Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER X: Cabet and the American Icarians - Socialistic Fallacies
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CHAPTER X: Cabet and the American Icarians - Yves Guyot, Socialistic Fallacies 
Socialistic Fallacies (London: Cope and Fenwick, 1910).
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Cabet and the American Icarians
Cabet was born at Dijon in 1788. He was a lawyer by profession, and had taken an active part in the revolution of 1830. He was appointed Procurator-General in Corsica, and was recalled and elected a deputy in 1834. He was sentenced to two years' imprisonment and retired to England, whence in 1839 he brought back his “Voyage en Icarie,” written under the influence of Morelly's “Basiliad” and of the ideas of Owen. Under this title, with a peculiar typographical arrangement of his catchwords he brings together all the vague and high sounding expressions which were current in Socialist circles:
These catchwords are always in fashion. The book, written in a declamatory style, is divided into three parts; the first is devoted to a description of the inhabitants, the second to a history of Icaria, the third to the principles upon which Icarian civilisation is founded. We find once again the symmetry which was seen in the earlier romances; one hundred provinces contain ten divisions. The counties contain a county town, eight villages and a number of farms. There are one hundred provincial county towns, nine hundred divisional county towns, and eight thousand villages surrounding the capital of the land of Icaria. The police has attained a degree of perfection which all the cities of the world may well envy to-day. There are several harvests a year.
The principal meals are taken in common, but for the making of soup each family is furnished with the “Cook's Guide,” an official and perfect publication. All Icarians are perfumed, and they have at their disposal dirigible balloons, thanks to the communism which had also succeeded in abolishing the tooth-ache. The State directing everything is in advance in everything—this is the greatest miracle of Icaria.
There is only one great newspaper, the “National Journal,” for the liberty of the Press is of no value in this land of liberty. There is but one national history—for children must be brought up to moral unity. Statistics are the chief instrument of Government, they regulate all occupations, the callings of the young, victualling and all other requirements. Daily labour, which occupies seven hours in the summer and six in the winter, is compulsory on all men up to the age of sixty-five, and on women up to fifty. Anyone refusing to work is confined in a public prison.
The Government is in the hands of a president and of fifteen ministers elected biennially by the people. The Sovereignty of the people is ensured by two thousand representatives, at the rate of two for each division. Officials receive no salary. Fifteen special committees control the fifteen ministers and regulate all the conditions of social life, including the bill of fare of the common meals and the dress of the ladies.
There is naturally neither civil law nor a judicial bench. Inasmuch as there can only be minor offences, criminal law is supplanted by a few minor censures. There are places of worship, priests and priestesses, whose functions are confined to preaching, for there is no ritual.
Cabet does not venture to accept the necessary consequence of his conception of society, the community of women.
I put aside the history of the transition which at the end of a violent crisis brought this astonishing State under the control of the Grand Icarian, invested with the dictatorship.
Cabet enumerates the twenty-three decrees by virtue of which all property remains vested in the existing holder without the possibility of alienation, wealth is to be cut down, the condition of the poor improved, wages and the price of commodities fixed, and the cost of government limited, but supplemented by five hundred million francs per annum to procure work for the unemployed, and by one hundred millions for the training of the workers of the future.
In 1847 Cabet made an appeal for the organisation of an Icaria in America. He received numerous offers of service from traders who had goods to dispose of. In January, 1848, he purchased a million acres in Texas, and in February sent out sixty-nine enthusiasts who, on arriving at New Orleans on March 27th, were apprised of the Revolution of 1848, and regretted having left France at such a time. Cabet thought that he had bought a tract of land in a ring fence, but found that he had become possessed of scattered lots. The Icarians reached these lands in the midst of all kinds of difficulties. A second body of ninety-nine went to join them, and having ascertained that it was impossible to live there, they separated into small detachments.
At the end of 1848 and in the beginning of 1849 five hundred fresh Icarians, including Cabet, landed at New Orleans. All they possessed was 17,000 dollars. There being no question of their proceeding to Texas, two hundred went off separately, while about two hundred and forty, with Cabet, found a site ready for them at Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois, which the Mormons had been recently obliged to abandon. They were able to take eight hundred acres of land and to purchase a mill, a distillery and several houses. For five or six years the affairs of Icaria prospered. A wooden building was to be seen, fifty yards long, which served as a refectory and place of meeting.
The Icarians adopted a constitution. The election of a president was annual, and Cabet was chosen, but an opposition developed itself which continually increased in violence. Cabet opposed them with equal violence, and in 1856 declined to recognise the election of three members of the administrative council. Not only was Icaria distracted by discussions, libels and denunciations, but people even came to blows. Cabet demanded the revocation of the Charter of Icaria, and was expelled from the community, and in November, 1856, retired to St. Louis with eighty faithful supporters. He died there a week after his arrival.
The majority of his companions were workmen by trade who found work in this city. Two years afterwards one hundred and fifty of them resolved to recommence their common life, and with the assistance of Icarians who had remained in France, and who sent them fifty thousand francs, they purchased the Cheltenham Estate, situated six miles from St. Louis. But from 1859 they split into two parties, the older desiring that the Government should rest with the dictator, the younger desiring an organisation based upon discussion. The latter were overruled and withdrew. They were forty-two in number and represented the most active element. The community continuously decayed, and in 1864 numbered no more than fifteen adults of either sex with a few children.
Their president, Sauva, called them together in a “popular assembly” which declared the community of Cheltenham dissolved. The Icarians who had remained at Nauvoo became involved in debt and, declaring that they were too near civilisation to be able to realise their great dream, they bought a property of three thousand acres in extent in the south-west of the State of Iowa, sixty miles from Missouri. The land was good, but they lacked transport, and were burdened with mortgages. At the time of the War of Secession, which supplied them with resources, they only numbered fifteen, including children; later the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad absorbed their property. Prosperity had succeeded to misery, but they split up into factions. The Icarians lost sight of their original ideal, the younger generation becoming imbued with the doctrines of Marx and forming a new party.
In 1877 they attempted a dissolution, which was refused. They then appealed to the Courts, alleging that the community, which had been registered as an agricultural society in the form of a limited company, had infringed its articles of association by indulging in communistic practices. The circuit court appointed three trustees to liquidate its affairs, and the “young party” remained in possession of the whole village; but it never prospered, and was finally dissolved in 1887. The “old party” received the eastern part of the original property, an indemnity of 1,500 dollars and eight houses. The members composing it struggled on until 1895, when the community finally disappeared.