Curious letter from M. Cabet to M. Julien a Deciple in France

I learn with pleasure, my good friend, that whilst a great number of Icarians are preparing to join us in America, in order to lend their aid to the Foundation of the Icarian colony, you are also disposed to come with your wife, your children and some Agriculturists of your neighborhood.

I learn it with the more pleasure, from the fact that I have long known, not only from your democratic opinions and your generous sentiments in favor of the masses and of humanity, but also your intelligence and your instruction, your scientific capacity and your industrial experience, all of which will be exceedingly useful to us, for we are about to commence an Icarian city with its accessories.

What gives me even greater pleasure still, is that you are perfectly acquainted with all our Icarian writings, our Icarian history, our theory our doctrine, our principles, based on fraturnity, equality and solidarity; you adopt all without reserve.

If you adopted them from an impulse of enthusiasm merely, I would have less satisfaction and have confidence in you; but your conviction is as solid as calm as reflective and enlightend; you know our history, our limited resourses in our commencement, our first difficulties, our obsticles, our reverses and our misfortunes; you are ignorant neither of the persecutions nor of the desertions, nor of the columnies, nor of the hostilities of every kind, that have so long beset and paralyzed us; and nothing of all that is capable of discouraging or repelling you.

You know that if nothing is more generous and more useful than an enterprise of colonization of the kind we have undertaken, nothing is more difficult, or exacts as much patience, perserverance or true courage; but you know at the same time, that we have six years of existence, and that, although our enemies have so often announce our indubitable and speedy downfall, we have happily surmounted our ordeals, that the most difficult have been safely passed through, and that we continue to progress when almost all similar enterprises have succomed in America as well as in Europe and Africa.

As regards myself, who have all along held the helm, on whom rests all the difficulties, all the responsibilities, all the anxieties and all the moral fitigues, and who wished to prove by experience, that the Icarian Community, with all the benefits that it promises is realizable and possible. I find the experiment decisive, and complete success only appears to me a question of means and time.

We have in fact, production in common, labor organized and free, without wages, without money, and without any restraint than the sentiment of duty towards the community; we have consumption and enjoyment in common, according to the nesessaties of each, and according to the principle of equality and fraternity, without exceptional privileges for any person; we have the soveigenty of the people in action, democracy in practice and open doors for every sort of peaceable reform. In our society there is no opulence, but at the same time there is no misery; we have no rich nor poor, no diminuation, nor dependence, nor cares, nor disquitudes, nor crimes, nor police, nor trials, nor tribunals; we have instead, the joys of wedlock and for family instruction for the females, as well as for the males.

It is true we have not as yet arrived at all desirable perfection, but our community is only in its infancy; we must never confound the epochs of preparation and of work, of creation and of birth, it is indespensible to till and to sow before gathering in the harvest. Neither Rome nor Paris nor London, nor New York, have been the work of a day. I do not see on the earth any society, which is more perfect than our community; and besides, I can admit no obstacle to the amelioration and perfect development of anything. Neverless, I indulge in no illusions, and I see with pleasure that you are in the same frame of mind. You perceive, like me that we still have to overcome difficulties and obsticles, to support privations and straights, to brave fatigues and, perhaps, even dangers; but in what country of the world can we find the advantages of Communism without anxieties, and without privations, with less of fatigue or of peril.

Someday when Communism will extend the full extent of its power and perfection, it will afford to mankind all the well being imanganable and possible, and then there will be no occasion for anything like self-sacrifice to become a Communist; when in the community every man will be well lodged, fed, clothed, etc, as can he reasonably desire; the most selfish will be more desireous of being admitted into the community, but you will comprehend that it would not be reasonable that we should admit those who only enter our society for the purpose of enjoyment; you will readily understand that patience, temperance and self-devotion, are necessary; you know how to act like a generous and courageous man devoted to the cause of progress and humanity; and I applaud you with transport when I hear you say: “I neither act like a blind man nor a child, but like a man who comprehends all the grandure and all the holiness of the enterprise”.

Let us avoid, never the less, all delusions, and let us examine our position, such as it is, without exaggerating it for evil anymore than for good.

FINANCIAL RESOURSES – A new settlement requires a great deal of money. That of Algeria has consumed enormous sums (it is said from fifty to sixty millions of francs); the Phalansterian School demanded seven million, and the forest of Saint-Germain to found a Phalansterian school in Texas. If we were in a position to dispose of a like sum, I have not at least doubt that the community would be today powerful and prosporous; but it will scarcely be credited- we have not had 500,000 francs to found the colony, and sustain more than four hundred individuals, during a period of six years. With this small sum, and the fruits of our labor, we have manufactured furniture constructed dwellings, workshops and a school; we have feed and clothed ourselves etc. & etc. we have purchased medicine, raw materials and tools, horses and other cattle, from two to three thousand acres of land, and a mill with a distillery, sawing machine and slaughter house. It now becomes absolutely necessary that we should increase our landed possessions and our finances, and I should communicate to you presently my ideas on these points.

HABITATIONS. – We have in the first place been badly lodged. Each family has now a separate dwelling, with a chimney or stove. This dwelling is far from what it will be, when all the habitations will be perfectly independent, and as convenient, as agreeable, and as spacious as possible, for a comfortable is one of the first necessaries of life and, its perfection will be one of the principle advantages of the community; but never-the-less, at present every family occupies its own home, where it enjoys the necessaries of life with the hope of continual ameliorations.

FURNITURE. – The present furniture of our dwellings is very simple. It will be successfully completed as soon as our finances will permit. Every new article of furniture will be made in quantities and distributed to everyone at the same time. No member of the community will have beter furniture than his  bretheren.

FOOD. Our repasts are taken in the common Refectory, unless in the cases of nurses and patients, who have their meals at home or at the infirmary. In the morning, before proceeding to their avocation, the men have a little spirits and bread. They have some twice a day, at breadfast and at supper. The bread, half wheat and half Indian corn, is excellent. The regular meals are composed of one dish and sometimes of two. We have meat, (beef, veal, mutton, fresh pork and ham,) fish in abundance, and of excellent quality; vegatables of every description, (potatoes, cabbage, beans, peas, onions, carrots, radishes, salads, maze, rice, etc. & etc.) Eggs, butter, cabbage. Fruits:, rasberries, gooseberries, cherries, apples, appricots, nuts and grapes in the woods. We drink coffee and tea until we can procur beer and cider. The women have at breakfast, coffee with milk made after the French. Poultry and game are reserved for invalids. We consume great quantities of sugar, coffee and tea and for these articles alone, large sums are expended.

When we shall have plenty of Oxen, plenty of milk cows, plenty of pultry and plenty of water for irrigation and for the producton of vegetables, or rather, plenty of money, with which everything, and without which nothing can be done, then our food will leave nothing to be reasonably desired, for temperance and frugality must always be a rule with us; and we must bear in mind the precept – eat to live and not live to eat as well as this Icarian principle. In the first place the necessary, and then the useful when we can, then the agreeable when it is possible. We should never forget that sensualism and prodigality would be for us Icarians an inconsistency and almost a crime as long as there as so many millions of our brethren in France deprived of the first necessaries of life.

But, nevertheless, our present food, with which I content myself at the common table is infinitely is better than that of the masses of the people of Europe; it is generally speaking, good and sufficient, and, whatever calumny may assert to the contrary, no one dies of hunger in our colony. If however, you should know anyone who desires more, or entertains for certain aliments, repugnances  or predlictions always embarrassing to the kitchen, the administration and to ecomomy; engage him not to come here; for he cannot be happy amongst us, and be trouble instead of aiding us.

CLOTHING – Someday or other we shall have a uniform for both men and women for girls as well as boys, for labor as well as repose; we will manufacture ourselves all our stuffs and all our clothing and then will disappear a crowd of difficulties that at present embarrass the administration; but to arrive at these results we must replace all the old outfits by new ones, and to make this substitution we must require a great deal of money, which as of now we do not possess. In the meantime since you assure me your wife is as good an Icarian as yourself, you had better go to no unnecessary expense for your garments; you must bring with you neither silks nor articles of luxury nor of coquetry. Your will understand, as well as myself, that a wife who could lay out money on her toilet is not at heart an Icarian, and that she should hesitate at all to come, her husband should not bring her; for their arrival would neither be a benefit to her, to him, nor to us. Icaria can only be founded by Icarians and Icarians, too, having all the qualities and all the virtues necessary to the practice of fraternity, equality, order and economy.

Should you possess too much clothing, bed curtains or feather beds, you would do well to bring them with you, instead of selling them at a low price; but they must go to the common stock, and their value, relatively estimated, will be placed to your account.

PHARMACY – The health of our laborers being our principle treasure, pharmacy is one of the chief objects of our cares. It costs us dear, for we have to buy everything and even to inport somethings from France; but this expense assures us labor and is a real economy to us.

THE INFIRMARY – Someday or other we shall have a magnificent infirmary, for males and females. At present we cannot afford to have one for the women, but they are attended in their own dwellings.

That for the men is far from being what we are desirious of rendering it; but as we but as we project it, it  would be a great expense-an expense we shall certainly go to as soon as we can. You may form, however, some idea of its utility, from the fact that I am going to site to you. In consequence of an accident, it became necessary to amputate the two legs of young X——, an operation skillfully performed, by our Icarian surgeon by the aid of chloroform, and which succeeded admirally. The patient happy to be able to render himself still useful in the office as a writer, or in the school, glad also to be enabled to be present at our f’ete as of our Fourth of July, came to communicate to me a letter which he had written to a friend, and in which he said to him: “My misfortune and even a greater still might have happened to me elsewhere than in Icaria; but in Icaria alone perhaps I would have found as much sympathy and consolation as I have met with in a society of brethren; as much attention and devotion as have been bestowed on me as those who was entrusted with the fraternal charge of me.”

BATHS –  We will soon have fine public baths, and, even a private bath in each family. Our baths are at present very simple, but nevertheless, whilst fathers and boys bath in the Mississippi, the mothers and daughters, conducted and brought back in a vehicle, bath in a reservoir alternately filled with hot and cold water.

MARRIAGE – You know with us Icarians, marriage pure and perfect-is held to be one of the principle basis of order and peace for society, alike good for men, women and children. All young women marry and we wish that all young men should have wives. When we come to be in Iowa and when we shall have an Icarian Community or city with a  Magistrate, officially invested with the power to marry, we will then celebrate our marriage, but up until this time it is the American Magistrate who makes this celebration. It takes place on Sunday, after dinner, in a refrectory attached to the Hall Of Assembly, in the presence of the family and all the colony. Then the President of the community addresses the couple and the assembly, calling on the latter to remember their engagement to respect and protect the union, about to be contracted, and upon the newly married to observe their mutual engagements toward each other, and their duties towards their children yet unborn. It is modest-this marriage celebration- and very different from that which will come hereafter.

ADMISSIONS – Admissions into the communism (communante’), a species of marriage, are not the same thing. This is a contract of society-a sort of adoption. After an inquest, and a report of a commission, and after a fair and open discussion in the presence of the party asking for this privelage, the general assembly grants or denies this request. Before the vote is taken, it is the right, and even the duty, of everyone to say what he knows against the party; but after he has been admitted, no one is alllowd to accuse him of aught that may have previously happened.

SCHOOLS –  When Icaia has been well established education (tending to a higher development of human intelligence for every individual, man and women, without exception and also to a higher development of social virtues, by the universal and constant practice of fraternity), will triumph. Then the school will be our finest edifice, as our children will be our most solid hope. Then we will have the necessary classes, professors, books, instruments and etc. then all studies will be amusement and all amusement will be instruction and education; then by accustoming children to look upon study as an amusement, we will make them docile and respectful by affection; then the school will be a little community which will labor for its own wants, and will be a model of order and fraternity and will give us an Icarian generation which will be natural and easily governed in all succeeding generations. What a spectacle, if we have thousands of little girls dressed alike and thousands of little boys in uniform-sisters and brothers of a great family living fraternally together, all disciplined and docile, all respectful and polished, all instructed and working, all mutually instructing and helping each other, all happy! But for a school of this kind, as for any other, much, very much money is required, and we have not the power to progress as quickly as we wish. However we have built in cut-stone a school half of which contains from thirty to forty little girls, from five to fifteen years of age, and the other half contains thirty to forty little boys of the same age. Some twenty infant children in charge of their mothers, and another twenty, from two to five years of age, are collected in an asylum under the direction and survelance of one of our female citizens. The community has given to each nurse a pretty little carriage with four wheels, painted blue, to drive out her infant. As to children of five years old, their parents can see them everyday at school in the evening; and on Sundays they can take them from school after dinner, and have them to supper, unless the children have committed some fault that requires some serious punishment.

The great school has two large inclosed yards. Acacia trees will be planted there to produce shade and coolness. The children have made little gardens there and cultivate flowers. Independent of their studies, the girls have a work-room where they mend and make clothing for the boys, while the latter render them in turn other services. The boys seek for food, water and firewood. Sometimes they are employed at work in the garden, in agricultural excersise on our farms and in other labors of the same kind. Fourteen of them form part of our musical band. We are also about having a place for gymnastics exercises. All is not finished yet; but we have commenced, and will go on doing better.

MUSIC – Music, recreations and amusements being an absolute necessity in every colony, and above all in a fraternal colony, we have made every sacrifice to organize an instrumental musical company, and we have now thirty-four musicians, of which nineteen citizens are among the workmen, and fifteen children,  viz: six horns, six clarionets, one flute, one neocor, one claricor, five pistons, four ophicleides, four trombones, one large, one clear, one round drum, two triangles and two violins. Although the music is performed by workmen, they have made an astonishing progress, are the admiration of Americans, and at the same time add a charm to our family reunions. We also have some singers who execute German and French choruses, which gives us great pleasure, and makes us impatient to instruct all our little girls, our boys, our men and our women in vocal music. This music interrupts us sometimes in our work; but what a pleasure, and what an advantage to be able to hear it at our feasts and our banquets, in our concerts and at our public meetings. And what a delight greater than the other perhaps- when all men and all women, fathers and mothers with their children, brothers and sisters can unite their voices in a fraternal harmony.

THEATRICALS – That to what I have said of our music, I can also say of our drama. Since our arrival we commenced in the attic, and not withstanding it’s poverty, this embryo theatre gave us a great deal of amusement. We have since inproved it, and we have now a pretty little building, with beautiful decorations, representing the Roman people, with their brilliant costumes, with the tragic murder of Caesar, before the eyes of the Icarian people. Many other little dramas with costumes and decorations, gives pleasure to our citizens and to the Americans, who comes to fraternize with us. More than one actor in Paris does not perform better; but nowhere can a spectacle be found that represents such a family reunion. Our children recite fables, and play senate pieces, and everyone sings there, and sometimes in chorus. Is this not progress? This deranges us a little in our work, but what does that matter in a young colony. Bring with you, if you can, plays and songs, spiritual, joyous and moral.

THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY – is held in the Grand Salvor of the refectory. The tables are piled aganst the wall, and the benches are placed before a table raised on another, which serves as a desk for the President of the Assembly and his two secretaries, also for the President of the Community. Every citizen assists, the women are admitted, and the young men from sixteen to twenty years of age are there also, on different benches. All take part in the discussion.  The women are admitted provisionally, and the young can give their advise collectively. The discussion is sometimes animated among the workmen, who do not understand yet the perfect practice of democracy; but often the discussions on grave and important subjects might serve as a model for more than one deliberative assembly in ancient Europe.

SOVEREIGNTY OF THE PEOPLE – This is our first social and political dogma and we put it into practice. For it is the Icarian people in general assembly, which meets regularly every Saturday, and can be revoked as often as is necessary, who alone can revise the constitution, the laws and all other affairs; it also changes and elects all its officers. Whatever question presents itself, the people instantly can invoke the assembly  to discuss and decide it.

LIBERTY –  Many people pretend that our Icarian system restrains individual liberty too much; but to me this seems a manifest error for social liberty is neither license or anarchy. In order of each individual to be free, it is necessary that liberty should be respected in others. In a word, liberty is the law when it is made, not by aristictatic or privileged body, but by the people themselves, but with a perfect knowledge of what they are doing, and without any restraint whatever.

 WORK – Every Icarian must work and make himself useful according to his capacity. Consequently people too old, or too feeble, or too infirm ought to abstain from coming here; for they expose themselves to be refused admittance, or to the reproach of having foolishly consulted their own desires more than the interest of the colony. The work is not done in private houses, but in workshops common to all. All the men therein are under the superintendence of elected directors. When agriculture requires it, in harvest time & etc. a number of workers are taken, and each one generally answers the call. Sometimes the whole community (men, women and children) join us together for the common welfare, and often there is a feast and a party of pleasure after the work is over. Nurses and sick people are exempt from attending the workshop. All the others are distributed impartially to attend the various branches of labor. No one is allowed to keep a servant, for each woman keeps her own house.

Inasmuch as it requires a great deal of money to purchase machinery, and as the colony yet in its infancy has not enough, the work sometimes severe and fatiguing but, (the community have in view the suppression of unnecessary labor,) we are to obtain, as soon as possible a washing machine, and afterwards all those which are most required; we have already bought or made machines for grinding corn & etc & etc. For this reason work, from twelve to three P.M. is suspended during the heat of the summer; and we intend having a steamboat as soon as we can, to transport goods and even to go for our brethren in France and bring them here. It is unnecessary to tell you that we only work ten hours a day. But you will understand – that we want money – much money.

COOKERY – The cooking for 400 persons, and above all, on an economical plan, is much more difficult than you would imagine. We have built ovens with furnaces, we also a long building where the linen is kept, where the workshops of our women are, together with some lodging rooms. Five men for the kitchen four women drawn by lot for fifteen days at a time to wash & etc. and four additional women, also drawn by lot, to assist the others, compose the cooking establishment. A great many ameliorations remain to be done in the cooking department, but much has already been done.

REFRECTORY – For a long time the colony wished that our refrectory be decorated and adorned with inscriptions indicating our Icarian principles, and the names of our patrons; but it involved an expense from which we have hitherto recoiled, as there are a thousand other more needful expenditures daily urged upon us.

LABOR – All the public services of which I have spoken as appertaining to the kitcen, and some others of the same kind are called corvees; they are supported by all the men and women in their turn. If these militate against their individual liberty for a time, they have gratification of knowing that they are doing a public service.

MOVEMENTS OF THE DAY – Everyone rises at the same hour early in summer later in winter. The hours of work and repast are notified by the sound of a trumpet. After each period of labor the people repose themselves. In the evening there are prominades in the gardens, recreations, games and assemblies.

POVERTY – There are those who attribute poverty to restraint and restriction of liberty, to slavery. To me as to you I doubt not, the advantages of communism in this respect are innumerable and superior to all other social systems, for it only suppresses misery and want; and as it is impossible to suppress poverty without greatly augmenting the necessaries of life, it is necessary, in order to organize and utilize labor and to give work to the poor. Whoever will not receive the poor, cannot reap from them any advantages; and reciprocally, whoever wishes for the advantages of society and above all of communism, must accept the necessary condition – the charge of the poor. I always repeat to others who are of a different opinion: do better if you can; present your system, if you have a more perfect one.

DIMINUATION OF STOCK – I hope that families in good circumstances will aid us by their donations; but desiring also the arrival of excellent Icarians of little fortune, and thinking our present condition permits it, I intend proposing to the colony the reduction of the minimum stock for each individual from 400 to 300 francs.

We have a minimum stock which all are generally obliged to put in; but according to the principles of the community, fraternity and equality, each one should bring all that he possess; this is the rule, and everyone  is bound to declare whether he has conformed to it. However, we are certain that some will deceive and lie to us in holding back part of what they own, and then what will follow? Would it not be folly to emigrate if we continually tremble for the success of emigration? To deceive and to lie is to be degraded in one’s own eyes and to be exposed to compulsion and contempt.

In our desire to facilitate the marriage of young Icarians possessing more good qualities than fortune, we have decided that Icarian girls under sixteen years can be admitted without obliged to put in any stock.

IOWA – You know that Icaria was first founded in Texas; it was only accidentally transferred to Nauvoo; that is was only established there temporarily and in 1852 we finally decided to transfer it to Iowa, directly west of Nauvoo. We came to Nauvoo at first because it had advantages; it was near the Mississippi, was of a healthy climate and with good soil, and had numerous vacant lodging houses, which were abandoned by the Mormons three or four years before. We could not remain there because of the proximitly of the town and the injurious effect that the old social organization might have on our communism and we were therefore obliged to let our farms. This provisional establishment was also subject to the great inconvenience of obliging us to undergo great expenses; but now we go to Iowa. If after my proscription of 1852, and my return from France, we had the four millions that the Phalansterian school asks- or one million, or even less-we would have brought from France a large number of workmen, who joined with us, who in two or three years have prepared the cultivation and dwelling houses for a million of people. We transfer our communism to Iowa, always keeping Nauvoo as a provisional station.

A novitiate, or prepatory stage before entering on a life of communism. We have chose the county of Adams, in the state of Iowa, between the Mississippi and the Missouri, near a little river called the Nodaway. We have bought and paid for 912 acres of land, covered with wood and we have the pre-emption of 1,760 acres more. In the month of June last, we had there sixteen men and three women, who have already prepared a harvest for this season, who have constructed twenty buildings of wood, and who brought there some horses, oxen, cows, sheep & etc. – about one hundred in all. We will send, on the sixth of July first six more men to farm and to build one mechanician to establish a mill, and five women, with eighteen additional cattle. We will send in the autumn and next year many more of our cattle. In this or next year I will go and choose a spot for an Icarian city, and in two or three years we will take our departure, that is to say, after a halt of five or six years, we will again go forward upon our mission to found communism for this interest of the world and humanity.


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