's the basics. I'll be curious to hear from folks, as i try to get things rolling here.

    Blogosphere of the Libertarian Left webring

    Libertatia Labs is happy to be a part of the Blogosphere of the Libertarian Left webring, a brainchild of Knappster (see his announcement here.) It's a fairly diverse crowd, which I take to be a good thing--good in particular for fostering interesting discussion. Have a look around the neighborhood.

    New Alchemists and Ocean Arks

    Nancy Jack Todd has recently written another book, A Safe and Sustainable World: The Promise of Ecological Design, a brief history of the work of the New Alchemy Institute, Ocean Arks International, and recent research into "living machines." John and Nancy Jack Todd continue to be a real inspiration, tackling environmental problems in entirely practical terms, with results that are pretty astounding. I'm always amazed at how little attention their work, which stretches from the era of hippy communes to the present, gets from radicals and environmentalists. Any of the Todds' books are worth a look. This one is a particularly good overview.

    Tuesday, August 16, 2005

    Evolution? Ah, What the Heck. Teach the Controversy.

    But teach it well!

    I've been reading a lot of new responses to the attempts to get "intelligent design" included in science curricula. There's obviously a lot of concern out there that students will no longer be taught properly scientific theories about species development--and with good reason. But my greatest concern, reading the highly polarized debate, is that we appear to be doing a pretty lousy job of teaching evolution right now.

    Arguments about evolution are hardly ever just scientific arguments. Most of us recognize immediately that this is true about the controversies between the current neo-Darwinian orthodoxy and such contenders as creation science and intelligent design. What is at stake is more a worldview than any set of facts. How we think about human agency and autonomy may be dramatically altered by, for example, the assumption of a divine controlling hand or of blind chance as the engine of natural development. For anarchists, this stuff is very close to our concerns. We remember (sometimes somewhat vaguely, admittedly) the precisely political importance of Peter Kropotkin's assertion that mutual aid was perhaps the "predominant" factor in evolution, as he challenged a "social darwinism" designed to apologize for the depredations of the strong.

    Honestly, it isn't clear that we should--or need to--care quite so obsessively about "the natural order" in this regard. I'm pretty sure that only a very select few evolutionary or anti-evolutionary view actually seem to dictate a social order. Human beings tend to find ways to exert agency, even when their deeply held beliefs seem to indicate they don't have much to exercise. Think of the mental wriggle of the Calvinists, who, believing that their fates were predestined, nevertheless developed a stenuous work ethic in order to demonstrate that they were among the elect.

    More than that, it isn't clear that, based on our actual, personal knowledge of either the science or the theology involved, most of us could work out in any detail the inescapable implications of our positions. What's stunningly clear from the polls--which say that around 50% of us in the US believe in creation alone, with another 40% favoring some theory of "God-directed evolution"--and from the public debate, is that we don't know much about these things.

    And I'm pretty sure that we don't actually care very much about the science involved.

    This is all holy war--with us or against us stuff--another litmus test we use to assign people to sides, and preferably only two of those, thank you. But there simply aren't two sides in these debates. Partisans of evolution by natural selection cover a lot of ground, as do partisans of divine creation or intelligent design. And what the poll numbers seem to be telling us is that something like 40% of Americans aren't even interested in taking one of the polar positions.

    I don't really think we need intelligent design curricula in science classes, though not for the reasons you might think. I'm a christian, if a bit of a antinomian heretic, and a strong believer in the value and powers of scientific enquiry, so lump me with that supposed 40% who have made their peace with "both sides" to some extent. Now, as someone committed to the cause of "good," meaning careful and rigorous, science, I'm not certain that we can really exclude intelligent design as a scientific hypothesis. We live in a world chock full of intelligently(?) designed artifacts, and if someone wants to attempt to build a case that everything shows signs of artifactuality, well, that's fine. But it's not the sort of case that is easy to support positively, and it seems nearly impossible to falsify effectively. I just don't think intelligent design in the classroom can go very far, particularly as we can't rule out that the designing power has incorporated some purely random mechanisms.

    So, no, I'm not suggesting we teach that controversy.

    What I am suggesting is that the current state of the debates on evolution and related topics reveals some pretty pervasive weaknesses in our understandings of what is at stake. We mix up questions of science with other questions. We imagine there can be "two sides" in conversations that have always been much more complicated, and remain so, despite creeping fundamentalist tendencies all around. So maybe what we could use in our schools is the kind of curriculum that helps us learn how to think about these things a little more usefully, which provides us with a solid background from which to engage in more fruitful debates. Honestly, I wouldn't mind seeing more debate of religious issues in the schools, as long as it's respectful and somewhat rigorous. Unfortunately, I'm not sure our education programs are turning out teachers well equipped for opening the spaces those sorts of debates require. State sponsored compulsory education kind of sucks anyway, but it's an awful lot of what we've got, and it could be worse. Lots of us muddled through fairly effectively. Anyway, treating schools are essentially dumb can't be anything but a self-fulfilling prophecy, so let's resist that course at least a bit yet.

    So what am I advocating here?

    What if we met the calls for "teaching the controversy," where they arise, with precisely a course in controversy, an interdisciplinary approach to the question of just how we got to this stage of debate. We could structure much of the curriculum historically, tracing the development of evolutionary theory and its connections to theology. There's a rich, largely forgotten literature attempting to reconcile developments in geology with the Bible. We can survey that. We can cull some sections from Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (1844) and Hugh Miller's writings. Then off to Erasmus Darwin, Lamarck, Alfred Russel Wallace, Charles Darwin, Samuel Butler, etc, etc. (These links are just places to start.) And there's plenty more, some of it profound, and some of it pretty cranky. But the point is to open the conversation back up, and present some places we can dig in without wrestling so much with what we know or think we know about present options. (This is, regular readers will recognize, one of my favorite strategies.)

    UC Berkeley has some useful course materials available online.

    If anyone wants to give me a grant to work up something a little more substantial, I'm available.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2005

    On Why You Can't Beat a (Real) Book for Research

    Something wasn't looking right. It certainly seemed unlikely to me that the scholars of transcendentalism, who, after all, have been mining a very small body of texts for a very long time now, could have missed a signed article by a noted, if not central figure, in the transcendentalist journal. And they didn't. A little time in the archives this morning proved what I had begun to suspect from a close look at the electronic texts - there is only one article by William B. Greene in the Dial, but there are two listed in APS Online, separately indexed, without clear page numbers, and out of order in the issue index. For the record, what APS calls "Beauty, Justice and Harmony" is actually the last three pages of "First Principles." Fortunately, the archives at BGSU have a set of the Dial reprints and, after some running around by the archivists, it only took a second to clarify the matter.

    So, a word or two to the wise: if you're using electronic resources, make use of the page maps if they're available. If you're archiving material, try to provide some means of establishing the relationships between elements in a bound volume.

    That erases one of the potential new W B Greene texts, but there's still some cause for celebration. "Song of Espousal" pretty clearly now has earliest publication honors, and there appear to be two essays by Greene in Massachusetts Teacher and Journal of Home and School Education, "What Is The Minus Quantity?" and "Influence," that have gone unremarked.

    Monday, August 08, 2005

    Just a bit more on Greene and Transcendentalism

    Philip F. Gura has a useful article, "Beyond Transcendentalism: The Radical Individualism of William B. Greene," in a collection called Transient and Permanent: The Transcendentalist Movement and Its Contexts (Mass. Historical Soc., 1999), edited by Charles Capper and Conrad Edick Wright. He concentrates on Greene's philosophical and theological writings from the 1840s, but also speculates a bit on Greene's reasons for leaving the pulpit in West Brookfield in 1850. Greene's relationship to Orestes Brownson, who was an important early mentor, is also explored a bit.

    Dean Grozdin's American Heretic: Theodore Parker and Transcendentalism (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2002) adds a bit of soap opera spice to Greene's story. Apparently, Theodore Parker was somewhat smitten with Anna Blake Shaw, who would become Mrs. William B. Greene. Grazdin gives an interesting account of the resulting conflict, drawing on the letters of Parker, Greene, Brownson and Elizabeth Peabody.

    And I haven't seen it yet, but it seems American Renaissance Literary Report 10 (1996) includes Kenneth Walter Cameron's "Emerson and William Batchelder Greene's Creativity and Questing," which "reprints a number of Greene's works and articles about him."Sound like it might be good stuff.

    Sunday, August 07, 2005

    More William B. Greene

    A note in the 1849 "first edition" William Batchelder Greene's essay "Transcendentalism" states that "the substance of this tract was originally published in the third and ninth numbers of the American Review." The American review; a Whig journal of politics, literature, art, and science is also known as the American Whig Review, and can be found under that title in the Making of America collection. Sure enough, the essay "Mr. Emerson and Transcendentalism" was followed in the September 1845 issue (V.2, #3) by The Bhagvat Geeta, and the Doctrine of Immortality. I'll get to work on scanning and collating the various versions of the essay soon. Like the versions of Mutual Banking, there are some very interesting differences between them. I currently have access to copies of the 1849 1st edition, published by the "Power Press of Oliver S. Cooke & Co." in West Brookfield, Massachusetts, and the 1871 4th edition, by Lee and Shepard, Boston. If anyone has access to the 2nd, 3rd, or any other editions, please let me know.

    It is quite possible that there are other pieces by Greene in the American Whig Review. (More on that, and on his father's literary output, later.) It also appears that he may have been writing for New England educational journals, again as "W. B. G." A couple of articles have surfaced that appear to be in the same vein as Green's work on the calculus. (Again, more as I am able to verify things.) What is clear, after today's researches, is that one of Greene's earliest published efforts was a poem (first published in the "Token," then noted in the Boston Evening Gazette, and reprinted in the Army and Navy Chronicle; November 19, 1840. There is considerable confusion in the sources about the authorship of several volumes of poetry either by Greene or by his son, also William Batchelder Greene, but here the author is so clearly identified we can't have much doubt that it is our WBG.

    We find in the "TOKEN" for 1841, the following beautiful poem from the pen of Lieut. GREENE, son our our esteemed Postmaster, Nathaniel Greene, Esq. It breathes the very soul of martial poesy, and resembles in spirit the celebrated "Sword Song" of Kerner, which once rung through the German forces, calling them to valiant deeds.--Boston Eve. Gazette


    Oh, bright is the glance from a lady's eye,
    And soft is the tint of her rosy cheek,
    And sweet are the tones of love's minstrelsy,
    When the hopes of the bard in his numbers speak ;
    But dearer, far dearer, art thou my bride,
    Than the throbbings of love or the measures of hope ;
    Far brighter thy flash than the glances of pride ;
    Thy language more melting than bard ever spoke.

    Then hail to my SWORD! to my own fair bride !
    To my first, to my last, to my only love !
    In the darkness of death thou shalt dwell by my side,
    O my first and my only love.

    When the banner shall droop on the broken lance,
    And the heart shall beat low to the fleeting breath,
    Our loves shall be sung, with a wild measured dance,
    Where havoc keeps time to the harpings of death,
    The couch of our bridal shall be the damp ground,
    With the blue cannon-smoke for a canopy spread,
    While the drum with the bugle shall mingle its sound,
    For a wild serenade to the fair one I wed.

    Then hail to my SWORD! to my own fair bride !
    To my first, to my last, to my only love !
    In the darkness of death thou shalt dwell by my side,
    O my first and my only love !

    FORT RUSSELL, East Florida, Feb. 9 1840.

    Oh, well. Not exactly an anarchist sentiment, but full of the slightly over-the-top intensity we expect from Greene. This was, recall, written during his first military career, fighting in the Second Seminole War, prior to the religious conversion and crisis of conscience that led him to join the ministry and undertake a career of political radicalism.

    Saturday, August 06, 2005

    Mutualist and transcendentalist bits - William B. Greene

    William Batchelder Greene (1818-1878), the "American Proudhon," is a strangely underdocumented character, given his importance to the individualist anarchist tradition. He has yet to find his biographer, though many of his contemporaries considered his life interesting enough to mention in other contexts. This entry from George Willis Cooke's Historical and Biographical Introduction to the Rowfant Club reprint of The Dial gathers some of those accounts (and I have gathered the relevant text in the Libertarian Labyrinth.)

    We know that there are articles and letters in periodicals going back into the early 1840s which have, at best, been mentioned as sources for later works. For example, the letters to the Worcester Palladium which formed the basis for Equality and then the various editions of Mutual Banking do not seem to have been reprinted anywhere. There is plenty of reason to be interested in early drafts of Greene's mutualist ideas, as his rationale for advocating mutualism changed gradually over the years--or at least saw a variety of presentations. There is probably even more reason to lament the obscurity of his theological and philosophical writings. These have hardly been examined by the historians of individualism, despite the fact that many of Greene's most direct statements about freedom and justice are contained there. In fact, Greene seems to have had a knack for squirreling potentially important bits away in odd corners of his writings. A fascinating passage on human sovereignty, for example, is tucked in a footnote to his version of the Book of Job.

    It's a pleasure, then, to fill in even a few holes in the record on Greene's early writing, and it appears I may be able to contribute a bit to our knowledge of his brief dalliance with American transcendentalism. "First Principles," which appeared in the January 1842 issue of The Dial, is noted by Cooke as Greene's only contribution to the journal, but that same issue also contains a piece by "W. B. G." entitled "Beauty, Justice and Harmony," which bears at least some of the marks of Greene's thought at the time. The editors of The Dial were certainly aware of Greene's theological work, noting in a later issue that a review of The Doctrine of Life had been crowded out by too-plentiful submissions, and he was running in the same circles as most of the major contributors. More certain is the identity of the author of this piece:

    Mr. Emerson and Transcendentalism
    The American Whig review. / Volume 1, Issue 3 (Mar 1845). pp. 233-243
    Wiley and Putnam, etc., NY

    Paul F. Boller, Jr. attributes the piece to Greene in his American Transcendentalism, 1830-1860: An Intellectual Inquiry, and the definition offered, that "Transcendentalism sinks God and nature in man," is immediately recognizable from Greene's 1849 pamphlet Transcendentalism. It will take some collating to determine how much of that pamphlet appeared in the earlier text, but, if my memory serves me well, the two pieces are quite similar.

    And one to wait for--Proquest has announced the full texts of The Spirit of the Age as "coming soon, so we should be able to determine the contents of the article "Human Pantheism," mentioned in Clarence L. F. Gohdes, The Periodicals of American Transcendentalism.

    Bit by bit. . .

    Tuesday, August 02, 2005

    Radical Parables

    As I've been immersing myself in Bolton Hall's work lately, I've been finding that nearly half of the book-length works consist of parables of one sort or another. The parable form is fairly common among radical writers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Before he wandered off into anti-semitism and eugenic speculation, Morrison Isaac Swift, the anti-imperialist, wrote a collection of entertaining short fictions, nearly all of which amount to radical parables. A number of Mary Marcy's books published by Charles H. Kerr took the form of socialist parables. Of course, these latter works were a bit more doctrinaire than those of Hall, who is nothing if not ecumenical. Someone like William Batchelder Greene would draw on a variety of discourses and rationales, from the Christian critique of usury to the theories of Proudhon and Beck, in his successive editions of Mutual Banking. But Hall is hard at work speaking all of these languages together, returning to the same issues again and again, mixing the elements in slightly different ways. The result may seem a bit naive to us - cynical lot that we are - but the point is clear enough, and clear without a lot of direct pleading. Equity and the Kingdom of Heaven are one, and neither is to be put off until later.

    Cynical lot or not, it's hard not to respond to that. . .

    Louise Michel exhibit online

    The International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam has posted online exhibit of documents relating to Paris Communard Louise Michel. There's a lot of other interesting stuff on the site. Check out this early Bolshevik exercise in mangled mutualism: The All-Russian Central Union of Consumer Cooperations says, "Women, adhere to the cooperation." Ah, well. It is a very pretty poster.

    Thanks to Eugene Plawiuk for the heads-up.)

    Monday, August 01, 2005

    Readings at Random: How the Doctors At Last Agreed

    How the Doctors At Last Agreed

    A patient with a rope twisted tight around his fee was brought to the Sociologic Hospital. His skin was chafed and bruised by the cord, and fever burned him so that he was like to perish outright.

    Said Dr. Divine: "We must first make you and your fellows religious, so that you won't come to such dreadful straights."

    "No," said Dr. Socialis; "first do away with competition, which makes men enemies, then if the patient needs religion, it may be administered."

    Dr. Charitas said: "Good homes would prevent all this. Now here is a plan for improvements------"

    "Too much animal food," said Dr. Vegetaria; "he must learn to live on oatmeal; then wounds will readily heal--indeed, no one will inflict them."

    Says Dr. Monomet: "Take the gold cure, my good man--one pill after-----"

    "That's just the matter--too much gold now," remarked Dr. Coin. "But here are some silver-coated pills. Take sixteen-----"

    "Nonsense," said Dr. Ballot. "When the complexion is all right, your whole body is well. I have here an Australian wash which will fix you right up."

    "First take this aqua pura to steady your head," cried Dr. Prohib. "Here is a prescription, the effect of which combined with-----"

    "Nonsense," said Dr. Legis, "he needs a law forcing him to have less of that fever which is eating him up."

    Cried Master Freedom: "Cut the rope which causes-----"

    Then all the doctors united in yelling: "Anarchist, Visionary, Crank, Quack, Radical, Utopian, Revolutionary, Fool!"

    Meanwhile, the patient died, and the coroner's jury decided that his death was due to natural causes.

    from Even As You and I, by Bolton Hall, 1897