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as property is concerned, soon restricted the application of the community principle within the limits of the family life. Thus the New Lebanon society has 4 families, or communes (it formerly had 7), each of which has its independent community or family life.
Then again, some of the more recent communities have considerably changed their original plans, so that we have in the same community different aims at different times. These and other considerations render any exact classification out of the question.
When the work of Nordhoff (a) was published in 1875 the total number of communistic societies was 11, counting, of course, the 18 Shaker societies, which included 58 communes, as one. Three of these, however, Mr. Nordhoff did not rank as entitled to a place among the successful communities, so that he counted only 8 societies, comprising not less than 72 communes.
These contained about 5,000 persons, including children. They held some 180,000 acres of land, and their wealth, Mr. Nordhoff estimated, was not less than $12,000,000. This would have given, if equally divided, more than $2,000 dollars to each man, woman, and child. When Mr. Hinds wrote, (l) in 1878, three of the communities mentioned by Mr. Nordhoff had already lapsed, viz, the Bishop Hill Colony, the Cedar Vale Community, and the Social Freedom Community. Those remaining were Economy, Zoar, Bethel, Aurora, Amana, Icaria, Oneida and Wallingford, the Shakers, and the Brotherhood of the New Life. The last named, however, was not included in Mr. Nordhoff's list and can not properly be classed as even cooperative.
Of all these, only the Shakers, the Amana Society, and a mere fragment of the Economists remain. Three of the Shaker societies and 22 of the families, or communes, have also passed away. Two small societies, however, have recently been formed, so that there are still 17 societies and 36 families. But there has been a steady decline in the number of members, taking the communities as a whole. Mr. Nordhoff gives some account of one society, not communistic, at Silkville, or Prairie Home, Kans., and Mr. Hinds names some 16 socialistic experiments then organized, or organizing, not one of which, so far as can be learned, is now existing.
Mr. Noyes's History of American Socialisms (c) gives an account of 45 different experiments growing out of the Owen movement in the twenties and the Fourier movement in the forties, not one of which remains. As near as we can judge from the facts obtained, the average life of these experiments was about two years. Nevertheless,
a The Communistic Societies of the United States, by Charles Nordhoff. Harper & Brothers, New York, 1875.
1) American Communities, by W. A. Hinds.
c History of American Socialisms, by John Humphrey Noyes. J. B. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia, 1870.
“hope springs eternal in the human breast," and the last decade of the nineteenth century was, perhaps, more prolific of schemes and efforts to get out of the competitive struggle, with its pitiful extremes of wealth and poverty, into the cooperative life, with its promise of freedom from these ills, than any prior period in our history. It can not, however, be claimed, it is feared, that these later efforts give any greater promise of success than the earlier. Something more than a score of these are making a desperate struggle to get a foothold, or to resist the disintegrating influence of their unfriendly environment, but apparently with little prospect of desired success. These colonies are mostly of recent origin, with small membership and very meager resources. They have, therefore, as yet, but little in the way of achievement to relate. Their history, if they are to have a worthy one, is still to be made.
Before giving any account of these, it will be worth while to give some attention to the old societies still in existence, and to a few of the more important ones that have recently passed out. (a)
Of all societies in this country ranked as communistic Shaker societies are the oldest, best organized, and, financially speaking, the most prosperous. Shakers report at present seventeen societies, scattered through nine States. Two, Mount Lebanon and Watervliet, are in New York; three, Hancock, Harvard, and Shirley, in Massachusetts; one, Enfield, in Connecticut; two, Canterbury and Enfield, in New Hampshire; two, Alfred and New Gloucester, in Maine; three, Union Village, Whitewater, and Watervliet, in Ohio; two, Pleasanthill and South Union, in Kentucky; one, Whiteoak, in Georgia; and one, Narcoossee, in Florida.
It is hardly proper, however, to count the two last mentioned, as they have recently been organized by members of Northern societies with a view of transferring the whole body to a more congenial clime, where they hope to be able to live more cheaply and support themselves without the employment of hired labor. They desire to sell their property in Mount Lebanon, N. Y., or much of it, at least, and build up their home in the South with the proceeds. Two of the old societies, Groveland and Canaan, in New York, have died out.
a The author desires to acknowledge his indebtedness not only to the valuable and well-known works of Nordhoff, Noyes, and Hinds, but to excellent monographs by Charles Edson Robinson on the Shakers; by Professor Perkins, of the State University of Iowa, on the Amana Society; and by Mr. E. O. Randall, secretary of the Ohio Historical Society, on the Zoar Society. He is also much indebted to Mr. Charles M. Skinner, of the Brooklyn Eagle, for a series of articles published in that paper, the result of an investigation cotemporaneous with this; and to the officials of the various organizations who have been uniformly courteous and obliging.
Shaker societies are usually composed of two or more “families" or communes, which range in number from a very few to a hundred or more, comprising both sexes and all ages. These families are practically independent of each other as to property and business interests. The principle of communism holds in their organization only within the limits of the family. It does not apply to the families as constituents of the society nor to the societies as related to the whole body of Shakerdom. In any given society made up of two or more families one family may have much more wealth per capita than another. like inequality exists, of course, among the societies. In some cases certain families agree to extend the principle and hold their property in common as do three families, we are told, at Pleasanthill, Ky. But the rule is that each family manages its own business affairs, and profits or suffers as the management is good or bad. The claim is that the property is more easily managed by such division ; that it tends to wider development of individual talents and creates a larger number of capable and responsible men and women. In case of calamity, however, by fire or flood or tempest, all are expected to help according to means. If, through bad management, any family gets into straitened circumstances it is helped by those more prosperous, according to ability, until the management is changed.
But however great this spirit of helpfulness may be it does not prevent some families and some societies from having much more wealth than others. Shakerism, therefore, is only a modified communism and really carries the principle, so far as its organization is concerned, only a little beyond that practiced in the general family life of the world. Its families are larger and there is more of cooperation among them than in the life of the world, but the full effects of the principle do not extend to the body as a whole, nor to all of the members. Indeed, a recent letter from one of the members says: “We are not even, strictly speaking, a community. We are, fundamentally and primarily, a church ; a body of people united together for a spiritual purpose. Only secondarily and incidentally are we communistic. Our communism, such as it is, is only incidental to our main object, which is a spiritual one, and it is this fact which differentiates us from all other attempts at communism on this continent.” The writer quoted ventures the opinion that in all other colonies the main object is material, and “those who take part are governed solely by the motive of self-interest,” while the Shakers are banded together for a spiritual purpose. This view, undoubtedly, not only does injustice to some other movements, but somewhat exaggerates the spiritual merits of the Shakers. Certainly something of this higher purpose has been professed, and in good degree manifested, by several other communities in this country; and Shakers have not always been so loyal to their fundamental aim that they can safely make such claims. One of their
leading members writes: “If we have so far deviated from the foundation principles of our faith as to make that [the piling of wealth] our object, it has invariably been productive of disaster, spiritual and temporal blight, and when success seemed already achieved, loss and disaster followed fast and followed faster,' large sums having been lost on bad investments, or by swindling operators."
This confession serves to show that however steadily the current of high purpose has swept on in the stream of the Shaker life, there have been eddies here and there where the movement was pretty strongly in an opposite direction.
ORIGIN AND EARLY HISTORY.
The Shakers trace their origin to the Camisards, or French prophets, who figured in the early part of the eighteenth century. The movement of which these people were the center spread rapidly to other countries, and notably in England. Some Friends, or Quakers, came under their influence and organized a society of which James and Jane Wardley, a very devout couple, were the leaders. So violent were the agitations and tremblings which seized these people during their meetings that they came to be called the “Shaking Quakers," and later "Shakers."
Ann Lee and her parents were among those who were drawn into the society. Her father was a blacksmith, as was the man Stanley, whom she subsequently married, and to whom she bore four children, all of whom died in infancy. It is worth while to note here as having some bearing, perhaps, on the loss of the children, and on the view of marriage which she afterwards made central in her religious system, that she is said to have had from childhood a strong repugnánce to the married state, and only consented to enter into it at the urgent and persistent solicitation of her friends.
Though wholly illiterate, never being able to read or write, Ann Lee had qualities of mind and heart which brought her rapidly to the front and caused her to share in the persecutions then being visited upon her people. In 1770, while in prison, she claimed to have had a great revelation, especially as to the nature of the sin which was the cause of man's alleged fall, and the necessity of the celibate life as the first and indispensable step to his spiritual recovery. In 1773, having been released from prison, she had another revelation, by which she was instructed to repair to America, being assured that “there the Second Christian Church”—that is, the Church of Ann Christ, the first being that of Jesus Christ--“would be established," that the colonies would gain their independence, and “complete liberty of conscience be secured to all people.” She was obedient to the “vision," and with eight others, selected from the congregation, sailed from Liverpool for New York May 19, 177+. With the departure of this little band Shakerism soon ceased to exist in England and has never since revived.
Ann and her company landed in New York August 6, 1774. A year or so after her arrival her husband, who was not in sympathy with the kind or measure of holiness insisted on by Ann, left the order and took up with another woman, dissolving the marriage ties that bound him to “ Mother" Ann. About 1776 one of the company, who was possessed of considerable means, purchased a section of land near Albany, in a wilderness called Niskayuna, but now known as Watervliet. Here, in comparative seclusion, the believers lived a celibate life, holding all possessions in common, and working industriously to improve their surroundings and provide a comfortable subsistence, not only for themselves, but for those whom Mother Ann assured them would soon come to swell their numbers.
In 1779 a religious revival, which aroused converts to a great pitch of excitement, led a company of those who were looking for the second coming of the Christ to visit the little Shaker settlement to learn if they knew aught of his appearance. Mother Ann met and welcomed them as expected guests and colaborers with her in the work to which she had devoted her life. Though several of these visitors were young people betrothed to each other in marriage, "all of the company became disciples of Ann Lee and remained faithful believers through life." They accepted celibacy and communism, together with a belief in the Fatherhood of God as revealed in Jesus Christ, and a belief in the Motherhood of God as revealed in Ann Christ. So Mother Ann was to them Christ's second coming, and Shakerism became a fixed institution in the community, and the first communistic society established in America. Its history covers a period of a century and a quarter.
The Shakers came to America during the exciting times preceding the Revolution. Being foreigners, their avowed hostility to war, their refusal to take the oath of allegiance or to enter the Army, naturally brought them under suspicion. In 1780 all the elders and leaders were arrested and imprisoned, but afterwards set at liberty by order of Governor Clinton. The course pursued drew attention to the body, created sympathy with its purposes, and added largely to its numbers, and the leaders returned to find it more prosperous than when they left. So greatly did the spirit of devotion to Mother Ann and her mission grow among the new converts that most of them went back to their homes and became missionaries of the new faith. This, together with the labors of the leaders as they traveled and preached, soon caused societies to spring up in several of the States.
The death of Mother Ann in 178+ seemed only to bind the members together more closely and to call out talents of leadership and administration in others. James Whittaker, Joseph Meacham, and Lucy Wright were all conspicuous for ability and wisdom in the work of