Sunday, 6 September 2009

New Lanark to New Harmony

After the death of his wife and two of her sisters, Robert Owen and his sons headed for the US, where he and another partner bought the land and buildings that constituted the town of Harmony, Indiana and re-named it New Harmony. There he hoped to build another community along the lines of his vision for a better community. I gather it didn't go very well. He eventually returned to England, but his sons remained in America.

In addition to being a socialist, Owen was also sectarian, which would have been even more unusual in his day than it is now. Some of the quotes (and it was noted that he could never have been said to have been a man of few words) posted were:

"What ideas individuals may attach to the term 'Millennium' I know not; but I know that society may be formed so as to exist without crime, without poverty, with health greatly improved, with little if any misery, and with intelligence and happiness improved a hundredfold; and no obstacle whatsoever intervenes at this moment except ignorance to prevent such a state of society from becoming universal.' Robert Owen's 'Address to the Inhabitants of New Lanark' New Years Day 1816

"Every child of man should be, from his birth, as well trained and educated, as his original organs, faculties and powers will admit."

"The ever-changing scenes of nature afford not only the most economical, but also the most innocent pleasures which man can enjoy."

"Charity and kindness admit no exception. They extend to every child of man, however he may have been trained. They consider not what country gave him birth, what may be his complexion..."

"Is it not in the interest of the human race that every one should be so taught to promote the well-being, and happiness, of every man, woman, and child, without regard to their class, sect, party, country or colour?"

Robert Owen died in 1858, aged 87, in his hometown of Newtown, Wales. His sons did rather well in the US. Robert Dale Owen served in the House of Representatives of the US Congress where he supported women's rights and opposed slavery. Most notably, he drafted the bill that formed the Smithsonian Institute.

That is a whole other interesting story that I ran across somewhere, how the endowment of the Smithsonian was contested by the British government. Seems that James Smithsonian was an illegitimate son of the 1st Duke of Northumberland, whose family I've mentioned a few times, them being practically neighbours and all. It is said that he left the money to "found an institution that would last longer than his father's dynasty." Having visited the Smithsonian and being vaguely aware of the Percy family, I was thinking it would perhaps be a close call, which will survive the longest.

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