Thursday, October 27, 2005

"A Transcendentalist in Political Economy"

Reading through William B. Greene's various essays on American Transcendentalism, perhaps the most puzzling question is: "Why does he care? What's the Big Deal?" Greene clearly looked up to Ralph Waldo Emerson, and just as clearly tried to make that respect clear, even as he ripped into transcendentalism. He was not intellectually slavish in his admirations. By 1845, when he published the first of the works on transcendentalism, Greene had already made at least one attempt to rectify what he saw as errors in Orestes Brownson's formulation of the "doctrine of life" and its consequences. Later, his use of portions of Edward Kellogg's Labor and Other Capital in his mutual banking writings amounts to a kind of gentle detournement. But the engagement with transcendentalism is more complicated, in part because he has almost nothing good to say about the "new school"—at least in the writings on transcendentalism themselves. That's the main problem with "Transcendentalism" in its various forms: it skewers the transcendentalists, but also the pantheists and materialists, while its primary argument seems to be that these are the only three options. Knowing Greene's affinity for balanced tripartite schemes, it's not hard to guess what the proper resolution of the problem is, but we are forced to guess. Rather than dealing with the transcendentalist-pantheist-materialist scheme, the essays turn to the question of the immortality of the soul and the possibility of eternal life (a part of Greene's theology I'll take up another time.)

Fortunately, tucked away in the second section of Equality, among the pieces that Greene did not choose to incorporate into The Radical Deficiency Of The Existing Circulating Medium, And The Advantages Of A Mutual Currency (the 1857 version of Mutual Banking), or any of his subsequent writings, is a short essay entitled "COMMUNISM—CAPITALISM—SOCIALISM." It begins with a familiar paragraph from the essays on transcendentalism, with just a few changes:


The three partial philosophical systems which manifest themselves in every age of the world, have been defined as follows:—

"Transcendentalism is that form of Philosophy which sinks God and Nature in man. Let us explain. God,—man (the laborer)—and nature (capital)—in their relations (if indeed the absolute God may be said ever to be in relations) are the objects of all philosophy; but, in different theories, greater or less prominence is given to one or the other of these three, and thus systems are formed. Pantheism sinks man and nature in God; Materialism sinks God and man in the universe; Transcendentalism sinks God and nature in man. In other words, some, in philosophising, take their point of departure in God alone, and are inevitably conducted to Pantheism;—others take their point of departure in nature alone, and are led to Materialism; others start with man alone, and end in Transcendentalism."

And then proceeds with a section under the header:

Transcendentalism—Communism.

Greene then provides the political equivalents of his three philosophical systems, damning them all pretty roundly, then ending with the affirmation that: "All these systems limit, modify and correct each other; and it is in their union and harmony that the truth is to be found." Here is the formula for Mutualism (according to Greene): (transcendentalism + materialism + pantheism) = (communism + capitalism + socialism) = Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.

Everything that Greene wrote about individual components of his scheme, such as his scathing comments about socialism elsewhere in Equality, probably has to be read in the context of this need for "union and harmony." Certainly, the essays on transcendentalism must be read in that spirit.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Edward Kellogg, 1790-1858

Edward Kellogg's Labor and Other Capital (1849) was one of the major sources, along with the works of Proudhon and William Beck's Money and Banking (1839), from which William Batchelder Greene drew portions of his mutual bank theory. He differed from all of his sources in the measures he proposed, but, as was the case with his theological writings and the influence of Orestes Brownson, sometimes he appropriated large sections of the works he was reading, if only to turn them aside from their author's trajectories. This was certainly the case with Kellogg, whose ideas about banking and interest were circulating in the late 1840s. Greene's example of the "parasite city" in Mutual Banking is a close paraphrase of the chapter "Of the Wealth of Cities, and the Means of its Accumulation" in Labor and Other Capital. Kellogg's "Remarks on the Repeal of the Usury Laws," reflects debates that had been taking place in journals such as the Merchants Magazine and Commercial Review of New York, and was in turn reflected in Greene's discussions of those same usury laws. Both Kellogg and Greene cite the Merchants Magazine and Commercial Review on the current wealth of Massachusetts, and both refer to, although they do not cite by name, Our First Men: a calendar of wealth, fashion and gentility : containing a list of those persons taxed in the city of Boston, credibly reported to be worth one hundred thousand dollars : with biographical notices of the principal persons (Boston: Published by all the booksellers, 1846) of which a short excerpt is available online.

Kellogg actually developed his banking ideas over a series of texts, which have a rather bewildering publishing history. In his later works, he was assisted by his daughter, Mary Kellogg Putnam, who put together a revised version of Labor and Other Capital under the name A New Monetary System after his death in 1858.

I'll get a bibliography of Kellogg up in the Labyrinth sometime soon, but here, in narrative form, is the history of his publishing efforts:

In 1841, Remarks upon Usury and Its Effects, a 69-page tract was published by Harper and Bros., NY, under the name "Whitehook." OCLC, NUC and Mary Kellogg Putnam attribute it to Kellogg. Joseph Dorfman, in his introduction to the 1971 reprint of Labor and Other Capital, says it was prepared by a friend, based on Kellogg's notes and ideas. His daughter mentions in her biographical introduction to the 5th edition of A New Monetary System that Kellogg disliked writing even letters, until he became caught up in an enthusiasm about his subject, so Dorfman's suggestion is at least plausible.

It was followed in 1843 by Usury, the Evil and the Remedy, a 4-page pamphlet, published by Burgess and Stringer, NY, and attributed to "Godek Gardwell" (an anagram of Edward Kellogg). Kellogg used the Gardwell psuedonym through at leasst 1844. On August 8, 1843, he sent a copy of the pamphlet to Orestes Brownson using that name. (This might be the earliest contact between Kellogg and William B. Greene's circle of contacts. Brownson, of course, was already moving away from reformers such as Kellogg and Greene. His August 1843 contribution to the The United States Magazine, and Democratic Review was "The Origin and Ground of Government," one of the series of articles that marked his break with his old comrades. Kellogg contacts him as he is embracing Calhoun and as he and Greene part ways over the social implications of the "doctrine of life" they derived from French sources such as Leroux.)

In 1844, still using the Gardwell name, Kellogg issued Currency, the Evil and the Remedy, a 43-work, apparently self-published. The numerous subsequent reprintings are a bit hard to arrange in proper order. The OCLC records may be fragmentary, but there are also clearly discrepencies in the way the various "editions" are designated. 1844 saw at least an "improved" 4th edition (and perhaps the "missing" 2nd and 3rd, though perhaps not) and an "enlarged" 5th. All of the 1844 editions appear to be self-published and used the Gardwell name. The 5th edition jumps to 48 pages in length.

In 1846, two new reprints of the 1844 5th edition appeared, published by W. H. Graham, NY, and issued under the name "Godek Goodwell." They were, curiously, designated the 3rd and 6th editions (or, perhaps, more accurately the 6th and 3rd).

Two possible solutions to the numbering problem suggest themselves:

If there were indeed two missing printings in 1844, between the initial release and the "improved" fourth, then we might assume that the first of the 1846 printings was indeed the 6th. The 3rd, which we would assume followed it, would then be a 7th printing, but also a 3rd printing of the 3rd real edition of Currency, the Evil and the Remedy [initial, improved, enlarged].

If there are not missing printings in 1844, and the records we have represent the entire publishing record, then perhaps Kellogg retroactively considered the publications of 1841 and 1843 to be the 1st and 2nd editions, and the first 1844 Currency to be the 3rd. The 1846 stated 3rd we would have to explain as above. This would give us a single "work" with multiple titles ranging in length from 4 to 69 pages, but it is nearly as plausible a solution as the other.

In 1849, Kellogg published Labor and Other Capital, a work of nearly 300 pages. This was the work that we know William B. Greene read, cited and adapted to his own uses in the mutual banking writings. Dorfman claims that "extracts" of the work were published inthe Merchants Magazine and Commercial Review in 1848. A quick search has only turned up one letter from "Godek Gardwell" announcing its impending publication, dated Dec 13, 1837 and appearing in the January 1848 issue. That letter was noticed in The Commercial Review of the South and West issue for February 1848. Perhaps some additional digging will reveal more early discussion of the work.

After Kellogg's death in 1858, his daughter, Mary Kellogg Putnam, who had been her father's assistant in the preparation of the previous volume, assembled a new edition of Labor and Other Capital, with "numerous additions from his manuscripts, under the title A New Monetary System. It appeared from Rudd & Carleton, NY in 1861, and was 366 pages in length. The same press issued a stated 2nd edition in 1862. In 1864, Kiggins and Kellogg, NY, published another stated 2nd edition, and the ordering problems begin anew. 1868 saw a stated 3rd edition by Kiggins, Tooker, and Co., NY.

In 1874, an edition was published by the United States Book Company, NY, and it included a new biographical preface by Mary Kellogg Putnam. The page count jumps up to 374. This is the edition that was published as the 5th in 1875 by H.C. Baird in Philadelphia. Baird then published a 7th in 1881, so we are either missing an edition in the interim, or the numbering now takes into account the 1874 edition.

We're almost home.

A stated 8th edition was issued in New York by American Sentry. It also appears that a different edition, noted as a reprint of the 1875 H. C. Baird 5th, was published by J. W. Lovell. Lovell published a new printing in 1884, and in 1894 an edition appeared from Lovell, Gestefeld, and Co. The Lovell editions all changed the name to Labor and Capital: A New Monetary System.

There have been microform reprints of many of Kellogg's writings, and 1971 saw modern library reprints of Labor and Other Capital, by A. M. Kelley, and the 1875 A New Monetary System, by Burt Franklin.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

William B. Greene's Articles on Transcendentalism

The various versions of the work on American Transcendentalism are all collated, scanned, and nearly edited and marked up for the web. The two pamphlet versions will be available later this week, but the three articles are online now:

The first two essay were condensed into the 1849 pamphlet Transcendentalism, which was further condensed into "Human Pantheism," and then revised into the 1871 Transcendentalism, which was reprinted in 1872 in The Blazing Star (probably from the same plates) with one additional, final paragraph added.

A full bibliographic essay and content analysis is in preparation.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Navigating the new library

I've been pretty quiet here for awhile, mostly because the William B. Greene research has taken on a life of its own, not just because A Special Answer to a Special Prayer threatens to be about twice as long as I expected, or because the editing and republication of Greene's works is at a particularly demanding stage (expect all of the versions of the work on transcendentalism, as well as a new bibliographical essay soon), but also because--to my great surprise--word of the nature of the work has prompted some new and very practical kinds of collaboration. Mutualism seems to be finding its moment.

Of course, a big part of what's eating up my potential blogtime is the research. Access to "full text" databases of many old sources makes up, in some small part, for the fact that so many books that used to be available on browsable shelves are now tucked away in remote storage facilities. Text-searching is the new shelf-browsing. Unfortunately, we're at a very awkward moment in the transition.

First, about those open stacks--there are fewer and fewer of them, and it looks like the trend may continue. There is talk at the local university here of actually closing one of our two libraries, and jamming its contents either into the other library--a 7-floor structure that now has about half of one floor actually dedicated to browsable stacks--or into compact storage at the regional depository. I've already talked, I think, about the inefficiencies of the storage option. Last weekend, I made a thorough search of the section of the PSs that is 19th century American literature. After culling for storage, that's basically one long row of bookcases, front and back. That's not a lot of books, in terms of what the library possesses in its collection, but it's a lot of books to look at and evaluate, a lot of indexes to check for Greene and Shaws. It is, however, a quantity of books that one can, with some diligent work, get through in few hours. Let's shoot for a number. Based on experience from my bookselling days, I would guess that a very low estimate of the number of books I looked over in an afternoon was 4000, of which I had to actually open a couple of hundred. Now, I'm guessing that there are at least three times as many books from this section in the regional depository as there are on the shelf. Assuming the percentage of potentially interesting books is roughly the same, we're talking about something like 500-600 books, or a pretty full day of browsing. But with browsing not an option, we're talking about 500-600 request forms to be filled out, and 500-600 books that must be picked by depository workers, trucked to my library, and handled by circulation desk workers, all before I get my chance to take the several seconds it will take to check an index.

Let me be clear about the kind of research I'm doing. It involves piecing together the lives of Greene and his family from the most offhand sorts of mentions, the most fragmentary sorts accounts. Many of my best clues about Greene's family life have come from brief passages in the memoirs of his associates. A fine example came from last weekend's browsing expedition. Lydia Maria Child made an offhand reference to William Greene's daughter, Elizabeth, in one of her letters and in the course of a sentence provided the first solid clue I have found to her approach and practice in the work she did with poor single mothers just before her death. A few weeks before it was the discovery of some potentially important historical writings by WBG, thanks to a rather dismissive mention tucked away in a book about Elizabeth Palmer Peabody. Yesterday, it was a mention, in Robert Gould Shaw's letters, that Uncle William and Uncle George seem to have patched things up--the sort of thing that sends you off on a whole new search.

This is, of course, the kind of searching that ought to be made much easier by the advent of "full text" databases, such as American Periodical Series Online and the Making of America archives. Keyword searching has, indeed, been helpful for finding mentions too slight to even make it to an index. If the results of such searches were dependable, then research could be sped up immensely.

The results of such searches are not dependable.

All too often, what you are searching through is raw OCR text, which has not even been edited to make sure keywords, such as author's names, are correct. For 19th century sources, with fonts that are likely to fragment or be misread in the OCR process, this is a huge problem. There are already difficulties associated with texts of the period. The spelling of names may be somewhat less consistent than in contemporary sources, and abbreviations are much more common. Imagine my surprise when a search term like "wm. batchelder green" turned up a couple of key bits. I've done enough OCR work to know some of the likely mis-scans, and for a name like "Greene," there are simply too many of them to pursue along with all the other combinations of names, abbreviated names, misspelled names and initials.

So. . .

We're somewhere between the time when we could, if we were willing to put in the work, do exhaustive shelf-searches, and the time when we'll be able to do exhaustive and dependable electronic searches. At the moment, it isn't really clear if we've gained or lost research power.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Two new William B. Greene texts online:

The Sovereignty of the People (1868)
An important pamphlet, later collected in the "Fragments" (1875). I'll try to complete a collation of the editions this weekend.

"The Right of Suffrage"
Another item from the "Fragments," published without notice of the original source. I wouldn't be surprised if this turns out to be a piece from "The Word" or one of the Boston papers. If anyone knows the original source of this, please let me know.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

1842: William B. Greene at 22

William Batchelder Greene's first major work was an essay titled "First Principles," which appeared in the transcendentalist periodical The Dial, in January 1842. Greene was, at the time, just starting his exploration of theology. His martial poem, Song of Espousal, had been written only two years before, while he was serving in Florida during the Second Seminole War. Still only 22, Greene was going through some rapid changes in his life. His religious conversion was little more than a year before, and his introduction into transcendentalist circles, in part through the mediation of Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, was even more recent. Around this time, after consulting with Ralph Waldo Emerson, he entered the Baptist Theological Seminary at Newton, on special exploratory student status. He fairly quickly convinced himself that he was a Unitarian, and was off to Harvard, where he was admitted as a senior. By late 1845, he was installed at a church in West Brookfield, Massachusetts.

In 1843, Greene would expand the ideas in "First Principles" into the much more elaborate Doctrine of Life: With Some of Its Theological Applications. By that time, Orestes Brownson's Mediatorial Life of Jesus had been published--and that essay, with its unique theology and its elements of French socialist philosophy, that would have a profound influence on Greene's development.

Here's a taste of "First Principles:"

LOVE.

THE stream flows between its banks, according to Love. The planets sustain and restrain themselves, in their courses, by this same principle. All nature governs itself by Love.

By this I understand that each created thing, is gifted to act, as though it knew the properties, and ends to be attained which belong to each of the others; and that each one so guides itself as not to interfere with, or restrain, the workings of another; except when a clashing of properties takes place, and then, a just and equitable compromise is immediately effected.

This regard to the peculiarities, and constructions of each other, appears to be an application of the principle of justice.

The sentence, "All nature governs itself by Love," implies a power--the Power of Love. But this is not always perceived.

LOVE AND POWER.

Looking out upon nature, we find all things moving, and revolving according to some apparently everlasting and unchanging laws, of which we have, as yet, obtained no knowledge, save that of their mere existence.

Immediately we sum up all the changes of the seasons; the summer with its overpowering heat; the winter with its intense cold; the movement of the winds and the waves; the growth of the trees; the revolutions of the sun, and the moon, and the stars; and then we turn our eyes inward, and perceive in our own souls, that we decide concerning the performance of any action, according as the motive for, is stronger or weaker than the motive against; and because we have seen all this, we say:

There are in nature two classes of things: things which are governed, and things which govern. The things which are governed are matter and spirit. The things which govern, are the laws of matter and the laws of spirit. Then we sum up all the laws which we know, and find that they may be included in the first thought of justice or love. But the view is changed; we now perceive the element of Activity, or Power. Power (or activity) I call will, (not free will.)As in the word Love, Power (or activity) is implied, so in the word Power, Freedom is implied. But this is not always perceived.

APPLICATION.

There is a chain of causes and effects, which proceeds from the eternity of the past and passes, link by link, through our little dominion of time, thence stretching onward, till it is lost in the dim eternity to come. The description of this chain, is the history of the universe.

When we have performed an action, it is no longer ours, it belongs to nature. As soon as an action goes forth, it gives birth to another action, which last gives birth to still another, and so on through all eternity. The little bustle and noise, which we have made, appears small, beside the motion of the rest of the universe; but that little bustle and noise will have their precise effect, and this effect will continue to produce and reproduce itself forever. All that has been done before my time, has left effects, to serve me as motives. All that I do, and all that nature does in my time, will serve as motives to those who come after me. All nature has been at work from the beginning of time, until this day, to produce me, and my character.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

1853: William B. Greene at 34

In 1853, William B. Greene had resigned from his position as pastor of a West Brookfield church, but had not yet settled himself in Paris, where he would stay until his return in 1861, at the outbreak of the Civil War. Greene was 34 years old, was married to "the belle of Boston," and had two children, one of them only a couple of years old. He was financially comfortable, but politically unsettled by the recent passage of the Fugitive Slave Law (to which some attribute his resignation and emigration). He was on the tail end of one of the most active periods of his literary life. The period 1847-1850 saw the publication of all these texts:

  • The Doctrine Of The Trinity: Briefly And Impartially Examined In The Light Of History And Philosophy, 1847. [32 pages]
  • The Incarnation. A Letter To Rev. John Fiske, D.D. , 1848 [52 pages]
  • Remarks In Refutation Of The Treatise Of Jonathan Edwards, 1848.
  • Letter to Rev. Eber Carpenter, Southbridge, Mass., 1849 [8 pages]
  • Equality, 1849. [74 pages]
  • A New Gnosis, 1849. [10 pages] Remarks On The History Of Science; Followed By An Apriori Autobiography, 1849. [164 pages]
  • Transcendentalism, 1849. [49 pages]
  • Mutual Banking, 1850. [95 pages]

This amounts to the meat of Greene's entire oeuvre . All of his ideas still awaited their most mature expression, which would come in the book-length collections of the 1870s, but nearly all of his concerns had now been expressed and worked through, in most cases, in multiple essays. By 1853, he had already started his appeals to the Massachusetts General Court in favor of allowing mutual banking. However, when he became a member of the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention in that year, his activism was almost entirely directed towards redefining the concept of the people--specifically which people were to be allowed to vote on the nature of state government. It was in the context of the debate on this question that Greene made a fascinating speech, which was reprinted in the Liberator, and which is now available at the Libertatia Laboratories site. It is one of the rare occasions where a majority of Greene's various concerns are articulated all in one place, and it gives us a taste of what he must have been like behind the pulpit. Here is a long excerpt:

I will trespass upon the patience of the Convention for a few moments, only, and hope I may secure its attention, as I shall be under the necessity of having recourse to an order of ideas not often brought before a body of this kind. I ask every gentleman to weigh, in his own mind, and answer me a few of the questions which I will suggest to him. Is there not always before us an ideal, a mental picture, if you will, an image, of what we ought to be, and are not? Does not every one who endeavors to follow this ideal revealed to his inward vision, every one who endeavors to attain to conformity with it, find it enlarge itself, and remove from him? Does not he that follows it improve his moral character, the ideal remaining ever above him, and before him, prompting him to new exertions? What is conscience but a comparison of ourselves as we are, mean, pitiful, weak, with ourselves as we ought to be, wise, powerful, holy? What is conscience but a comparison of our actual conduct with our ideal of human perfection? As we make new efforts in striving after the fullness of perfection revealed in our hearts, the ideal removes further and further from us, making higher and higher claims, until, at last, we lose ourselves in the contemplation of the Infinite Majesty; for, in this upward aspiration, there is revealed to us a knowledge of our spiritual existence, and a knowledge of the Most High God. Man is created in the image of God, and it is his duty to bring out into its full splendor that Divine Image which is latent at the bottom of his heart. When a man first recognizes this Divine Ideal, which is the shadow of God, it is to him like the dawning of a new day. As he looks steadfastly, the darkness of his understanding begins to disappear, and the day-star begins to rise in his heart. As he moves forward toward the mark of his desire, subordinating his will to the divine will, he enters into communion and fellowship with God the Father; and the Eternal Sun fills the whole firmament of his soul with its rays of threefold glory. But, if a man aspire toward God, he must aspire according to his threefold nature; he must aspire according to his body, his soul, and his spirit; he must obey the divine law in its threefold applications. Man must follow what he ought to be in the natural world, in the moral world, and in the world of thought. Liberty is the right which every human being possesses of aspiring toward God, by the development of that threefold human nature-physical, intellectual, and moral-on which the image of God is stamped. Liberty is the form of the relation which exists, and necessarily exists, between man and his Maker. Now this liberty is the sum of human right; for, because man has a
threefold existence-physical, moral, and spiritual-he must glorify God by aspiring toward him in accordance with his threefold nature; that is to say, man has a natural right and duty to develop all the faculties of his threefold being. Shall repressive laws, shall priests and creeds, shall public opinion, separate between me and the Father of my spirit? Tyrants and priests know nothing of the revelation which God makes in the centre of my individual heart. I stand before God as an individual man; he communicates his will in the secret chambers of the centre of my individual heart. The revelation which God makes to me, is made to me, not to another. Individualism (which is the opposite to egotism) is, therefore, a holy doctrine. The individual man is a mysterious and holy force placed on the earth in accordance with the mysterious designs of a holy providence. Touch him not, therefore; seek not to guide him by indirect influence, for he is holy! Man is the temple of God, and his heart is the sanctuary from which the Almighty deigns to reveal his presence. He that contends against the rights of an individual man, contends against God; for it is the ever-attractive in-dwelling of God in the individual soul, that is the origin and foundation of all human rights. An organization of society which renders a man dependent upon his neighbors, upon public opinion-which, in a word, renders him subservient to his accidents, instead of being supreme over them-is destructive to individualism, and is, therefore, profoundly immoral.

Now, I maintain-and let me see the man stand up that claims to deny it-I maintain that woman has an intellectual and spiritual nature; I maintain that woman aspires towards God, that she stands in secret and direct relations with God; that the will of God is revealed to her, secretly, and in the centre of her individual heart. I maintain, therefore, that woman has natural, divine rights, and that these rights come from that relation which she sustains to her Maker, which, because it imposes duties upon her, imposes the correlative duty upon us of taking from her nothing that is necessary to enable her to perform her duties. At the risk of being tedious, I will endeavor to show the identity of the fundamental dogma of Democracy (that of the supremacy of man over his accidents) with the fundamental principle of Christianity; for I recognize no Democracy that is contra-distinguished from Christianity, and no Christianity which teaches either the divine right of kings, or the divine right of any portion of the people to govern any other portion, without the consent of the governed. What is this upward aspiration of the soul toward God, if not that spiritual attraction or gravitation, of which St. Augustine speaks, and which he denominates charity or love? " Charity," he says, "is the weight of spiritual existences." What is Faith, if not the conviction which is awakened by the spiritual world, through the power of this supreme attraction in the soul, that is akin to itself. Is not Hope the confidence which is borne in this upward aspiration? From these fundamental principles of democracy, can we not thus deduce every one of the fundamental principles of Christian morality?