Thursday, September 04, 2008

Sidney H. Morse's alternate history of equitable commerce

Tucked away in the pages of Liberty, Sidney H. Morse, Josiah Warren's literary executor, contributed an odd item, a kind of "what-if" history of Robert Owen's New Harmony, as if, at the critical moment, Josiah Warren's equitable commerce had been the model for continuing on after the failure of the original project. The story, Liberty and Wealth, may be the very best introduction I know of to Warren's thought as filtered through another individuality. There is a difficulty in dealing with Warren's writings, since he insisted that, in practice, equitable commerce must be based in a complete individualization of interests by all the participants, but much of what we have to work with, in the way of interpretations of Warren's thought, are perhaps a little too faithful to Warren's own preoccupations. Morse, who knew Warren well, seems to have made the basic ideas of equitable commerce his own, and allows us to see it in a rather different light.

I've spent parts of the last week, as I've mentioned, working my way through another file of The Boston Investigator, and my bibliography of equitable commerce material is growing again steadily. Among the items that have surfaced this time: finally, some evidence to support the claim that Warren had an interest in spiritualism. There are still mysteries, including an announced essay that never seems to have appeared in print, but fewer than before.

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