Category Archives: William Henry Channing

William Henry Channing, “Letters to Associationists”

LETTERS TO ASSOCIATIONISTS.
Number One.
As Corresponding Secretary of the “American Union of Associationists,” allow me thus publicly to present a view of our duties in the Social Movement.
Judge, each reader, of the truth of what is said! Freely challenge and correct errors! Let us commune together!
Thus will the latent spirit be prepared for outward manifestation.
Your thoughts are invited to consider
I. Our Position.
1. In Actual Life, we take the ground of mediating between Revolutionary and Conservative tendencies. We propose a detailed scheme of practical reconciliation, whereby Capital and Labor may combine in a work of progressive reform; and thus take the initiative step to introduce that era of Organized Society, which we are sure will be the Righteousness of God’s Kingdom upon Earth, the Doing of His Will.
2. In Science, we take the ground of accepting with discriminations the experience and discoveries of the past and present,—balancing, contrasting, combining them, and thence unfolding the Law of Serial Order, whereby all existences are hierarchically bound together and to the Absolute Being. This we assert is the Method of Society,—the Natural, Human and Divine Logic—the Word and Wisdom of God.
3. In Religion we take the ground of admitting a graduated scale of spiritual illuminations: and give a symbolic interpretation of each of these, by declaring the Central Source of Love from which they radiate. Our aim is to show, that harmoniously distributed charities are the body of Humanity wherein Divine Holiness is forever newly incarnate. Thus responding to the aspirations of all ages, unfolding the laws of heavenly intercommunion, and presenting the image of earthly life transfigured by indwelling God, we seek to be made At-one with Man and God by Universal Mediation.
Briefly, hero is an outline of our Principles, Methods, Ends. Most comprehensive, exact, vital, is this movement. Can so sublime a purpose be fulfilled?
In order to answer wisely we should survey.
II. Surrounding Difficulties.
From present appearances throughout Christendom, does it not at first look as if the Associative Reform was premature, some quarter of a century or more before the times? Must there not intervene between existing Chaos and future Order a period of intensest struggle in all departments of Social Life? In what one sphere, is one grand problem so thoroughly solved, and the truth involved therein so clearly brought out and firmly established, as to serve as an Ararat amid the deluge of doubt?
1. In the Church. Catholicism, Roman, Greek. Anglican—Protestantism, Orthodox, Liberal. Rational—New Churchism, Humanityism, Universal Unity! Are the long standing controversies one hair’s breadth nearer to settlement? And looking beneath surfaces to living currents of thought and feeling,—who as yet has revealed the relations of Naturalism, Supernaturalism, Mediation—the respective functions of Priesthood, Congregation and Elders—the just significance of Asceticism, Optimism, and United interests? How many among the Seers even of this generation have earnestly consecrated themselves, by befitting purity, to become transparent media of the Light of Infinite Love?
2. In the University. Survey the highest philosophy of Germany, France, England,—from Leibnitz to Hegel, Descartes to Leroux, Bacon to Hamilton,—and answer, is there one system which abides the test of searching criticism? Or in natural science read the ablest expounders of universal method, from Swedenborg to Humboldt, do we anywhere find such an adequate interpretation of the Divine Symbol of Creation, that Man can thereby hold intelligent converse with God, and comprehend his Law of Life. How many among the thinkers even I involved our institutions and union, are now glaring out of his- exhibit that grand combination of accurate Analysis and unifying Synthesis, balanced by consummate Judgment, which is the indispensable requisites in finders and teachers of Truth. One and Universal?
3. In the State. What peaceful settlements of conflicting claims—or else what exterminating wars await Legitimacy, Liberalism, Socialism, throughout every township, department, nation of the civilized world, throughout Christendom as a whole! How countless, how complex the questions which press forward for adjustment, in every sphere of active interests—from Woman’s Freedom to Equitable Exchange—from Apprenticeship of minors to Industrial Congresses—from healthful Gymnastic training to Colleges of Art. Politics indeed at present is a skillful trick of expedient combinations rather than a Scientific System of Organization. Who can solve even the first simple problem of government,—finding fit leaders in every function, from shaping pins to superintending continents? Hereditary honors, popular elections alike fail. Where is the Scale of Trusts sanctioned by the Sovereign Ruler?
Is it not visionary in an age so confused to prophesy Harmony?
What then,—confess that we are dreamers, boasters, liars? Dare we thus eclipse our clear convictions,—mock at the Spirit of Humanity prompting us to faithful efforts,—grieve the Spirit of God working within us, by mighty promises?
No! Brethren! “We are not of those who draw back unto perdition.” “Faith is the substance of things hoped for. the evidence of things not seen.” “We are compassed about by a great cloud of witnesses.” “We are come unto the City of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to the innumerable company of angels, to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus, the Mediator of a New Covenant.” Thus “Receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby to serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear.”
Number Two.
III. What Are We Sure Of?
I. Beginning from the present, we are sure that our Criticisms on Civilized Society,—its isolation, intense competition, passion for selfish gains, mercenariness, its divergence and duplicity of interests, collective and individual, are justified by facts. We are right in asserting that Politics, Literature, and Religion, arc more and more controlled by Finance. Civilization is plainly passing from its third to its fourth phase,—from the reign of Commerce into Industrial Feudalism. In some places and vocations, this system is already introduced. And by laws and practices in Land Owning—Monopolized Manufactures—Joint-Stock Corporations—Banking—all branches of Mechanic Skill—Social Manners—The Press—&c.. is the reign of Civilized Capital fast becoming established.
II. We are sure that the Tendency of the Age is towards Socialism, Social Reforms, Social Guarantees, elevation of the Workers, union of Classes.—the widest diffusion of advantages —the harmonizing of all Conditions; that in Religion, Science. Politics, the tide of this age is fast setting in this direction; that failures of public and private charity to relieve or check pauperism—increase of social evils—dangers of revolution—developed intelligence—an influx of the Spirit of Humanity—all are determining the longings and efforts of men towards Universal Mutual Insurance.
We are sure, that the General Direction of the Associative movement is in entire accordance with these necessities of the Times, these aspirations of the People, these longings of the finest hearts and minds, these manifest leadings of Providence.
Our general aim is to organize, by Wisdom, Love and Beauty, all human relations; to do justice, in development, to the whole of man’s affections and powers; to find the true place of usefulness and honor for every member of society; to secure ample culture of their spiritual gifts, fair recompense for their services, access to all social advantages; to unify individual interests, opportunities and capacities, and bring them to converge in a Universal Good; in a word to form Many Men Into One Body—a Collective Man, a Heaven on Earth, an Image and Dwelling-Place of God.
Surely,—as regards our general aim and end, our general position and influence—there is and can be no error. We sum up post experience, accept present longings, prophesy the near future.
IV. Are we not sure that our Particular Method of Society is at least a sufficiently near approximation to True Order, to be a working-plan? Let us review its chief principles.
1. Joint-Stock Ownership of Capital, Laud, Tools, Dwellings, Roads, &c. Surely this is right. The experience of the Age proves it. Individual and Collective Property are thus preserved, fulfilled, perfectly harmonized.
2. Co-operative Labor by the Law of Groups and Series of Groups, carefully discriminated, combined, alternated;—securing freedom in occupation, intercourse with many associates, escape from drudgery. Surely we have here the clue of Work-Play and Play-Work, of Attractive Industry.
3. The economies, refinements, social advantages, moral influences of Combined Dwellings,—dispensing with hireling domestic service, removing the barriers of caste, &c. What other possible mode is there of equitably interchanging the advantages of Home-Life, from all to all members of a community?
4. Collective Distribution of Profits to all Partners, according to Labor, Skill and Capital, in place of the Wages-System, thus binding all by mutual interests, instead of arraying employer and employed in jealous hostility. Surely this is just.
5. Mutual Guarantee,—covering all the interests and relations of life, ensuring minimum support, care in sickness, accident and age, labor and position, guardianship and training of children, aid in all misadventures, the influence of combined judgment and conscience, pure society, safe investments, and charge of legacies for family. These and similar guarantee* are the necessary result of the best tendencies, industrial and philanthropic of our age, in the most advanced nations.
6. Honors,—Influence, Trust, Position, Responsible Office. Leadership,—according to usefulness, by a regular hierarchy of preferment, through the free choice of Groups and Chiefs of Groups. How otherwise, than by allowing each trade, profession, &c, to judge of its own leaders, according to their actual efficiency, con prevalent charlatanry, hypocritical ambition, be done away with? This is the true system of Order and Freedom made one by Election.
7. Integral Education,—from childhood to old age, and adapted to all powers in all relations. This is truly a fulfilling of the best tendencies of the time. Such a sanctifying of the whole of Life would fulfill the aspiration of the finest spirits. To secure physical, mental and moral growth, by surrounding all with healthful, honorable conditions, supplying means and motives of study, teachers, books, apparatus, conversation, gymnastics, discipline in the common and fine arts, is plainly right.
8. Unity of Interests is the only condition, whereby Universal Communion can become possible, and the whole of life be made sacred, progressive, refining. Unity of interests is the body of which Charity or heavenly love is the spirit, in true religion. AW, incessant petty anxieties, cares and selfish collisions, separate men from their fellows, from beautiful enjoyment, from God. Only by combining the lower duties and relations of life with the highest, in communities and individuals,—only by proving practically that men are members of one another, as mutual complements in character, mind, energies,—can the Divine Idea of Many Made One be realized, and thus the Divine Life be embodied in human societies.
So much for the particular method, which the American Union of Associationists has prescribed.
What less can a person aim at in the present era of Christendom’s development?
What more practicable method of social organization has been as yet made known?
W. H. C.
Number Three.
We have considered our Position and our accepted Platform. The American Union of Associationists is one regiment, or company of the grand army of Socialism.
But Socialism has many banners; where is its Oriflamme? Has it One acknowledged Chief, one Central Authority, one established Creed?
We must grant that the Socialists are a host of volunteers, each band of whom utters a special rally-cry. The popular movements—whose aim is the elevation of the Fourth Estate by such a practical co-operation of Capitalists and Workmen, as will ensure in all communities the Conditions of Fraternity —are as various as the character, culture and circumstances of the nations, towns, classes, wherein they have originated.
Yet this spontaneous uprising of the People of Christendom to gain peace by justice.—coming as the result of eighteen centuries of Progress, seeking as its end Brotherhood—is manifestly Providential. Does not our assured faith in the triumph of Socialism spring from the conviction, that these strivings, theorisings, aspirings after Social Reorganization are suggested by influences from God, through Humanity in the Spiritual world, and that the grand Reality, towards which our partial efforts are guided, is the establishment of Heaven upon Earth?
Social Reform, in the United States, arose normally from the political, philanthropic, speculative and religious tendencies of the times. The Working Men’s movement, and the many schemes) of Radical Democracy—the Reforms, devoted to Anti-Slavery, Prison-Discipline, Temperance, Purity, Education, Peace—the Philosophy of the age, Naturalistic, Phrenological, Physiological, Mesmeric, Humanitary, Spiritual—finally, the heart-sickness of thousands at the death-in-life of prevalent Protestantism, the impossibility of their finding freedom and harmony in old Catholicism, and longings for a practical religion which in some approximate degree might fulfil the Ideal of Universal Unity—these and countless conjoint tendencies have been and are irresistibly converging towards the organization among us of Christian Commonwealths. No one can foresee, it would be folly to attempt to foreshape the course, whereby Socialism in this land is to realize itself in a Confederacy of Religious Republics.
But the branch of Social Reform represented by the so called “Associationists,” undeniably took its special form and direction from the writings of Charles Fourier.
The question then rises, “What is and should be our Relation To Fourier.”
This question one of your body would try to answer, speaking of course individually, assuming no collective responsibility, and trusting that the frankness of his criticism, both negative and positive, will not be deemed presumptuous. A truly Great Man—such as Fourier unquestionably was—deserves at the hands of his fellow-men honest appreciation. He needs no panegyric; his peers alone could adequately judge him; it is for those who have been in any sense disciples, to state exactly what they feel and think of their teacher’s position and function. Socialism is too stern, near, and urgent a movement, too full at once of warning and of promise, too complex and vast in its connections with mankind’s dearest interests, for any to tamper with it frivolously. Personal claims are very trifling in view of such a world-wide reformation, as Fourier had the honor to herald. And he surely was the very man to say—” Waste no time in apologies; out with your undisguised thought of me and my system; above all, be true.”
I. Negative Criticism.
1. Fourier’s starting point of Absolute Doubt—the challenging, getting rid of, and sweeping clean tradition in order to set out afresh, is a position as unattainable as it would be untenable. By blood, temperament, intellectual tendencies, information, vocabulary, manners, modes of thought, prejudices, principles, &c. &c, every man is and must be a child of his age and nation. Fourier was a Frenchman, bred amidst the chaos of Revolution; and his whole tone of character arid mind show his stock and training.
The right position for the Scholar in all Science, but especially in Social Science, is Faith, a reverential acceptance of the aspirations, hopes, discoveries, axioms, institutions of past ages. Loyalty should baptise liberty. Just in degree, as we cordially love the Truth and Good, transmitted through ancestors, do we become competent judges of our own generation, and credible prophets of future ages. The very view of the Unity of Humanity to which Fourier attained, and which no man in the ancient or modern world recognized more clearly than he did at times—should have led him to discard skepticism, except as a mere subsidiary instrumentality of judgment. Integral Exploration was the true method for a genius so large, rich, penetrating—a method used by Fourier admirably in his best hours —but the “pou sto,” the standing place, for one who would wield such a lever, can be nothing else than Trust in Man.
Fourier perverted his mind by scorn of his predecessors. He was capricious in estimating men and nations. His books are disfigured by sneers at sages and legislators, to honor whom he should have felt as an honor; and there can be little doubt that his prevalent temper towards forerunners in all branches of discovery, and towards cotemporary students, was contempt. In a word, he assumed the part of a giant among pigmies. Such conduct was surely as absurd as it was arrogant. It sadly blinded him with conceit, shut him up in his own notions and cut him off from universal sympathies.
This want of Catholicity—using the word in its large and strict sense—explains Fourier’s disregard of History. With his astonishing powers of exact analysis, retentive memory and creative imagination, what might he not have done as an historical explorer! Greatly is it to be regretted that he so much neglected to trace the development of families, peoples, races. Inconsistently with many of his own principles he learned to think and speak of Man as a Natural Production, rather than as a Free Intelligence guided and inspired from a Superhuman Center. Consequently, either without consciousness or deliberately, he committed the enormous error of leaving unexplained the problem of Christendom, and treated of modern European Civilization as if Christ had never lived. All the more unsatisfactory does his course in this respect appear, because he professed to be a Christian, and has left on record some quit* mystical hints as to the action of the Holy Spirit, and the future triumph of the Cross. But the important point to be noticed is,—that he did not justify his position as a Social Reorganizer in this era of Christendom, by showing its accord with the leadings of Providence. He presented the “System of Harmony” as a boon from himself—the sole discoverer—to a perverse race, rather than as a lesson which he had learned, though but in part, from the promptings of Humanity, as enlightened from on high.
2. Fourier was a Pantheist,—as any man, who severs the traditional life-tie which binds him to his race, will almost necessarily become, unless he sinks into the tower depths of materialistic Atheism. Setting out from Nature, and striving to ascend from Natural Law to Universal Order, ho recognized three constituent principles of all existence—Active, Neutral, Passive,—which he asserted to be co-eternal. Consequently, he denied to all intents and purposes, creation; identified creatures with the creator, by making them the multiple of which he was the unity; and instinctively limited his efforts to the study of necessary processes of development.
Fourier indeed called the Active principle alone God; though consistently he should have appropriated that name to the three principles in combination; but evidently his thought was the very old and familiar one, that the Passive principle was the body of which God was the soul. And his notion of the Neuter principle was so obscure, that whether he considered it spiritual, or material, or mixed—intelligent or unintelligent, composite or simple, personal or impersonal, collective or individual, it would be difficult to say.
It is but just thus to acknowledge that Fourier’s Trinity of God, the Universe and Mathematics, was a most incomplete conception, that his analysis of fundamental realities was extremely superficial, and finally that this radical error vitiated his whole doctrine of cosmogony, of human destiny and duty on earth, of immortality and spiritual mediation, of heaven and providence.
It is not asserted, that Fourier attempted to draw no distinctions between the Divine Being, Spirits, and the Material World, for by his view of hierarchy he represented Deity as the One and All, of which every existence, according to its degree, was a part more or less honorable. But it is asserted, that Fourier doubtless regarded Substance intrinsically one, throughout the range of universal existence, and looked upon spirit and matter, in all forms, as merely its modified manifestations. Hence he fell into the same errors and extravagancies, which have bewildered Pantheists in all lands and times; and though retaining usages of language drawn from man’s experience of moral freedom, was actually a Fatalist, and practically a denier of “Right and Wrong,” except in a utilitarian sense.
3. Thus dissevered from hallowed traditions of Humanity, and Pantheistic in philosophy, it was but a matter of course, that Fourier should have misapprehended the quality of Reason and Conscience, slighted their function in man individual and collective, and left the whole sphere of intellect in confusion.
Fourier recognized in man three branches of affection, corresponding respectively to” the Primal Trinity of God, Matter and Mathematics, and impelling man to combine Social ties with Sensitive joys according to modes of universal Order. Yet rich in suggestion as is his statement,—that the three Distributive affections represent the Serial Law, which is the Divine Method of arrangement in all departments,—Fourier never appears to have duly estimated the worth of the Rational principle. He did not regard it as the deliberative and governing power, without whose constant regulation, persons and states would fall into inextricable anarchy. That is to say, he did not conceive of Reason as a consciously free energy, but rather as an unconscious impulse; and did not steadily present it as the specially human endowment whereby man takes rank among spirits, and voluntarily ascends to communion and co-operation with God. There are passages in his writings, to be sure, which show, that he had not overlooked—as indeed how could he—man’s power of judgment, choice and rule, and others wherein he describes the Human Race as entering by means of this disposing and ordering faculty, into concert of action with the Divine Being. But all his social arrangements and maxims for private conduct show, that he considered the Distributive passions simply as acting spontaneously like the other passions
Hence Fourier’s exaggerated estimate of Attraction, contempt of Repression, disregard of Legal provisions, and utter aversion to Morality and Self-Control. His ideal of Social Harmony by means of the freest play of all impulses acting in order was sublime;—but that in his admiration of spontaneity and genius he slighted reflection and experience, and by trust in God’s inspirations and nature’s symbolic correspondence to man’s desires, undervalued the importance of human aspiration and reaction, there can be no doubt. Keenly accurate as Fourier was, when criticizing past and present societies, he became a mystic poet when imaging future ages. His error was a beautiful dream, an heroic hope, a heavenly aspiration, but it was none the less an error; and most injuriously did it affect all his contemplated social provisions, from marriage, through education and legislation, up to worship.
Here are three negative criticisms upon Fourier and his System, each of which is grave, and which combine to prove that he had not adequately solved the Social Problem.
What then,—recognizing his limitations—shall we disown him, as a Master in Social Science?
By no means! The incredulous, sneering world owes Fourier an immense debt of gratitude, and posterity will surely atone for present suspicion and insult with its highest honors. His claims to our reverent regard shall be the topic of the next letter.
W. H. C.
Number Four.
The Associative movement, in the United States resulted normally, as we have seen, from the Religious, Social, Scientific and Political tendencies of the Nation: but it received impulse and special direction from the influence of the writings of Fourier. His system of Universal Unity—gratefully cherished and silently disseminated by a small band of earnest disciples, first among whom in an age and honor stood the talented and high-minded Manesca—was brought before the public by Albert Brisbane in a volume on “The Social Destiny of Man,” in columns of “The Future,” and a series of articles in the “N. Y. Tribune”. The indefatigable perseverance of this zealous Social Reformer was in order of time, a chief instrumentality in giving its character of “Fourierism” to the principles and plans of the earliest Associationists.
Since that period, however, the entrance of many unbiased minds into the Associative Movement,—thought, discussion and experience—acquaintance with the views of other Social Reformers, such as Leroux, Lamennais, Cabet, Buchez, Louis Blanc, Proudhon, &c.—the rise of various Garantee Movements originated by Working-men in Europe and America—above all an enlarged comprehension of the immensity, complexity, dangers and difficulties of the Social Problem and a reverent conviction that the world wide agitation of Socialism emanates from and is guided by Providential agency, have conspired to dissipate sectarianism; while at the same time patient study of Fourier’s works and manuscripts, with aid of the comments, restatements, modifications and illustrations of his most enlightened followers, has justified the enthusiastic admiration due to his majestic intellect, and the events of every year have confirmed the confidence felt in his prophetic sagacity. Fourier is not indeed our Pope, not our infallible Oracle; but it is difficult to find words sufficiently discriminating and unhackneyed to express just appreciation for this grand genius, born and bred so opportunely, amidst Christian Civilization, in its hour of sorest need. To-day then let us attempt briefly to set forth the claims to earnest regard of the only man, whom, the Associationists as at present instructed recognize as a Master in Social Science.
II.—Positive Criticism. .
By organization and training, Charles Fourier was most rarely fitted for the very work to which his life was consecrated. In him, exquisite sensibility to natural beauty, unerring accuracy of perception, a love of order almost morbidly intense, constructive faculty as various in reach as exact in working, and power of minutest discrimination in all spheres material or spiritual, were wonderfully combined with ideal imagination surpassingly poetic, and vividly comic in its conceptions as well as sublime, with broad, and profound humanity, justice even rigorous in strict exactions, boundless confidence in Divine benignity, self reliance that never faltered, all concentrated and kept consistently active by perseverance stern as fate. This description may seem, but it is not exaggerated. Many powerful tendencies were wonderfully harmonized in Fourier; and it is not surprising, that conscious of his grand energies he should quietly have alluded to himself, as the only illustration he happened to be acquainted with of an all-endowed man. By most felicitous fortune too, he was bred up from boyhood to the mercantile profession, had opportunities for travelling extensively as a commercial agent, was plunged into the horrors of pecuniary losses and financial perplexities, felt the hard gripe of poverty, was separated by humble position and privacy from ambitious excitements, and through his whole life was forced into painful contact with the tyrannous Oligarchy of Money. Above all, the hideous brutalities combined with the extravagant aspirations of the French Revolution, the political chaos of Europe during Napoleon’s wars, the manifest breaking down of all civilized dynasties under accumulating debts, and the fast swelling power of the People, communicated just the needed stimulus to a mind and heart so constituted. Fourier does appear to have been one of the series of Providential Persons, raised up and destined to become centers of influence for their own and succeeding times.
But it is to the System, rather than the Man that our attention is now to be directed; and into a few short paragraphs must suggestions be crowded, each of which would demand for elucidation as many chapters.
I. The Integrality of the system of “Combined Order,”— as the author of “Universal Unity” so finely called his scheme for social harmony, is in itself most instructive. At first sight the Phalanstery appears like a piece of wax-work, fashioned by cunning mechanism,—and one, whoso spiritual affections have been trained to predominant delusiveness, is tempted to dash Fourier’s books to the ground, and trample them under foot, as debasingly materialistic. But presently the seeming automaton wakes into glowing action, and through the beautiful body shines forth a radiant life of purity, force, genial impulse, honor, benignity, chivalric devotedness, consummate manhood. It is wonderful to see, how, starting from the observance of natural laws in humblest spheres, Fourier was led upward to the most vast and profound views of social relations, and of universal destiny. And the question continually arises, as we study his massive sentences,—within whose cold, clear, statement lie volumes of passionate emotion, as in the fabled casket was prisoned the Genius,—”Did this man actually comprehend the rich significance of his own plans and principles?” Doubtless, he purposely mystified his fellows, and so concocted his compositions, as to cram his readers with as much solid food as they could well digest, under show of tickling their appetites with confectionary. Yet, after all such allowances, it still looks as if Fourier had lit upon veins of treasures, whose worth he never fully estimated,—and which only happier generations can work out, by a faithful application of his method of Universal Analogy.
Certainly, no one can enter into the conception of Phalansterian Life, without gaining a wholly new impression of the refining power of Art, and rising into wondering gratitude, at the infinitely benevolent designs of the Divine Artist. Fourier had attained to clear vision of what all poets gain glimpses of, that Nature—as a whole, and in its minutest combinations and movements—is an ever fresh Symbol of God. The universe was to him a temple, from corner to capstone, from pavement to dome, carved and stamped all over with hieroglyphics of supreme wisdom. The word Art, gives the clue to what otherwise seems a cheerless labyrinth of tedious detail. He did believe, with his whole soul, that fields, workshops, and all spheres of productive industry, might be converted into means of harmony, which would react upon human feeling and energy like an orchestra. And yet more, he believed, with an earnestness which subdued every doubt, and kept his inventive faculties forever on the stretch, that all the passions and faculties of man, individual and collective, were originally adapted exactly to each other, and designed to be perfectly in accord, as are the performers on wind and string instruments, in a well-arranged concert. Hence his insatiable longing to study out in minutest particulars, the Conditions fitted to attune all active tendencies in each person, and to allot appropriate functions to every temperament and character. He was assured, that Social Organization is the Art of Arts; and in his conception of Attractive Industry, he laid the corner-stone and marked out the ground-plan of a temple of beauty, which admiring ages will co-work to rear, and wherein his statue will stand pre-eminent, as the great emancipator of Labor.
By this integrality of system, Fourier anticipated the result, to which Phrenology, Physiology, and the soundest practical Philosophy of our age are rapidly leading all thinkers. He showed how an end might be put to the everlasting war between Spiritualism and Materialism, and by merely exhibiting the true hierarchy in human tendencies and faculties, cleared the field of usurping sophisms and cant. In a word, he made honorable, what one-sided and simplistic observers had presumptuously considered common and unclean, while preserving the supremacy of the highest affections. It is not meant, that Fourier gave an exhaustive analysis of human nature in all its departments, or that he exhibited a complete practical synthesis, by enacting which, Society might insure the symmetric growth of all its members. But this was his high aim; and he did present, in glorious fullness, the Ideal of Society as a Collective Man, whose body was consummate order in all material relations refined to the utmost, whose soul was the exquisite harmony of spiritual affections. Thus also, as will hereafter appear, he demonstrated how Public and Private Life may be made One.
[The remainder of this letter is postponed, to make way for the article which follows.] W. H. C.
NUMBER FOUR
[continued.]
The integrality of Fourier’s system can be best comprehended by studying his table of the Three Unities. What he presented as essential, were the necessary arrangements for one Association, whereby to secure abundant and graduated wealth—a proportional minimum support for each and all of its members—attractive industry—convergence of interests—exact justice—harmony of feeling and unity of action. And nothing finer can be found in literary history, than the example which he set of conscientious study of the Laws of Universal Order, as the means of determining the true material and social dispositions for a single community,—-the limitations excepted, which have already been noticed in our Negative Criticism. From the problem of Equitable Commerce, Fourier was led up to that of Domestic, Agricultural Association, and thence to that of Universal Unity, which he claimed to have solved under the following branches:
1. Internal Unity of man with himself by Societary union, spontaneous in all functions.
2. External Unity of man with himself by integral, combined cultivation of the globe.
3. Internal Unity of man with God by fullest movement of all the passions impelled by attraction.
4. External Unity of man wit A God by bi-composite immortality.
5. Internal Unity of man with the Universe by analogy between the passions and material creations.
6. External Unity of man with the Universe by aromal communications among the heavenly bodies.
This Science of Divine Order, throughout the whole range of Nature, Fourier concentrated upon the construction of laws for a Phalanstery. Society he represents always as an Organic Whole, a Collective Man, a Type of the Universe, an Image of God. Never did there live a person, more penetrated with the conviction that we are members one of another, and animated by one life hierarchically distributed through every community of the Human Race.
Not in this comprehensiveness alone docs the integrality of Fourier’s views manifest itself; for equally remarkable is the minute accuracy of his system. When his books and manuscripts are translated and spread abroad,—and there is good reason to hope that this will be done soon, and done worthily,–it will be universally admitted that his analytic descriptions of the Sensitive Passions are alike wonderful, for original suggestions as to the latent capacities of the eye, ear, &c, and proper methods of developing them, and for the consummate common sense with which he has provided for their joyous activity throughout every department of labor, economy, hygiene and art. Inspire his form of attractive Industry-Kith the Christian Life of Regeneration, and it may well be said, that in the domain of the Phalanstery is presented the most masterly commentary ever yet given upon the beautiful texts of the earliest and latest scripture: ” The Lord God took man and put him into the garden of Eden, to dress it and to keep it, saying, ” of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely cat, except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil;”—”and he showed me that great city, the Holy Jerusalem * * * and in the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river of water of life, was there
the Tree of Life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”
Fourier renders Industry Attractive by the mode in which he makes every sensitive faculty and physical relation minister to the free development of the Social Affections. And here again does his astonishing analytic accuracy appear. In regard, indeed, to the Minor Affective Passions, Love and Familism, especially the former, not a few of our master’s most patient disciples both in Europe and America are convinced, that he greatly erred by a misapplication of the Serial Law. But errors notwithstanding, his suggestions are always instructive, and many of them such as commend themselves instantly to the purest and most enlightened conscience. And in regard to the two Major Affective Passions, Friendship and Ambition, it may be confidently said, that nothing can surpass the keen sagacity and profound sentiment with which he has wrought the richest harmony out of tendencies which have been usually found most prolific in jealousy and strife. The Phalanstery is a full embodiment of the maxim of Each for All and All for Each, where Public and Private good are perfect mutual complements. From the cradle to the grave, every individual is alike ensphered by a genial air of love, within the green enclosures of its paradise. Not a taste however capricious, not an interest however trifling, but is made to minister to the Collective Good; and all refining opportunities of society combined, are opened with boundless liberality, as means of private culture and delight. Fourier’s scheme of education is by far the most complete over yet devised for fashioning a child’s whole character to Social Use, and what is equally important, for combining the sympathy and wisdom of a united society to call out in symmetric fulness the special genius of every child. And no poet, romancer, legislator or prophet, ever more successfully portrayed human life as an ideal whole, overflowing with kindness, courtesy, benignity and honor. The myths of the Golden Age ore far less beautiful than the future which shines forth with transient gleams from Fourier’s magic mirror, while with tantalising hints he lifts and drops the curtain. One feels an unquestioning assurance, as he reads paragraph after paragraph crowded full with novel thought, that here is truly reflected the Natural side of Heaven upon Earth.
[Sickness prevents me from finishing this letter, by describing the richly suggestive views of Fourier in relation to the “Distributive Passions and Unityism.” I can now add only, that with such exceptions as I have already signified in the Negative Criticism and the Replies to Mr. Godwin, I heartily accept the master’s doctrine as to the Law of Series and Attraction. Doubtless much remains to be done in developing, applying, limiting and completing his system; but never do I read a chapter of this always strong and often most eloquent writer, without fresh wonder and delight; and I am gratefully assured, that in the works of this Social Columbus may be found a guiding chart to that New World of Practical Righteousness, wherein ” God shall dwell with his people and be their God.”]
W. H. C.

[Originally published in The Spirit of the Age]

Comments Off on William Henry Channing, “Letters to Associationists”

Filed under William Henry Channing

William Henry Channing, “Charles Fourier” (1843)

CHARLES FOURIER. 

The zeal and ability with which Albert Brisbane has for several years devoted himself to the propagation of Fourier’s doctrines of association, begin to be appreciated as they deserve. And whatever conclusive judgment his countrymen may pass upon this peculiar system, all must admit, that this earnest advocate of social reorganization has hastened and widened the great reform movement of our day. Few who have paid Fourier the respect he merits, of deep study, will deny that he has cast light, much needed and timely, upon the darkest problems, whether they adopt his social science without modification or not. And the Present will endeavor candidly to describe this system of “passional harmonies” and “attractive industry,” with the hope that every such discussion may add new impulse to the flood-tide which is now sweeping Christendom and civilization to a more active recognition of the law of love. Space and time permit, in this number, only a few preparatory remarks.

The biographical sketches which we have of Fourier, are fitted to engage our interests for the man. Such brave and lonely consecration to a great aim, for such a series of years, claiming no sympathy, buoyed up alone by a sublime hope, communing in stillness with truth, is deeply gratifying. One feels as if such a patient miner must have treasured rich ingots. He claims, and has fairly won, a right to the patient heed of his fellow.men. When we add to this fact of his resolute pursuit of a settled object, the quality of his impelling motive, his indignation at the mean artifices of trade, his confidence that heaven has made possible a state of consummate well-being and beauty for the human race, and his bold self-trust that, though seeking to the death, he would find the clue out of this labyrinth of inhumanity; when, finally, we are told by his friends of the grand style of character to which he was moulded, the justice, clear penetration, inflexibleness, and tender pity, the profound enthusiasm for men, as they certainly one day should be, the utter scorn for men as they were, we place a confidence in the sincerity of the teacher, that goes far to forestall our approval of his doctrine. And yet there is this abatement to our sympathy. The study for some forty years of ” harmony,” should have made his eye of love so clear as to see through wrong and meanness to the vital good; and the consciousness of a generous purpose should have disarmed petty opposition and criticism of their sting. One is pained at the sardonic sneer with which this keenest of observers cuts through disguises, and plucks away from shivering, naked folly the last rag that covers its shame. His denunciation is the condensed essence of bitter contempt. He should have been patient, too, with the dullards who misapprehended, and distorted in their show-boxes the truth he tried to teach. But let his papal arrogance pass. There is this comfort in listening to him—that you have before you a man who, with unblenching eyes and clear, steady voice, tells you truly and exactly what he thinks. One knows the ground on which both parties stand. There is no blowing first hot, then cold. He gives no quarter. He asserts without compromises, without ifs or buts, what he believes he knows. In the same spirit should he be met. Concessions, apologies, etiquettes, may be dropped. Here is earnest work. There is the asserted fact, there the announced law, there the argument and evidence. Test it. Is the coin sterling? For this number these few words must suffice. 
But before closing, let the fact be noted, that the interest now awakening in this subject of association is all but universal in this country. Every’ day brings tidings of some new movement of those who are roused by a great hope to leave accustomed spheres of business, wonted social circles, the old mill rounds where for years they have been grinding saw dust for bread, and to enlist in these raw militia of social reformers. Such drilling and countermarching and sounding of drums and trumpet#betokens that Providence is gathering the hosts of the faithful for some hew battle with wrong. Doubtless, as in all recruiting, the idle and shiftless and weak, whose sandy foothold has slipped away and left them stationless in life, are occasionally drafted for these armies of industry. Doubtless brigands in heart, selfish and eager for gain, will also join. But the soul of this soldiery of peaceful conquest over injustice, are men and women sick at heart of the inevitable insincerities, unkindnesses, and numberless degradations of our present social state. In the various communities which within two years have been founded or are now in the process of formation, may be found some of the choicest spirits of our land. I wish here to give to all such a hearty invitation to communicate their hopes, ‘ prospects, and the results of their experience through the pages of the Present. As every grain of gold dust, and leaf of new trees and plants, and root and berry of the New World were precious and curious to Europe after the first voyages of Columbus, so every specimen of actual life from these Eldorados and Utopias is valuable to those who stand gathering their tools and clothing to follow. Send us news, brethren, from your little oases in the deserts, your coral islands in the sea. 
W. H. C.

  • William Henry Channing, “Charles Fourier,” The Present 1, no. 1 (September 1843): 28-29.

Comments Off on William Henry Channing, “Charles Fourier” (1843)

Filed under biography, William Henry Channing