Monday, December 10, 2007

Josiah Warren, Letter to Mechanics' Free Press

Mechanics' Free Press, May 10, 1828, p. 2, col. 2.

Cincinnati, April 20, 1828.
Dear S-
The perusal of your letter which I received about three weeks since, gave me great satisfaction. It affords me pleasure to find that you still feel such interest in the subject to which I am devoted. You inquire what progress has been made since you left here; to this I could reply more than the limits of a letter will permit, but I will endeavour to enable you to form some idea. I think you left before the cold weather commenced, and therefore have not witnessed the most important [134] of our operations. As soon as the season became cool, there were great demands for cloths of various kinds, which I found no difficulty in procuring. I bought at the public sales on a credit of 60 and 90 days, and very often sold the goods in 6 days, and some in less time. The place now became crowded, although you know that it stands remote from the bustle of business; so much was this the case that I became so exhausted with buying and selling goods, and in talking and explaining that I was obliged to shut up the magazine, half of each day in order to rest from the fatigue and confusion occasioned by the business of the other half. But this produced so much disappointment to the country people & others, that I was induced to open again during the day-time. John Ramsdale, who was with us at Harmony, and who was much opposed to the system at the commencement, has turned his store into a place of the kind, and now fully adopts it. He is the only one who has actually commenced, but many have had it in contemplation. One very important fact, that Messrs. Folger, Nye, Saunders, Pickering, Burgen, Rider, and all those who were so much delighted at first, have not changed their views in the least, except by an increase of zeal in its favour; and many more who knew nothing of it nor had any correct views of the nature of justice between man and man, when you was here have become really enlightened on the all-important subject, and in their intercourse with others are now spreading the honest principle far and wide. The magazine has been enlarged to about double its former dimensions; the work was performed by seven Carpenters, all upon the time system, and by putting my labour against theirs, they have gained at the rates of from ~ to 50 dollars per hour. This would not be believed by any [137] one who had not realized it by some experience, but you have seen something of its results.

I have had Rice at 1 1/4 cents per pound, Codfish at 2 1/2 cents, while the standing prices are 6 1/2 and 8 cents for the former, and 8 for the latter. Medicines as usual. [23] Cloths at about 33 per cent. below the current prices; remarks will be rendered unnecessary by your own reflections upon these facts.

We have commenced shoemaking, and several have perceived the practicability of learning a business which they never thought of before. Mr. Ashworth [24] made a pair of shoes at the first attempt, which none but a critic could perceive were not the production of an experienced workman; and many others have acquired a knowledge of this trade with equal facility. When we require instruction in any part with which we are not acquainted, we obtain it from some of our friends and pay them hour for hour in labour notes on the Magazine. I look upon these movements with great interest, for they are of immense importance to those who are now suffering by mystery and speculation. I can say no more now without incurring double postage, therefore for the present-farewell. Your friend,

MR. ROBERT SMITH, Philadelphia.

23 That is the wholesale prices which varies from one to three hundred per cent. discount on standard retail prices.

24 Mr. A. is a gentleman of between 40 and 50 years of age, who had never before worked at any mechanical avocation.- R. S.

Josiah Warren, Plan of the Cincinnati Labour for Labour Store


Mechanics' Free Press, Aug. 9, 1828, p. I, col. I, 2.

EXPLANATION OF THE DESIGN AND ARRANGEMENTS of the Co-operative Magazine, which has recently been commenced in Cincinnati.

Whoever can for a moment, so far abstract his thoughts from his pecuniary concerns, as to look around him, and observe the evils, which the established laws and customs, with respect to the administration of property, are daily producing in what is called Civilized Society, must, if he is possessed of the least degree of sensibility, feel a strong desire, to remove these evils.

That the inevitable tendency of these Laws and Customs, is to produce Ignorance, Want, and Wretchedness, to the majority of mankind, to the labouring and useful members of Society, we have only to refer to their condition, in those countries where the present arrangements have been longest in operation, and where a full and satisfactory trial of them has been made.

In these countries, abounding with everything that is desirable, we see the labouring and useful members of Society, who have produced every thing, starving in the streets for want; while some are rendered equally miserable from the anxieties of speculation and competition, and others for want of an object worthy of pursuit, are destroying their health, and shortening their lives by inactivity and apathy, or by luxuriously revelling upon the labour of the depressed.

Insincerity among friends, Lawsuits between relations, [125] Hypocrisy in religion - deception in trade - dishonesty, speculation and enmity between man and man, are only a few of the results of these laws and customs.

Nor should we confine our observations to the old world only. Already have we in this country, made alarming progress in the road to national ruin; and unless some effort be made to prevent the accumulation of the wealth of the country, in the hands of a few, we instead of setting to the world an example of republican simplicity, of Peace and Liberty, shall soon add one more to the catalogue of nations, whom aristocracy has blasted, and whom inequality of wealth, has precipitated from a comparatively prosperous situation to the lowest grade of degradation and misery.

Every reflecting mind must perceive the propriety of searching for the means by which these evils may be avoided, and of making every practicable effort (however feeble) to put them in operation.

With these views an experiment has been commenced in this place; which although upon a very small scale, will test the principles upon which it is based. And it will be a very easy and natural step, to make more complete and extensive arrangements whenever it may be desirable.

As this experiment now begins to excite much inquiry; and as it is immediately connected with the greatest interests of all parties, it appears necessary and proper to bring the subject forward in such a form and manner that all may have an opportunity to consider, and to understand it.

It is already known that the method of dealing at this place is different from that in common practice. But it is a few of our friends only, who at present understand in what this difference consists.

It is for the information of inquiries, and for the [126] benefit of those who are desirous of making similar arrangements, that the following statements are made, and in doing this, we shall carefully avoid all comments and matters of opinion, they may in future occupy their proper time and place-at present we wish to make a simple statement of facts, and leave the reader to draw his own conclusions.

By the new arrangements, all Labour is valued by the Time employed in it.

Much might be said to show that, as Time is above all things most valuable, that Time is the real and natural standard of value. But we will not now undertake to prove, that, which (upon reflection) no one will undertake to deny. We will rather proceed to give the arrangements which have been made to carry this principle into effect.

PRESENT ARRANGEMENT OF THE MAGAZINE. Here upon this single and simple principle, all exchanges of articles and personal services are made, so that he who employs five or ten hours of his time, in the service of another, receives five or ten hours labour of the other in return. The estimates of the time cost, of articles having been obtained from those whose business it is to produce them, are always exposed to view, so that it may be readily ascertained, at what rate any article will be given and received. He who deposits an article, which by our estimate costs ten hours labour, receives any other articles, which, together with the labour of the keeper in receiving and delivering them, costs ten hours, or, if the person making the deposit does not wish at that time, to draw out any article, he receives a Labour Note for the amount; with this note he will draw out articles, or obtain the labour of the keeper, whenever he may wish to do so.

In cases where the labour does not admit of being deposited, [127] the person who receives it, gives a labour note oh the Magazine, by which the bearer can draw out any articles which the Magazine may contain, as persons of all professions will require those things which do admit of being deposited. At present many articles are bought with money - these are delivered out for the same amount of money which the keeper paid for them, and he is rewarded for his labour with an equal amount of the labour of him who receives them, which is deducted from the note before mentioned.

There are some articles, one part of which at present is procured with money, and the other has been deposited upon the new principle. That part for which money was paid, is paid for in money, and the other part is paid for in an equal amount of labour. We do not exchange labour for money, or money for labour, excepting in particular cases of necessity.

The loss on any article, after having been ascertained, is added to, and becomes one part of its price. An account of all the labour and money expenses is kept, and when any one receives an article, he pays as much labour and money over and above the cost, as will be likely to pay these expenses; the amount being liable to vary according to local and other circumstances, is fixed periodically by the keeper. An open record is kept upon which is noted in a simple and expeditious manner, each article that is delivered: and this is done by such a method that at a meeting of those who are in the habit of dealing here, it can be readily ascertained how much labour and money have been received for the purpose of discharging these expenses: and if when compared with the account of expenses it appears that too much has been received, the overplus will be distributed equally unless any individuals choose to keep an account of the precise proportions of their dealing, in which case [128] they will receive accordingly. If too little has been paid, all will see the propriety and the necessity of supplying the deficiency, and therefore no obligation to that effect is required. The expenses are paid in this manner, in order to secure the Magazine against the chances of loss, and to enable strangers to receive the benefits of the establishment, without being under the necessity of returning at a future time for the purpose of discharging these little items of expense.

The keeper exhibits the bills of all his purchasers to public view so that the cost of every article may be known to all. There is a list upon which each individual who is in the practice of dealing here, can make known his wants, and the keeper of the Magazine reports each day the articles or labour that can be received, and those who wish for the employment, refer first to the report of their wants to know whether their articles or services are required-as none can be received which are not wanted.

When the keeper has occasion for money, he reports upon the list of wants the rate at which he is willing to receive it in exchange for his labour. There is a place for advertisements, so that communications can be made to all interested. When any one wishes to deal in the common way, and feels no interests in the new arrangements, the keeper will deal in that way, provided the profits will amount to that which he requires in money as the reward of his labour for that day.

These are all the important arrangements which have so far appeared necessary. There are no contracts or agreements between any parties but these, or any other regulations or customs which may from time to time be adopted at this place, will always be subject to alteration, or to be abolished whenever increasing knowledge shall exhibit the propriety of change. [129]

N.B. Those who may be desirous of establishing Magazines will find their labour very much abridged by taking copies of our Labour estimates of Articles.

Josiah Warren, Positions Defined

Positions Defined

An impression is abroad, to some extent, that the "Equity movement" is necessarily characterized by an unusual latitude in the Marriage relations—I as one, protest against this idea. "The Sovereignty of every Individual" is as valid a warrant for retaining the present relations, as for changing them; and it is equally good for refusing to be drawn into any controversies or even conversations on the subject. I find no warrant in my "sovereignty" for invading, disturbing, or offending other people, whatever may be their sentiments or modes of life, while they act only at their own Cost: and would again and again reiterate in the most impressive possible manner that the greatest characteristic of this movement is its "INDIVIDUALITY"—that the persons engaged in it are required to act entirely as Individuals—not as a Combination or Organisation That we disclaim entirely, all responsibility for the acts, opinions, or reputations of each other. The principles of "Equity are as broad as the universe, embracing every possible diversity of character: I therefore do not look for conformity, and therefore repudiate all combined or partnership responsibilities, or reputations.

I suppose the world's experience to be its great instructor, and if it has not had enough of isms and follies I disclaim all right to oppose experiment, while the "Cost falls only upon the experimentors." But for myself, so far from proposing or wishing to see any sudden and unprepared changes in the sexual relations, I am satisfied that they would be attended with more embarrassments and more disastrous consequences than their advocates or the public generally are aware of; and farther, I wish to have it understood as a general rule, that I decline even entertaining the subject, either for controversy or for conversation.

I again caution all persons not to make me responsible for the acts and words of others; it is my right to have the making of my own reputation, and I wish them to remember, that no person either in his or her deportment or conversation, or as writer or lecturer is to be understood as a representative of me, unless my sanction is specifically given, to every idea thus advanced; and that no Newspaper or Journal is to be understood as an organ for me, except so far as it may have my signature to the articles it may contain.

Village of Modern Times, Aug. 1853.