…..In true Yankee fashion Ralph Waldo Emerson described various Foureristic fads as vegetarianism, free love, séances, water cures, and temperance as “a fertility of projects for the salvation of the world!” Even the insects would be “protected” in the new communistic utopia, wrote Emerson, with a society that stood “for the protection of ground-worms, slugs and mosquitoes . . .”
Horace Greeley announced that he would rather be president of a Fourier community known as the “North American Phalanx” than president of the United States. Twenty-nine Fourier communities were eventually created, none of which lasted for more than two years despite the extreme enthusiasm for them by New England’s best and brightest.
Despite all of these miserable failures, Greeley’s New York Tribune continued to promote them. Ralph Waldo Emerson was persuaded to participate in another Massachusetts “associationalist” community that was appropriately named “Fruitland,” populated by such nuts as one Samuel Larned, “a vegetarian who dined exclusively on apples one year and crackers the next . . .”
A large number of prominent New Englanders who would hold key positions in the Lincoln administration or in the U.S. Army in the 1860s participated in the “delusional schemes ” of “this muddleheaded lunatic” [Fourier], writes Flynn. In addition to Greeley, this included Charles Dana, who would be Lincoln’s assistant secretary of defense; Robert Gould Shaw, the leader of the Massachusetts Fifty-Fourth Infantry Regiment during the War Between the States who spent his childhood at Brook Farm; the abolitionist Theodore Weld; and William Henry Channing, the chaplain of Congress during the War Between the States.
As Professor Wilson noted, upstate New York became part of the “Yankee Belt” by the nineteenth century. So the region was naturally hospitable to John Humphrey Noyes, founder of the Oneida Community and author of a book entitled History of American Socialisms. Noyes called himself a “perfectionist,” as did his followers. “Most perfectionists,” Flynn wrote, were “descendants of New England Puritans.” They eventually came to call themselves “Bible Communists.” They practiced “free love” where women were considered to be “community property.” Children were removed from their parents shortly after birth and raised by “the community.”
The notion that “it takes a village to raise a child” is a very old communistic idea. Like all the other communities based on communistic ideas, Oneida collapsed after only a few years.
After the failed socialist revolutions in France and Germany in 1848, the Yankee Belt proved to be hospitable to immigrant intellectuals and political rabble-rousers from those countries who wanted to plant the seeds of communism in America. One Joseph Wedemeyer “laid the groundwork for bringing socialism from Europe to America” and found a “home” for the publication of the writings of Marx and Engels “in Horace Greeley’s . . . New York Tribune” which had “played so crucial a role in propagandizing for that earlier socialist prophet Charles Fourier.”
Various communist clubs were established which became affiliated with the First International, which was vigorously supported by Greeley and Massachusetts politician Wendell Phillips.
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