Friday, September 18, 2009

The other "Equitable Commerce" of 1846

1846 was the year that Josiah Warren published Equitable Commerce at New Harmony, Indiana. He had previously published a number of magazines and newsletters about the system of equitable commerce. He had debated it in the papers of Cincinnati in the late 1820s, and had introduced the notion to members of the Workingman's Party in New York in 1830. Starting in 1849, he would be a regular lecturer in Boston, and his writings on equitable commerce would be regularly featured in the Boston Investigator, but prior to 1846, Warren and equitable commerce were relative unknowns in his native Massachusetts. Warren does not seem to have contributed to the Investigator until 1849, when he was lecturing in the city, but the spring of 1846 saw three articles with the title "Equitable Commerce; or, Association without Combination." The first two were by Maria L. Varney, and the third was by her husband, Thomas Varney. One response to Maria's essays was also published. Maria Varney shows up a contributor to the Cincinnati Herald of Truth in 1847, and as an advocate of women's rights in Connecticut in 1850. Samuel Byron Brittan (J. K. Ingalls' friend and sometimes publisher) reprinted part of letter sent by her from San Francisco in 1853. Thomas Varney is described in some sources as an inventor. In 1847, he published John Pickering's The Working Man's Political Economy, "stereotyped in [Josiah] Warren's new patent method," which is notable for its final chapter, which consists of an attack on Warren's equitable commerce. The Varneys appear repeatedly in the radical literature, but only briefly in Warren's orbit, mostly during that year of 1846.

But in 1846, the Varneys were doing heavy lifting for the cause of equitable commerce. Aside from the three essays in the Boston Investigator, now available online and soon to appear in a Corvus Edition pamphlet, they published a periodical, The Problem Solved, which Warren listed among the more or less "official" publications of the equitable commerce movement.

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