Josiah Warren, peaceful revolutionist

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Butler, Ann, 1925-
Hoover, Dwight W.
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Thesis (Ph. D.)
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This dissertation is a study of the life, times and ideas of Josiah Warren, a neglected American social theorist who was connected, in one way or another, with several utopian communities in the United States. He has been variously described as the first American anarchist, the inventor of the first rotary press, a musical genius, and the first American to practice a pricing system based on labor-for-labor notes.Born in Boston in 1798, Warren came to Cincinnati with his wife, Caroline Cutter Warren, in 1820. There he established a small factory to produce a lard-burning lamp which he patented in 1821. Robert Owen of New Lanark, Scotland, came to Cincinnati in 1824 and made a speech extolling the virtues of his communistic community to be established in New Harmony, Indiana. After hearing Owen, Warren and his wife moved to New Harmony, where they remained until the latter part of 1826.Returning to Cincinnati, convinced that the reason for the failure of the New Harmony project was that a communism of property brought only discord, Warren formulated his philosophy of individualism, the sovereignty of the individual. He believed that only separation of interests, disconnection, reliance on individual responsibility, and self-government would bring about an equitable society.To prove his theory that there could be an equitable commerce in an equitable society, he opened a store at Fifth and Elm Streets in Cincinnati, which he called The Cooperative Magazine, but which was soon called The Time Store. Money was used for the original cost to the proprietor, a small percentage for overhead and for the actual labor of the storekeeper. A clock was used to determine the time consumed in the transaction. If a customer wished to give his labor note for a skill or product, there would bean equal exchange.The store was a success, and, wishing to extend his philosophy to a whole community, Warren travelled, first to Stark County, Ohio, and then to the area of the present city of Tuscarawas, Ohio, where he joined a group who had purchased 400 acres of land. The group suffered from influenza and malaria arid so abandoned the area.Warren, his wife and young son, George William Warren, returned to New Harmony. There Warren opened the second Time Store in 1842. He remained in New Harmony working on printing inventions, creating a new system of musical notation and printing his first book, Equitable Commerce. In 1847, he was able to join a newly formed community, Utopia, in Clermont (Claremount) County, Ohio. Utopia had no government, no laws, no police and was based on Warren's philosophy of voluntary subordination or mutual aid. This, coupled with the labor-for-labor system, was to create a sovereign individual.In 1850, Warren went to New York. There he met Stephen Pearl Andrews who was immediately interested in Warren's ideas. Together they founded and publicized a new town on Long Island to be named Modern Times. Modern Times did not grow beyond a village, but the no-rules system worked, until adverse publicity and the necessity for money to pay taxes ended the idyll.Warren had been writing, printing, and publishing his ideas since 1827. In 1833, he began his first periodical, The Peaceful Revolutionist. He re-printed Equitable Commerce and published Practical Details in Equitable Commerce in 1852. In the 1850's he published The Periodical Letter which came out more-or-less regularly until 1858. In 1863, he published True Civilization and continued his writing until his death in Cliftondale, Massachusetts, in 1874.Warren's writing deals primarily with his ideas for the improvement of mankind. He decries the impossibility for definition of abstract words but uses many to express himself. He uses folksy accounts of happenings or obscure references for his examples. However, his life arid ideas are unique, and, as John Stuart Mill said, he was a truly remark able American.