Maclure of New Harmony follows the twists and turns of William Maclure's intriguing life. A native Scotsman, Maclure (1763–1840) became a merchant, made a fortune, and retired in his early thirties. Then his life became interesting. Fascinated by the study of geology, Maclure did fieldwork throughout Europe before traveling to the United States, where he completed the first geological survey of his adopted nation and published a detailed, color geological map—one reason he is known as the Father of American Geology.
Maclure's travels sharpened his convictions about social justice and led him to a life of social radicalism. He founded progressive schools to educate the children of the working classes and, in 1820, he joined forces with Robert Owen to found New Harmony—the utopian community in Indiana. Ever restless, Maclure later moved to Mexico, where he watched his hopes for the new republic founder.
|"In these pages, Maclure comes alive in all his energy, genius, generosity, and glaring idiosyncrasies. . . . The merits of Warren's work promise to make [this book] the standard biography." —Donald Pitzer, author of America's Communal Utopias
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|by Karen Chadwick
||Date Added: Wednesday 22 August, 2012
|Years ago I met a very wealthy man. Being young and quick to make assumptions, I thought he must be a Republican. On my conservative days I was a leftist/socialist democrat. I was not interested in furthering this meeting.
However, recently I've had cause to know the wealthy man. To my great surprise, he's immensely compassionate for the plight of the average person. He explained it this way, "Working people are the producers, they actually make the goods, they get their hands on the materials to produce products. Wealthy people are the non-producers, they don't get their hands dirty or labor hard to produce anything. The productive working class, by far the largest part of the populace, is powerless to keep their fair share of the wealth they've created. The non-producers manage the legal and banking systems, the military, the police, the press, and the process of education. Through their ability to levy taxes and create tax exemptions, they force the working class to pay for the non-producers follies. My goal is to educate the poor to know what their self-interests are and they will vote accordingly. When a majority of the governmental representatives who are responsive to the true needs of the working class can be seated in legislatures, reform in all the civil, fiscal, general and particular laws, rules and regulations will take place and a socially responsible distribution of private wealth will ensue."
I struggled to control my shock. Now I was curious.
Who was this fellow? A friend whispered that he had made so much money he was able to retire in his early 30s. He was respected in the highest circles in London, Paris, and Madrid. He'd lived in Paris but preferred the cultural atmosphere of America. He was generous with helping many interesting thinkers with their dreams. A mutual friend said that this fellow once laughed that he was having much more fun giving away his money than the pleasure he'd derived from earning his wealth.
I tried to wrap my mind around how a wealthy man could understand the late nights at the kitchen table as we worry about a job, groceries, car, home, partner, maybe kids and a dog.
I've had a few intense experiences with the wealthy: a boss a long time ago was an heiress of Exxon Oil and I worked for her in New Harmony, Indiana. It was obvious to me that some really wealthy people have no idea whatsoever what it's like to have the blues.
What remedy did the wealthy fellow attempt? Did he occupy Wall Street? No, he started a boarding school in a small town on the banks of the Wabash River to educate, feed, clothe, and train children--including infants--of the poor. Surely, with the best education and job training possible, these students would become thinking, responsible adults who would know what their own best interests were. They would be capable of making rational decisions, and in a democracy they would prevail.
I wish this passionate fellow was here now. However, William Maclure, 1763-1840, is long gone. I've come to know him through a new book, Maclure of New Harmony by Leonard Warren. I've partied many times in Maclure's home, and now, through Warren's research, have come to respect Maclure who cared about little growing-up-in-the-projects voting me.
His educational experiment in New Harmony, Indiana of 1826-40 ended with a whimper. His dream was a failure. Or was it? As we now become alert to the Occupy Wall Street consciousness, we see that our elected representatives use shiny words to influence voters to persuade us that they are guarding our self-interests. Yet as they sit at their kitchen table late at night, they stack the deck to win at our expense.
In 1791, Maclure arrived in Philadelphia, the most sophisticated city of this new country. He was sure we, the United States of America, had the best chance to change the course of world history by using this new tool of democracy to break the cycle of the entrenched wealthy (including all organized religions) from controlling the events of civilization. He put much of his deep pockets into action for his unwavering belief in the best attributes of the human spirit. I am glad that my assumption was wrong. Some 1%ers have real class.
Rating: [5 of 5 Stars]
Table of Contents
|List of Abbreviations
1. Origins, and the Making of a Life
2. Philadelphia (1796-1800)
3. Political and Economic Philosophy
4. European Sojourn (1800-1808)
5. The Maclurean Era of American Geology
6. Introduction of Progressive Education to the United States
7. The Grand Tour of Europe (1809-1815)
8. Patron of the Natural Sciences
9. Spanish Years, and Return to America
10. Robert Owen, Maclure, and the Utopian Commune
11. Harmonie to New Harmony
12. A Boatload of Knowledge
13. Education in New Harmony
14. Trouble in Paradise
15. Out of the Ashes
16. Withdrawal to Mexico
17. Crippling Losses of Madame Fretageot and Thomas Say
18. New Harmony Adrift: Journey into the Present
19. The Workingmen's Institute: Death of William Maclure