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ART. II.-Association Discussed, or the Socialism of the Tribune Examined; being a Controversy between the New-York Tribune and the Courier and Enquirer. By H. GREELY and H. J. RAYMond. New-York: Harper & Brothers.
IN reviewing the discussion, the title to which is placed at the head of this article, we shall affect no impartiality that we do not feel. With every disposition to concede talents and integrity to both parties in the controversy, still we have a decided opinion that, in the main, one is right and the other grossly wrong. Fourierism, or associationism, as it is often styled by its friends, we cannot help regarding as a mischievous thing, and with equal frankness would we say, in the outset, that its pernicious tendencies have been most conclusively shown in the course of the above entitled discussion. At the same time, there may be conceded to its advocate not only the intellectual merit of an able and adroit defense, but also integrity of purpose, and a sincere, though misdirected," devotion to what the party doubtless deems the truest interests of humanity. Our remarks will relate, in some degree, to the logical management of the controversy, but chiefly to the essential merits of the question itself, in its relation to morality and the highest well-being of our race.
A considerable portion of the discussion on both sides will be found to have reference to certain questions of fairness or unfairness of argumentation. These arose out of the terms of the debate, and will be best understood by means of a brief outline of the history of the controversy, a sketch of which is given in the preface to the published work before us.
The Tribune—we say it without any intention to disparage, for it is only repeating its own boast—has been for several years known to the community as the leading advocate of some of the newest and most startling ideas which now generally pass under the name of reforms. In the prosecution of this course, it commenced, about six years ago, the publication of a series of papers in defense of the peculiar social doctrines of Charles Fourier. These were afterward collected into a volume, purporting to be chiefly from the pen of Albert Brisbane, with continuous and copious extracts from the writings of the first apostle himself. They are written with much ability, much consistency, and with a great deal of enthusiasm, having every appearance of sincerity and honest devotion to what the author doubtless regarded as the sacred cause of truth. They profess to present a thorough examination of the main subject, and of all the collateral topics connected with it. Hence the writer goes very fully, not only into what may be called the economical department of the system, but also into a discussion of the family or household state, with all its alledged evils. He dwells at length upon the filial and paternal relations, the bearing of the association scheme upon religion, education, crime, punishment, and all related social or domestic institutions.
There certainly must be conceded to this writer, to whom the columns of the Tribune were so freely granted, the merit of boldly tracing out many of his positions to their logical consequences; although even he thinks that the age is not yet fully prepared for all the doctrines of Fourier. In the main, however, he does not shrink from presenting a full view of the system in almost all its bearings, and does not hesitate to avow, that it will necessarily come in direct collision with many cherished notions respecting the “isolated family state,” paternal authority, the education of children, social institutions, and the position and doctrines of the church. This writer, too, it should be said, professes to be a warm patron of Christianity, and to have great respect for Christ: Few readers, however, can fail to perceive that this Christianity has nothing to do with the Bible—a book to which, as authority for his views of man, and human nature, and human relations, he never refers—but that it is only another name for the system professed to be revealed by Fourier himself. He reasons thus—and it is a syllogism which in some shape meets us in almost every chapter— God certainly intended a true social order for this world; this is not to be found in the present institutions of society, or in the present teachings of the church; but Fourier has discovered and proved a scheme the direct opposite of all these jarring developments; therefore Fourier's theory is the true interpretation of the gospel, it is true Christianity, it is the kingdom of heaven on earth.
This was regarded as a much better way of proving the identity of Fourierism and Christianity than any obsolete method of argument from texts or passages of the written word. Christ himself constantly appealed to what was written, and often chose this as the best mode of conveying his own instructions. Contemning, however, all such methods of arguing from texts, as utterly unphilosophical, the writer professed to go above them all directly to the “spirit of Christianity;” or, in other words, what Christianity ought to be when read by the higher light of the French prophet. In short, in some way, as John the Baptist was to Christ, so was Christ to Fourier.
We have dwelt the longer on this, in our introductory history, because this book did contain the best exposition ever made in this country of Fourier's doctrines. Because, too, of its first publication in the Tribune, and the fact that the other party was afterward referred to it as a work of authority, it has an important bearing upon some of the points subsequently presented in the controversy. After the completion of this series of papers, various articles appeared from time to time in the Tribune, advocating the same general views. These were occasionally noticed in the columns of the Courier and Enquirer, until it finally resulted in mutual propositions for the discussion which has occasioned the volume under review. In the final agreement that followed, there was only one item in any way unusual, and which therefore it becomes important to notice. The reader will find it on the fourth page of the preface. It was a stipulation which never should have been demanded by one party or assented to by the other. Instead of a general examination of Fourierism, or associationism, as a well-settled system, grounded on certain fundamental principles, and having certain standard writings, the Tribune insisted that it should be “associationism as he understood it.” Here certainly was presented a new and most unusual feature in the ethics of controversy. It, however, defeated itself by its own intrinsic absurdity. It could not be strictly carried out, because, in such case, it must at once, whenever rigidly and consistently applied, have put a stop to the discussion. A debate of this kind must always be mainly carried on by way of deductions from admitted or proved facts. Of course, then, the party who shields himself under such a stipulation need not reply by disproving the opposing argument, or showing it to be unreasonable; he may simply deny that he accepts the inference, or that he thus understands it, and he is at once perfectly unassailable in this quarter. And so it must be of every other, and indeed in respect to the most general statement of the matter in dispute. He chooses to view associationism under a certain aspect; this embraces all its assumed good, and excludes all its inferential evils. He does not, of course, “understand" it to have bad tendencies, or he would not advocate it; for no man ever professedly favors that which he understands as being hostile to the true good of humanity. It is argued, for example, that the theory of Fourier (even had not Fourier expressly avowed it) necessarily involves a mode of education which must tend to sunder the filial and parental relations. The disputant replies that this is not associationism as he understands it, and at once demands that all this important branch of the argument must be cut off. In the same way all inferences in respect to any irreligious tendencies, or any immoral or licentious tendencies, are at once excluded; until nothing is left but the fair aspect in which one party chooses to understand the subject, and which the other is unable to deny, because he is cut off from all deductions which may even seem to be in conflict with this his opponent's understanding. Such a stipulation, moreover, presents a very degrading view of the subject proposed, and, if insisted on, makes it utterly unworthy of any serious argumentation. It assumes that it is something which cannot be at all determined,—that it has no fundamental principles, no consistency, no coherency, no unity;—in short, nothing, by virtue of which it could with any justice be called a system. It rejects everything which may be appealed to as fundamental, aside from any opinions which any individual may choose to associate with the term. It denies that it has any standard writings, or authorities, to which the inquirer may be referred in determining what it is. It most irrationally excludes the question, what it really is, from being regarded as any branch of the argument. In short, it makes out its name to be an absurdity, because there is nothing fixed and exclusive to which it can be consistently applied. Certainly this would be deemed most absurd in reference to anything else. Who would dream of discussing the merits of Epicureanism, or Platonism, or Christianity, as any one of the parties might choose to understand it? Some things, it is true, might require to be settled, and some metes and bounds to be assigned, to prevent unnecessary rambling; but still, in reference to the above and similar examples, the mind at once calls up some tolerably definite series or syntagma of doctrines passing under the appellation; or, at all events—and this consideration shuts out every ground of cavil—some standard scriptures universally acknowledged to contain them. What makes this more absurd in reference to Fourierism, or associationism, is the fact that nothing has ever been more extravagantly lauded for its perfect system, its solidly laid foundations, and the profound philosophy by which it was said to be everywhere pervaded. Fourier, it was boasted, had at length discovered the essential harmony of the universe; and that, too, not only in its moral and political, but even in its physical, developments. In the fêtes of his almost adoring disciples, especially in this country, no eulogiums on their revered master were deemed too extravagant. He had discovered the mystery which had been hidden for ages; he had opened the seal and read the book whose meaning had never been fully apprehended by prophets, or apostles, or even Christ himself. The consideration of this claim by one party of a right to discuss the question solely as he understands it, without any reference to authorities to determine whether or no that understanding in any particular case be correct, is intimately connected with the intrinsic merits of the question, from the fact of its being the method often employed to present associationism in its fairest light, to the exclusion of all exceptionable features or unfavorable inferences. Any one who reads the book under review, or who has bestowed any attention upon the system it professes to discuss, must be aware that that system has two distinct and important aspects. One, for the convenience of definition, may be styled the economical, and the other the moral. Under the first it proposes, and with much plausibility, immense advantages in respect to economy in the means of subsistence. Through the association of great numbers in one place, on one domain, and in contiguous apartments of one dwelling, it professes to effect vastly more, in this way, than could be ever accomplished by the separate labors of households or individuals. There would be, it maintains, a most profitable division of labor; there would be room for a choice in respect to it, which might, for awhile at least, take off some of its asperities; there would be improvements in machinery; there would be ambitious excitement, by which the same labor would be productive of more wealth and more physical comforts than under the separate or household system. So far everything is plain and perfectly intelligible. No doubt, as has been observed, a dozen families might cook their victuals more cheaply in one large kitchen, and at one large furnace, than they could in a dozen small ones. Ten families combined might cultivate a thousand acres to greater pecuniary advantage, than though each occupied separately a single farm of a hundred. And so we might say of many other things, which are connected alone with what we have styled the economical aspect of the question. This, we say, might be the case; although even here causes would be at work, which, it might be contended with great justice, would make even the merely economical results very different from the anticipations. It might be found, after the novelty had in some measure passed away, that the ambitious stimulants of the phalanx had far less of permanent power to render labor “attractive” than those which are connected with the security of separate