Monday, April 24, 2006

Lewis Masquerier, "Premium Remedy for Hireling Slavery"

In 1877, Lewis Masquerier, aged and going blind, collected such of his newspaper articles and short essays as he felt represented, however partially, his social thought. The result was Sociology: or, The reconstruction of society, government, and property, upon the principles of the equality, the perpetuity, and the individuality of the private ownership of life, person, government, homestead, and the whole product of labor, by organizing all nations into townships of self-governed homestead democracies--self-employed in farming and mechanism, giving all the liberty and happiness to be found on earth, another of those "books by a man too busy to write books" that seem to be standard for reformers of the period (such as Greene, Tucker, and Ingalls). The original edition of the book contained pages from proposed, but never issued volumes, including a sort of epic poem. [The OCLC catalog poetically describes the additional material thus: "Appended: The Sataniad, or Contest of the gods, for the dominion in heaven and earth. By Lewis Masquerier. New York, 1877. 27, [1] p.; also, specimen pages of various proposed publications by the same author, [74] p. at end."] In 1884, an "Appendix to Sociology" was issued in pamphlet form containing a short presentation of Masquerier's system of "homestead democracies," along with a number of "land reform hymns" and diagrams.

In the mid-1830's, Masquerier was an agent for The Western Examiner, a Journal Embodying a Full and Impartial Enquiry into the Truth or Falsity of the Christian Religion; Whether Philosophically or Historically Viewed in Illinois. In a letter to The Free Enquirer, Dec 7, 1834, we meet Masquerier at the very beginnings of his political career, at a time when the Owenite experiments in the US and England captured his imagination. He writes, "I have recieved the Free Enquirer, and herein inclose you five dollars. I betrayed great ignorance when I wrote for it, last winter, but I had then just waked in the morn of my reason, from my night of superstition; ad living in these frontier regions, I was not certain that there was a liberal press in the Union."

Masquerier became active in Owenite circles, contributed a few letters to the New Moral World, and then moved and joined the "workies" in New York. He was closely allied with George Henry Evans, and wrote for a number of his papers. Like Stephen Pearl Andrews, he was a spelling reformer and phonographic writing enthusiast. One of his most interesting publications was A scientific division and nomenclature of the earth, and particularly the territory of the United States into states, counties, townships, farms and lots, for promoting the equality, individuality and inalienableness of man's right to sovereignty, life, labor and domain, while at the same time it constitutes a scientific geography of the earth : also a constitution for Nebrashevil or any other state : for the consideration of national reformers and other statesmen, which proposed a division of the land a township naming system that would have the quaint advantage of having every town's name present its location on the map. Ah, the very interesting applications of "science" in the 19th century...

Also in 1877, Masquerier released a pamphlet entitled "Premium remedy for hireling slavery; classified principles and elements of rights and wrongs; diagram of township and village, and revolutionary hymns," containing pages lifted straight from Sociology, plus one short essay apparently original to the pamphlet.

Masquerier's mature system was based in something like an obligation to own property, and he imagines a world made up of roughly equal, inalienable and perpetual homesteads, with a decentralized government. He's probably guilty of all of the retrogressive tendencies generally, if not always justly, attributed to early mutualists, and his odd mix of authoritarianism and anarchism is as likely to puzzle as inspire. That said, he was in contact with many of the important players in the anarchist and land-reform movements, and I will undoubtedly have occasion to return to his work soon. For now, enjoy the "Premium Remedy..."

1 comment:

Just Ken said...

Glad that you mention Masquerier, and his connection with George Henry Evans. Both were quite insightful and had much to say that are not heard today. There seems to be an entire generation of radical thought that is all but unknown today, particularly with regard to building communities.

Also, do you know of any connection between Evans and Greene or Andrews? Their general stance is similar, antough I am not aware of either Evans (which I believe unlikely) or Greene being involved in spiritualism, but there are so many interweavings of ideas that it is often hard to trace them out.

Just a thought.
Just Ken