New Series: Proudhon’s Social Science

The posts in this series will consist of a fairly wide-ranging exploration of some of the principles of Proudhon’s thought and their application in the present. As it seems appropriate, I will be including or linking to posts from the Contr’un blog that seem to advance the study. [I’ll keep this post stickied until things have settled down enough to add navigation menus to the posts in the series.]

  1. All Actors Are Collective Actors: The Unity-Collectivity
  2. Equality and Justice
  3. Reciprocity
  4. Special Agent: The Free Absolute


Filed under Anarchist Beginnings, links to update, Proudhon Library

Mutualism, individualism and socialism

Because mutualism has re-emerged so recently, it is easy to treat it simply as a modern (or post-modern) theory, best understood in relationship to the existing forms of political and philosophical thought. However, mutualism’s origins are in the early-to-mid-19th century, a period which is very poorly documented in our histories, but which differs in many ways from the periods those histories have focused on.

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Collective Force and Social Compensation

Anarchists have generally embraced Proudhon’s claim that “property is theft,” but they often have very little idea about the argument behind it, let alone its potential consequences for anarchist economics. This is partially a result of the widespread substitution of marxian economic ideas for those of Proudhon and of the relative hegemony of communist ideas in the movement, but anarchist economics have also suffered from the fact that Proudhon’s economic manuscripts remain among the least accessible of his writings. It is certainly possible to extrapolate a more complete analysis from the indications given in sources like What is Property? But that is a lot easier if you have been exposed to the manuscripts on “Economie.” My own experience has been that the attempt to adapt Proudhon’s thought to modern contexts has required a good deal of that extrapolation, much of which I attempted before the digitization of Proudhon’s manuscripts, and as a result the neo-Proudhonian position that  I’ve ended up adopting is a mixture of ideas inspired by the published writings and others drawn from the manuscripts. I can’t claim any particular orthodoxy for the result, but hopefully orthodoxy is not high on the list of priorities for most of my readers.

Having just recovered and reposted the “Thoughts on a Mutualist Minimum,” it strikes me that perhaps it would be useful to return to some of the issues touched on there, in the context of a broader discussion of anarchist economics. My intention is certainly not to sketch out any sort of blueprint, but instead to suggest some of the elements and concerns that might inform any number of anarchistic arrangements. Beyond that, I am happy to embrace the tactics of the Spanish “sin adjetivos” school:

We are anarchists; we preach Anarchy without adjectives. Anarchy is an axiom; the economic question is a secondary matter. It will be said that it is through the economic question that Anarchy is a truth; but we believe that to be anarchist means to be the enemy of all authority, of every imposition, and consequently, whatever system we recommend, it is because we believe it is the best defense for Anarchy, and we have no desire at all to impose it on those who do not accept it.

This does not mean that we set aside discussion on economic questions. On the contrary, we love to discuss them, but only in order to bring new data for the definitive solution or solutions. Some very good things have been said by Cabet, Saint-Simon, Fourier, Robert Owen and the others; but all their systems have disappears, because they wanted to lock away society with the conceptions of their brains; they have, however, done a great deal of good clarifying the question.—Fernando Tarrida del Mármol, “Questions of Tactics” (1890)

So I want to examine, in very general terms, how we might approach the organization of anarchistic economies, following cues from the writings of Proudhon.

Proudhon’s rejection of capitalist property norms depends on the concept of “collective force.” His argument is that modern production, involving the division and organization of labor, results in outputs greater than those that the same workers would be capable of if they were working individually. The individual laborers are compensated, but only as individuals, while the fruits of the purely collective effort are appropriated by the capitalists. This provides a basis for further capital accumulation and provides an advantage in various markets that facilitates additional exploitation. Wages can be driven down. Profits are taken when the workers consume the fruits of their collective labor. Etc. Etc.

I doubt that very many capitalists contest the basic assumption that there is a portion of the products attributable to something like “collective force.” The quarrel between capitalists and critics of capitalist exploitation is not about the reality of the contribution, but about their value. If the capitalists claim the lion’s share of the fruits of the combined labor, it is because they believe that the firm is not an association of laborers, in which each of the elements has a relatively equal role to play, but that instead some elements are more vital—and thus more valuable—than others. In his economic manuscripts, Proudhon drew attention to the similarities between this sort of argument and the argument made by defenders of the State that society is only “realized” by placing a government at its head. The analogy seems obvious, once we apply Proudhon’s criterion of “external constitution” (which I’ve discussed at some length in “Self-Government and the Citizen-State.”)

The more interesting consequences of the theory of collective force come when we move beyond the critique of capitalism to a consideration of how products and profits might be distributed in a post-capitalist society. Proudhon suggests that the problem with capitalism is that it has raised an “accounting error” into a fundamental property right. The droit d’aubaine or “right of increase,” by which the capitalist appears as the natural recipient of purely social labor, is a convention that would have no place if we had correctly identified all the human factors in production. If, alongside individual laborers and capitalists, we also included the “collective person” of the workgroup or firm, then a just resolution of the old question “Who is the Somebody?” is fairly easily discovered. But we are not terribly well prepared to deal with questions of what Proudhon called “unity-collectivity,” even though the notion has been lurking in the background of one of anarchism’s most famous phrases: “property is theft!”

The analysis is not terribly complicated: every individual (or unity) is a group (or collectivity.) We can only point to individuality or unity because of the organization of constituent elements. As a result, questions of individualism or collectivism stop being of much use, and we are left with questions about relevant scales of analysis. Some questions—such as questions of ethical responsibility—probably only make sense at the scale of the human individual, but others demand that we take into account a truly dizzying range of scales. Charles Fourier had his gamut of scales, essentially from the infinitesimal to the universal, and we can see elements of that approach in the work of anarchists like Joseph Déjacque, but we lack very extensive applications of the theoretical approach to modern questions. Proudhon’s economic manuscripts make a start, and I’ve begun to translate some of the relevant writings, but, fortunately, we don’t have to go very deep to make a useful start.

Let us say that we have an anarchist “society,” of whatever size and internal organization. In its most rudimentary form, it will present us with at least two kinds of human elements: the collectivity itself and the individual humans who contribute to its existence. If we have a collectivity worth considering, then it will have, according to the Proudhonian analysis, a general law of organization and development all its own, some interests of its own, which may or may not be in full harmony with the interests of the constituent individuals, and some “rights” that should be accounted for in the establishment of an anarchic justice. And for Proudhon justice is simply balance, so our simplest Robinson Crusoe-style model of a just society involves a balance of interests between the unity-collectivity, the society itself, and the various individual who contribute to it—and this balance is of a very special sort, depending not just on equality, established on the basis of some shared scale and unit of value, but on a fundamental incommensurability of interests and demands, which means that any given balancing must be the product of an active harmonizing of interests and that no form of “external constitution” can substitute for that process. If we call our collectivity “the market” or “the justice system,” the problem for anarchists remains the same. Not even the abstract demands of justice itself can step in as an outside arbitrator.

Moving forward, let’s start by eliminating some “mud pie” scenarios. There are certainly going to be instances where the product of a collective labor does not exceed the individual capacities of the laborers, or even meet the subsistence needs of the group. Under capitalism, this can be addressed by paying less than a living wage, or by relying on the subsidy of exploitation elsewhere in the system. A good deal of what goes on in the global north depends on conditions in the global south, and the most effective price signals can generally only guide us locally in an “all other things being equal” sort of way. One of the challenges we’ll face in a post-capitalist society is adapting to the elimination of various really foundational sorts of exploitation. We will undoubtedly find that a good deal of what we have been doing just doesn’t really pay for itself, either because it is badly organized, because it is situated in some environment where the costs of operation would be too great if there were not some other part of the system to sustain them, etc. So let’s assume that part of the transition to anything like an “anarchist society” will involve the abandonment of many of our current practices, on a fairly ruthless cost-benefit principle—regardless of how we end up doing to accounting. And let’s also assume that any sustainable transition will involve some sort of adaptation of property norms to the realities of our ecological situation. So if we want to locate our population centers in places with drastically insufficient water supplies or pave over (or not depave) our most productive farmland, we’ll have to find a just balance of interests between local costs and benefits and the costs and benefits to some larger anarchistic unity-collectivity, if we are to remain at all true to our principles.

Given the unsustainability of the present system and the exploitation on which it rests, the simplest, most peaceful sort of transition is likely to be worthy of the name of revolution.

But let’s assume now that we’ve made it through at least some stages of that transition and have rooted out a lot of the hierarchical badness that the old society depended on. We have our “society,” a unity-collectivity, and it produces… something, and does so efficiently enough that the unity seems to be genuine and the participants feel like their association is a positive thing. We’ve got rid of the mechanisms that make capitalism possible, simply by recognizing that the unity-collectivity has been left out of our accounting when it came time to talk about distribution of the fruits of our labors. We’ve got a complete list of those who presumably have some compensation coming (and for now let’s assume everyone is capable of contributing): the collectivity and the various human individuals who contribute in their various ways. So now we have to figure out how to divvy things up. Let’s say that we begin by exploring contributed labor as a standard. We’ll almost immediately run up against an old problem: the difficulty of determining any unit by which quantities of labor can be measured. Something like Marx’s “socially necessary labor time” might solve the problem in the abstract, but it’s hard to go from that to a specific share of the pie. And once we have included the collectivity among the claimants, we run up against another old problem: the increasing difficulty of declaring any labor genuinely individual. Between the actual cooperation of laborers, the amplification of human labor by the machines onsite and the general infrastructure and technological level of the society, the truly individual share of labor contributed by each person might be quite small. By a labor theory of property, then, we might say that property naturally vests in the collectivity. But that’s just not really a solution for anarchists, at least if we are taking into account Proudhon’s opposition to “external constitution” and his understanding of justice. Proudhon was as skeptical of granting property to the largest possible collectivity as he was to granting it to a human individual, in part because he recognized that the interests of the collectivity need no align with those of any or all of its participants, and to mediate the access of human individuals by the interests of the collectivity would just be to fall back into hierarchy and exploitation. (The concerns about “self-managed exploitation” are not misplaced, and perhaps need to be applied to more than just “market anarchism.”)

Really, if we are following Proudhon, any attempt to solve the problem by appealing to a set of property conventions is probably a matter of putting the cart before the horse. We know the terms of the problem we face: each active human laborer can almost certainly claim recognition and possible remuneration both as an individual and in their capacity are part of the collectivity. But we can review works like What is Property? in search of some clear basis on which to make the necessary practical divisions, and we are likely to come up empty-handed, while later works, like The Theory of Property, suggest that some division must be made, in the interests of protecting individual liberty, but don’t give us much more guidance as to how to accomplish the feat. There are some suggestions in the economic manuscripts, but none of them quite strike me as entirely convincing either.

This, of course, is not a new dilemma for me, or for longtime readers of the blog, but it is one to which I have not dedicated much attention in the last couple of years. And those years have been really crucial for me, in terms of my own clarity regarding Proudhon’s full project. So perhaps it is time to return to what I have been calling “the gift economy of property,” in the hopes of both extricating us from our current dilemma and also finally clarifying just how this alternate theory of property might work.

We can’t work from property to justice (What is Property?), and we can’t seem to do without property (The Theory of Property), so perhaps we can find the means to work from justice to property. In a certain sense, perhaps even in an important variety of senses, property is, as Proudhon said, impossible. There is too much overlap among the unity-collectivities at various scales and every attempt to divvy up what is proper to them would result in a scheme of “property” so thoroughly non-exclusive that it would hardly do the work generally expected of a property scheme. But if come down from the realm of a priori schemes for “universal rights” and consider the extent to which we might approximate individual property as a sort of concrete manifestation of the process of active justification, then at least we might come up with the sort of useful kludge that might help avoid some kinds of conflict.

As an approach to what might be proper, let’s begin with what might be just. Again, it is a question of the claims of the unity-collectivity and of those who participate in it, but this time we’re going to see if perhaps what we have been vainly searching for in some property scheme is actually to be found by wrestling with Proudhon’s complex notion of justice. That probably means going beyond the abstract balancing of interests to the concrete establishment of balanced institutions, what Fourier called guarantism (a term Proudhon adopted as a synonym for mutualism.) Following Proudhon’s cues, we each want our individual interests represented as well as our collective interests, and we want a certain amount of separation and protection for all those interests embodied in our shared institutions. And because we want to dispense with the apparatus of “law and order,” we want some initiative granted to, and some emphasis laid upon, individual human responsibility, as the first step towards self-government. But we can hardly even be responsible to one another until we establish some conventions for making our mix of separateness and unity felt in social practice.

We can think back on all the various strongly promoted rationales for property and let them give us a sense of the range of things our conventions should make more or less tangible in practice. Private property, communism, Proudhon’s “possession,” Pierre Leroux’s “right to property in other people”—each of these approaches capture something significant about our proper place in the world, and they probably don’t exhaust what we might want to take into account. And let’s drag all this out onto the big, real-world stage and try to take some account of all the kinds of global connections of which those early theories could at best take very limited notice. Let’s remind ourselves that the various non-human unities can’t plead their own cases, so that the justification for everything of everything from the infinitesimal to the universal is ultimately our mission, should we choose to really be anarchists in the fullest sense of the term.

The following propositions seem to be true:

  • A society that can provide for a wide range of individual needs and desires, while still maintaining a stable basis in the context of which the diversity of interests

It appears that in most cases the larger collectivities within our societies are doing a large share of the work—which is just to say that our individual labors find a significant amplification in those combinations—so we might start be trying to account for the claims of those collectivities. There is going to be a scale—the community, society, etc.—at which there will be a very basic convergence between the survival needs of the collectivity (its ability to sustain itself, and to adapt without catastrophe) and the similar fundamental survival needs of the individuals involved in that collectivity. There are also going to be a range of individual needs and desires that are either unconnected with, or perhaps at least potentially odds with, the larger-scale necessities. It seems reasonable that we might seek resource- and labor-distribution schemes that identify the sort of basic foundation we feel is required for maintaining freedom, diversity, etc. and then attempt to provide for those most basic needs—where the distinction between individual and collective is barely useful—first, and as efficiently as possible. Even the most primitive anarchistic society will need to find means to bend some degree of consciousness and effort towards its own maintenance, and all the rest will have to tend regularly to what we might think of as the infrastructure of shared freedom. Whether that tending-to is accomplished by divvying up specifically social labor, by directing some portion of the profits of individual enterprises into a common fund, or by other means hardly matters, provided that the foundation can be provided in a manner that fulfills the local community’s specific needs for liberty and equity.

The principle here is that we need to be collectivist enough—communist even—in order to create a social stage on which our individualism is at least substantially less likely to devolve into some new form of mutual exploitation. But since the “collective” needs that we are talking about are really indistinguishable from individual needs in this narrow sphere, the principle is really that we need to be intelligent and realistic about our actual individual needs not to undermine them by getting worried if our interests seem to converge with those of the neighbors. If we can start down the road of refusing a certain kind of individual/collective dichotomy, by embracing the social theory of unity-collectivities and by engaging in ecological thought, then the terms in which we discuss these very basic necessities will probably shift, and perhaps our philosophical anxiety will decrease.

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William Batchelder Greene, Letter to Orestes Brownson (1849)

From Orestes A. Brownson’s Middle Life from 1845-1855 (1899):

Another Unitarian minister, the son of an old friend, one in whom Brownson had taken a great interest, had his reasonings and speculations submitted to a severe, but not unfriendly criticism, at about the same time as Channing. This was William B. Greene, whose name, however, did not appear as the author of the book to which he refers in the following letter:

BROOKFIELD, MASS., Jan. 24th, 1849.

DEAR SIR:—I Send you herewith a copy of my “Remarks on Science of History, etc.” I requested Mr. Crosby to send you a bound copy, and I know not whether he has done it; but if you see fit to cut up the book, I had rather you would expend your destructive energies on these loose sheets. We are all well here, my wife and two children seem to find the country air agree with them. I like Brookfield very much. By the way, I notice in your last number, page 95, the words: “There is an invincible logic in society which pushes it to the realization of the last consequences of its principles.” Now, how do you reconcile that sentence with the general tenor of your remarks against the logical character of history with which you favored me some time since, in father’s office? Again, you charge the Socialists with endeavoring to reproduce in what should be Christian ages, the heathen religions and morality: it “may or may not” (as you say) be the result of my stupidity, but I really cannot see how the religion and morality you maintain in the article in question, differs from the religion and morality which were known among the heathen, before our Lord came. The doctrine of the authority, supremacy, and infallibility of the church was certainly acknowledged among the ancient corporations of priests; and the theory of liberty and that of the nature of evil, which you set forth on the 113th and the three or four following pages,: seems to me to be identical “in the last analysis” with the views maintained by the stoics—good doctrine, as Leroux says, for a slave, but inapplicable at the present time when there is more freedom among men than there was in former ages. But my criticism may very possibly come from my want of comprehension. As Webster says of Ingersoll: “He has not, as we would say, a screw loose, but is loose all over;”so I am afraid you would say of me that I am not a mere heretic, but heretical all over—for my conscience suggested to me, when I was reading your description of socialism as the ne plus ultra of heresy, that I belonged to the most abandoned wing of the socialist faction. In fact, I am a regular thoroughgoing heretic, for I accept all the doctrines of the church—as I explain them.

Excuse me for writing as I do, but you and I have had so many plain talks in times past, that I cannot speak with you without endeavoring to come to the point. I confess I regret that there is so wide a gulph between us, for there is no one with whom I desire more to labor side by side than with you. We were together once, much to my profit, and I freely confess that I owe more to you, philosophically and theologically, than I do to any other five men living; and I never shall cease to hope that we may come together again. But this letter is too long already. Please give my best respects to your wife and children, with my especial love to Elizabeth, who I think has not forgotten me, and accept my best wishes for your health, strength, and prosperity, according to body, soul, and spirit.

As always, very truly your friend,


Greene’s book was the first metaphysical work that Brownson reviewed after his conversion. Since his refutation of Kant in 1844, he had had very little to say about metaphysics, except so far as applied to theological matters in his Review; but he had been studying in his mind and revising his philosophical system. Under the influence of Pierre Leroux’s writings for two or three years before he became a Catholic, he had been the first to introduce that philosopher to the American public. He was indebted to Leroux for much that was sound and for much that was not sound in his philosophy. It was Leroux that led him to substitute the ontological for the psychological method of philosophizing; and he now found that the former method leads to pantheism, just as the latter leads to egoism or atheism. Each is sophistical; for each starts from a single term of the ideal judgment, and from a single term nothing else can be deduced. Logic is impossible without two terms and their nexus: Omnipotence itself would have no creative power, but would forever remain unproductive unity, unless the principle of multiplicity—first and final cause and the medium of both—the principle, the end, and the mediator—were necessary relations in the very Godhead, of whom, through whom and unto whom are all things.

As almost always happens with those who come to learn the defect of either psychologism or ontologism, that they rush from one extreme to the other, Brownson from 1842 to 1844 should be classed as an ontologist. During the next four years, re-examining his principles, he came to the conclusion that either the psychological principle or the ontological, exclusively taken, is destructive of philosophy which must rest equally on both in their logical, that is, their real relation. He therefore asserts: Being,—real and necessary being, not the abstract being of Rosmini and the ontologists,—creates all that exists. In the review of Greene’s book* the formula is demonstrated to be intuitive, a priori, preceding all judgments a posteriori, and rendering them possible. “It is possible,” he says, “to obtain this synthesis, the adequate philosophical formula, only as it reveals and affirms itself a priori in direct and immediate intuition, in which we ourselves are but simple spectators.” The intuition here described is plainly not empirical, but pure, or ideal, a distinction more clearly set forth and insisted on in later writings.

Another point of importance not explained with sufficient clearness in Brownson’s article “An a priori auto biography” is what he meant by the ideal intuition of being. There are expressions in this and some of the succeeding articles on metaphysics, which would indicate that he asserted intuition of God directly and immediately. Certainly he never intended at any period of his life to teach that man has direct and immediate intuition of God, as God; but he had maintained from the first moment that he began to write on philosophy, that man has intuition of absolute ideas, not derived from experience, of the good, the true, the necessary, and that these are not mere abstractions of the mind operating on concrete objects of experience, which are bad or imperfect, false or contingent, and he further held that these are identified by reflection with God, the true, the good, the necessary, the infinite, and therefore, the intuition of these is virtually, though not formally, intuition of real and necessary being, and that real and necessary being is God.

It was not as a mere speculation of philosophical inquiry, or for the purpose of exhibiting dialectical ability that Brownson wearied over these matters. I very much doubt if a mistake in matter of faith is as fertile in errors as one in the principles of philosophy. Catholics can easily correct dogmatic errors, if they are docile to the decisions of the church; but an error in the very starting point of philosophy may overthrow all belief, and apostasies without end may be traced to the discrepancy between the philosophy and the theology taught for centuries past. Dr. Cummings had devoted much study and great ability to the subject of Catholic education, and the opinion he expresses in a letter given in this chapter that the pantheistic or else egoistic starting point of philosophy taught in our colleges and universities is not only incontrovertibly fatal to the political principles of youth, but equally deplorable for its effect on dogmatic theology, is worthy of serious meditation.

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Annie Field, from “Whittier: Notes Of His Life And Of His Friendships” (1897)

whit1“Whittier: Notes Of His Life And Of His Friendships”

From Annie Field’s Authors and Friends

It was Whittier’s sad experience to be deprived of the companionship of all those most dear to him, and for over twenty years to live without that intimate household communion for the loss of which the world holds no recompense. For several years, before and after his sister Elizabeth’s death, Whittier wore the look of one who was very ill. His large dark eyes burned with peculiar fire, and contrasted with his pale brow and attenuated figure. He had a sorrowful, stricken look, and found it hard enough to reconstruct his life, missing the companionship and care of his sister, and her great sympathy with his own literary work. There was a likeness between the two; the same speaking eyes marked the line from which they sprang, and their kinship and inheritance. Old New England people were quick to recognize “the Bachiler eyes,” not only in the Whittiers, but in Daniel Webster, Caleb Cushing, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and William Bachiler Greene, a man less widely known than these distinguished compatriots. Mr. Greene was, however, a man of mark in his own time, a daring thinker, and one who was possessed of much brave originality, whose own deep thoughtfulness was always planting seeds of thought in others, and who can certainly never be forgotten by those who were fortunate enough to be his friends.

These men of the grand eyes were all descended from a gifted old preacher of great fame in early colonial days, a man of true distinction and devoted service, in spite of the dishonor with which he let his name be shadowed in his latest years. It would be most interesting to trace the line still further back into the past; but when the Bachiler eyes were by any chance referred to in Whittier’s presence, he would look shyly askance, and sometimes speak, half with pride, half with a sort of humorous compassion, of his Hampton ancestor. The connection of the Whittiers of Haverhill with the Greenes was somewhat closer than with other branches of the Bachiler line. One of the poet’s most entertaining reminiscences of his boyhood was the story of his first visit to Boston. Mr. William Greene’s mother was an interesting woman of strong, independent character and wide interests, wonted to the life of cities, and one of the first, in spite of his boyish shyness, to appreciate her young relative. Her kind eagerness, during one of her occasional visits to the Whittiers, that Greenleaf should come to see her when he came to Boston, fell in with his own dreams, and a high desire to see the sights of the great town.

One can easily see how his imagination glorified the natural expectations of a country boy, and when the time arrived how the whole household lent itself to furthering so great an expedition. He was not only to have a new suit of clothes, but they were, for the first time, to be trimmed with “boughten buttons,” to the lad’s complete satisfaction, his mind being fixed upon those as marking the difference between town and country fashions. When the preparations were made, his fresh homespun costume, cut after the best usage of the Society of Friends, seemed to him all that heart could desire, and he started away bravely by the coach to pass a week in Boston. His mother had not forgotten to warn him of possible dangers and snares; it was then that he made her a promise which, at first from principle and later from sentiment, he always most sacredly kept–that he would not enter a playhouse. As he told the story, it was easy for a listener to comprehend how many good wishes flew after the adventurer, and how much wild beating of the heart he himself experienced as the coach rolled away; how bewildering the city streets appeared when he found himself at the brief journey’s end. After he had reported himself to Mrs. Greene, and been received with most affectionate hospitality, and had promised to reappear at tea-time, he sallied forth to the great business of sight-seeing.

“I wandered up and down the streets,” he used to say. “Somehow it wasn’t just what I expected, and the crowd was worse and worse after I got into Washington Street; and when I got tired of being jostled, it seemed to me as if the folks might get by if I waited a little while. Some of them looked at me, and so I stepped into an alleyway and waited and looked out. Sometimes there didn’t seem to be so many passing, and I thought of starting, and then they’d begin again. ‘Twas a terrible stream of people to me. I began to think my new clothes and the buttons were all thrown away. I stayed there a good while.” (This was said with great amusement.) “I began to be homesick. I thought it made no difference at all about my having those boughten buttons.”

How long he waited, or what thoughts were stirred by this first glimpse at the ceaseless procession of humanity, who can say? But there was a sequel to the tale. He was invited to return to Mrs. Greene’s to drink tea and meet a company of her guests. Among them were some ladies who were very gay and friendly; we can imagine that they were attracted by the handsome eyes and quaint garb of the young Friend, and by his quick wit and homely turns of speech, all the more amusing for a rustic flavor. They tried to tease him a little, but they must have quickly found their match in drollery, while the lad was already a citizen of the commonwealth of books. No doubt the stimulus of such a social occasion brought him, as well as the strangers, into new acquaintance with his growing gifts. But presently one of the ladies, evidently the favorite until this shocking moment, began to speak of the theatre, and asked for the pleasure of his presence at the play that very night, she herself being the leading player. At this disclosure, and the frank talk of the rest of the company, their evident interest in the stage, and regard for a young person who had chosen such a profession, the young Quaker lad was stricken with horror. In after years he could only remember it with amusement, but that night his mother’s anxious warnings rang in his ears, and he hastened to escape from such a snare. Somehow this pleasant young companion of the tea party hardly represented the wickedness of playhouses as Puritan New England loved to picture them; but between a sense of disappointment and homesickness and general insecurity, he could not sleep, and next morning when the early stage-coach started forth, it carried him as passenger. He said nothing to his amazed family of the alarming episode of the playing-woman, nor of his deep consciousness of the home-made clothes, but he no doubt reflected much upon this Boston visit in the leisure of the silent fields and hills.

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William Batchelder Greene, “The Right of Suffrage” (1875)

TOWN and State paupers are persons notoriously incapable of supporting themselves, because demonstrably devoid of the faculties demanded for a successful administration of their own private affairs. Being incompetent to acquit themselves with credit in matters with which they are presumably conversant, they cannot be trusted to exercise sovereignty in matters pertaining to the general welfare. Paupers are persons and people; but they are not voting people.

Insane persons and idiots are notorious for their incapacity for self-government, and have, by law, and on account of their incapacity, guardians appointed over them to prevent them from injuring themselves and others. It is with a view to the public good, that the privilege of voting is denied to maniacs and underwitted people, and simply for the reason that the privilege of voting cannot be intrusted to irresponsible hands. Idiots and madmen are persons and people; but they are not voting people.

Persons convicted of infamous crimes are stamped, and by the very fact of their conviction, with the seal of their own immorality. Convicts, as such, furnish; no guaranty of good intentions. No confidence can be felt, that, in any of their acts, they really mean to do right: they are entitled, therefore, to no lot or part in the government of the well-meaning and virtuous portion of the community. Convicts are persons and people; but they are not voting people.

Paupers, lunatics, and idiots, and convicted knaves, are all of them persons, all of them people; and yet the elective franchise is denied them, and justly denied them. The theory is false, therefore, which teaches that the elective franchise is a natural and inalienable right of man as man; for we have already found three enumerated classes of men, who, in every well-regulated community, are debarred from the privilege of voting.

Society, in its collective capacity, when it confers the right of voting upon some of the individuals who compose it, to the exclusion of others, acts, or ought to act, with a view to the good of the whole people; and it places, or ought to place, the governmental power, or actual political sovereignty, exclusively in the hands of such of its members as are presumably capable of exercising it for the common welfare. The natural people, the whole community, includes, on the one side, all the men, women, and children,—wise persons and fools, sober-minded persons and lunatics, honest people and scoundrels,—who are subjects of the government. The legal people includes, on the other side, that part of the natural people, and that part only, which, having by positive law a right to vote, has been legitimately clothed with political sovereignty. The legal voter is a public officer, duly constituted as such, and represents, on the average, five or more non-voters, who are women, children, or men deprived of the suffrage. It is comparatively seldom that any one can possess a just claim to vote in his own right only. The elective franchise is a trust, and not a right; a duty imposed on the voter, not with a view to his own good only, or to his own presumed natural right, but with a view to the general welfare. The demand for the ballot ought never, therefore, to be made by the claimant in his own behalf only, but should also be made in behalf of the persons dependent upon him for support and protection, and who are entitled to be represented by a legal voter whose interests are identified with their own

Every social compact implies the prior existence of the special society which makes it. Organic society does not, therefore, originate in any compact. Society is older than government. But every persisting society implies the existence of government and laws; for a society without government and laws is at once overturned by its madmen and scoundrels, and lapses into barbarism. Government and laws are naturally determined by the conditions of society, and are divinely instituted (that is to say, exist by a natural necessity established by Nature’s Maker) for the protection of the honest and sober- minded portion of the community against knaves and fanatics.

Women tell us, from their platforms, that they must and will have the ballot, in order to be enabled, by processes of legislation, to stop the men’s liquor and tobacco. Other legislation, of a similar nature, and of wide application, is also proposed by women. This talk is symptomatic of intellectual and moral immaturity on their part. The sovereignty which is freely given to the women from affection, and by which they exercise control over the habit and manners of the men, will be taken from such of them, and ought to be taken from such of them, as try to ground their empire in positive law. If any real and genuine desire exists, on the side of the women, to be recognized by the men as having reached the age of political majority, and if they really wish to see their names inscribed on the voting-lists, it might not be amiss for the more prominent leaders of them to make an immediate and radical change of tactics. An increased appearance of disinterestedness, and less self-assertion, would work to their advantage.

The maxim, “Taxation without representation is tyranny,” which is not at all true absolutely, was temporarily true in America at the time of the American Revolution. The claim of the British parliament to tax the unrepresented colonies in all cases whatsoever, was, practically, a denial of the right of Americans “to acquire, possess, and enjoy property.” This right is now guaranteed to the women of Massachusetts by the Massachusetts Bill of Rights, which is the most essential part of Massachusetts fundamental law. Such a one-sided and partial exercise by the Massachusetts legislature of the power to tax women, as would abridge the right of the women “to acquire, possess, and enjoy property,” would be vetoed by the judges, who are all of them sworn “to support the constitution of Massachusetts.” The final decision of the judges on the ten-hour law (which abridges the right of a certain class of women “to acquire property,” by prohibiting them from working more than ten hours a day) has not yet been definitively rendered. Never, since the beginning of legislation, have so many effectual laws been made for the protection of women’s property, at the expense of men’s property, as are being made in Massachusetts at the present time. The reformatory women would do well, in the interest of the cause they have at heart, to abstain from incoherent utterances.

Women should ground their claim to the ballot, if they propose to claim it at all, not on the fact of their past opportunities for instruction and culture, not on the fact that they hold, in their own names, the title to revenue-yielding property, but on the fact that they are, themselves, at the existing moment of time, useful and profitable members of the industrially-productive community, or the natural representatives of useful and profitable members. The present injustice done to the working-women, in the matter of deficient wages as compared with men’s wages, would soon be cured, if the politicians were made dependent, for their promotion to office, on women’s votes. It is hard to assign any valid reason—if we leave out-of sight the indications of intellectual and moral imbecility afforded by many of the platform advocates of female suffrage—why women who keep boarding-houses, female physicians and school-teachers, milliners, mantua-makers, girls working at wages, and the like, should not vote.

Heretofore, many ladies have grounded a claim to the ballot, not on the fact that they are now, or ever have been, producers of wealth, but on the fact that they hold in their hands the results of the economic production of other people, in the form of inherited wealth, on which taxes are leviable; and also on the ground that they are very “accomplished” (if anybody knows what that means), having enjoyed exceptional advantages for instruction and culture. Such ladies owe a debt of gratitude to the Commonwealth, which has protected them, and now protects them, in the enjoyment of their privileges; but the right to vote is no necessary adjunct of the duty to show gratitude.

Culture is, politically speaking, “bosh,” humbug. It is, like the horses of the Egyptians, “flesh, and not spirit.” It represents the enjoyment of past advantages, and gives no claim on the future. On it, no political right can be grounded. Representative’ personages of the very first mark, and honorably mentioned in history, have been, many of them, unable to read or write. Moses could both read and write; but Abraham, who was greater than Moses, could do neither of these things.

[from Socialistic, Communistic, Mutualistic, And Financial Fragments. Boston, Lee & Shepard, 1875. pp 19-24.]

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George Willis Cooke, “William Batchelder Greene”

“WILLIAM BATCHELDER GREENE” from George Willis Cooke’s Historical and Biographical Introduction to the Rowfant Club reprint of The Dial (Cleveland, 1902)

[NOTE: There is considerable disagreement among sources about the particulars of Greene’s literary output. Titles and dates in this account may be unreliable. In particular, poetry volumes attributed to Greene, such as “Imogen,” may be the work of his son, also William Batchelder Greene.

In the third number of the second volume of “The Dial” was printed an article on “First Principles” by William Batchelder Greene, then minister of the Unitarian church at Brookfield, Mass. This was his only contribution to “The Dial,” but his life was of such interest, and so fully illustrates some of the tendencies of the time, that it may be told with some detail. James Freeman Clarke described him as “the author of various profound metaphysical, theological, and politico-economical works” and Col. T. W. Higginson mentions him as being “strikingly handsome and mercilessly opinionated.” Mrs. Ednah D. Cheney says he was a “master of logic, and almost rivaled Socrates in winding an adversary up into a complete snarl.” [see text at end of post]

Greene was born in Haverhill, Mass., April 4, 1819. His father was Nathaniel Greene, who edited newspapers in Concord and Portsmouth, N. H., and Haverhill, Mass., and in 1821 established the “Boston Statesman,” the leading Democratic newspaper of the State for many years. He was post-master of Boston from 1829 to 1840 and from 1845 to 1849. In the latter year he went to Paris, where he was engaged in literary work to 1861, after which time be lived in Boston until his death, November 29, 1877. He wrote much for the periodicals of the day, mostly under the name of “Boscawen.” He translated G. Sporzosi’s “History of Italy,” 1836; “Tales from the German,” 1837; “Tales from the German, Italian, and French,” 1843; and published “Improvisations” in 1852. Young Greene entered the West Point Military Academy, July 1, 1835, and continued his studies there until November 15, 1837, when he resigned without graduation, on account of ill-health. He was in the Florida war, being commissioned second lieutenant in the Seventh U. S. Infantry, July 18, 1839, and resigned November 20, 1841.

”He told me himself,” writes Elizabeth P. Peabody in her ”Reminiscences of Dr. Channing,” that he had been commissioned at nineteen years of age and sent to the Florida war; and he had just been permitted to resign, because the surgeon of the army had pronounced him ill, with even small chance to get home to die. I learned later that he had graduated at West Point with high honors, was a profound mathematician, a keen student of the science of war and reader of military biography, especially of that of Napoleon Bonaparte. Otherwise he had little literary culture, his reading having been largely Lord Byron’s and Shelley’s poetry. ‘Queen Mab,’ he said, had been his gospel; and his theology also was Shelley’s,–namely, that God is merely a complex of the laws of Nature. But his life in Florida had brought him to deeper truth. He was lieutenant to the celebrated Captain Bonneville, whose Indian imperturbability of temperament, iron will, and despotic habits made an immense impression on his imagination, and commanded his admiration. Captain Bonneville soon left him in command of a regiment of desperadoes (who were, however, condignly ignorant), and had counseled him to keep himself entirely aloof from their familiarity, in order to preserve the prestige of his authority. In the long intervals between short periods of intense military activity, he was alone in his tent with only his books and thoughts, and was knowing to gigantic crimes being perpetrated by the State government of Florida, which wholly misled and hoodwinked the distant central government. In one of his meditations on Captain Bonneville’s and his own power over his men, he said to himself: ‘These brutal men are governed, not by, the complex of my thoughts, nor by the complex of the laws of Nature, of which they know nothing, but by me,–a self-determining force, a free spirit, a person.’ And at once it flashed like lightning upon him, ‘And God is behind the complex of the laws of Nature,–a self-acting, free, supreme, infinite Person, to whom all finite persons are responsible.’ He started from his seat, seized ‘Queen Mab,’ and flung it from the door of his tent into the far distance; and then rushed to his valise and took out the Bible that his mother had put into it when he left home, and for the first time opened it. He could not believe that it was by blind chance his eye fell on the words from Isaiah quoted by Christ in the synagogue of Nazareth on the day he commenced his ministry: ‘The spirit of the Lord is upon me.’ As he read these words he thought he heard a roar of artillery, and sprang to the door of his tent–to find that the roar was within his own soul! He then told of his reading the New Testament, and his study of the action of Jesus, and of the apostles after the Spirit had brought to their minds and interpreted to them the words of Jesus. Soon the desire arose in his own mind to leave the sphere of unhallowed activity in which he found himself, and to become a minister of Christ. So he prayed that God would take him out of his present bonds, for he could not himself break the oath of the soldier. ‘And God has answered my prayer,’ said he, ‘and delivered me by means of this malarial fever, which incapacitates me as a soldier. I have not died, as the surgeon predicted I should; and already I have begun my theological studies in a private and desultory way, by studying out the history of the dogmas of the Christian Church, beginning with the Trinity.'”

It may be that this account is somewhat highly colored, but it gives the essential facts. After leaving Florida, Greene was for a short time at Brook Farm, and then he entered the Baptist Theological School at Newton. His studies led him to question some of the beliefs of the denomination with which he was connected, and especially that of the Trinity. He entered the Harvard Divinity School, from which he graduated in 1845, was ordained at Brookfield November 5 of the same year, and continued there until April 1, 1851. He then withdrew from the profession with which he had been connected, and devoted the rest of his life to reforms and to literary occupations. He married a daughter of Robert G. Shaw, a merchant prince of Boston, and a sister of Quincy Shaw.

Greene was a vigorous thinker and writer, much given to controversy, keenly logical, and with a love for metaphysical reasoning. During the period of his ministry he published a number of pamphlets, all of them controversial in their nature. The first of these was on the “Doctrine of Life,” and appeared in 1843. It was an expansion of his article in “The Dial,” and presented the same ideas in a somewhat different form, as a result of changes of opinion. It was rather conservative, with a leaning towards transcendentalism. In 1847 and the following year he published pamphlets on the Trinity and Incarnation, and also a refutation of Jonathan Edwards’ theories in regard to freedom of the will. In these works he presented himself as distinctly a Unitarian, but with a marked love for independence and for criticism. In 1849 he sent out a pamphlet on “Transcendentalism,” dedicated to Emerson. His definitions would not have been acceptable to the leaders of that school, and they indicate that he was far from being. committed to the acceptance of its main positions. “Transcendentalism,” he wrote, “is that form of philosophy which sinks God and Nature in man.” Again: “A transcendentalist never reasons; he describes what he sees from his own point of view. So the word ‘transcendentalist’ relates not to a system of doctrines, but to a point of view; from which, nevertheless, a system of doctrines may be visible. This explains to us why so many, notwithstanding their desire, have been unable to read the writings of the new school. They have tried to find a system of doctrines when they ought to have looked for a point of view.” “Transcendentalism affirms,” he continues, “that the soul creates all things–man, the universe, all forms, all changes, and that this wonderful power is possessed by each individual soul.” Then Greene begins to make his logic bear upon the metaphysical habits of the transcendentalists, and he shows to what they are brought by their own premises, to conclusions not acceptable to any of them. He goes on to say: “The man, therefore, who has attained to right knowledge is aware that there is no such thing as an individual soul. There is but one soul, which is the Over Soul, and this one soul is the animating principle of all bodies. When I am thoughtless, and immersed in things which are seen, I mistake the person who is writing this notice for myself; but when I am wise this illusion vanishes like the mists of the morning, and then I know that what I thought to be myself was only one of my manifestations, only a mode of my existence. It is I who bask in the day, grow in the tree, and murmur in the passing brook. Think not, my brother, that thou art diverse and alien from myself; it is only while we dwell in the outward appearance that we are two; when we consider the depths of our being, we are found to be the same, for the same self, the same vital principle animates us both (we speak as a transcendentalist). I create the universe, and thou, also, my brother, created the same; for we create not two universes, but one, for we two have but one soul: there is but one creative energy, which is above, and under, and through all.” Then he discusses the several types of transcendentalism, as seen in India and in such men as Boehme. In conclusion, he states his own position “as Spiritual life in Christ by making him, his truth, his doctrine, our nourishment, even as we sustain our natural lives by partaking of natural food.” In a fourth edition of the pamphlet, published in 1871, Greene more clearly defines his own position, when he says: A little thought will convince the reader that the theory that the soul builds the body is as plausible and as probable as the other doctrine, that the body builds the soul. In short, subjective-idealism is just as true as materialism; and, we may add, just as false. As is evident, if we start with man alone, our reasoning will leave us, at the end, in transcendentalism (subjective-idealism); and if we take our departure in nature alone, we end, of necessity, in materialism; both partial, exclusive, and inadequate systems. The fact is, the body builds the soul, and the soul builds the body; but (we will permit ourselves to add) it is God who builds both.” His metaphysical studies found expression in a volume published by Greene in Boston during the ear 1849, which he called “Remarks on the Science of History,” followed by an “A Priori Autobiography.” This work show ed a decided mystical tendency, and was an attempt to interpret history in the light of individual spiritual experiences. In the form of the personal experiences and ideas of a man living at each of the great epochs of human history he summed up the psychological and spiritual growth of the race in civilization. His metaphysics did not desert Greene when he became a student of economics, as may be seen in three or four works he published on banking and finances. His first book of this kind was published in Brookfield, in 1850, on “Mutual Banking,” and was a discussion of the nature of money, banking, and usury. He seems to have been largely influenced in his theories by the French socialists or mutualists, and he was especially influenced by Proudhon. Its practical purpose was to secure from the Massachusetts legislature a law permitting the inhabitants of towns or a group of towns to do their own banking, and to issue money in the form of promissory notes, secured by the farms of the shareholders. He was able to induce the inhabitants of Brookfield, Ware, Warren, and adjoining towns to petition the General Court, in 1850 and 1851, for a law permitting the establishing of such a mutual banking system as he proposed. He printed a series of letters in the “Worcester Palladium ” advocating his scheme, and these were published in a pamphlet under the title of “Equality.” In this pamphlet he said that banks created inequality between citizens, and that Massachusetts had become essentially socialistic in its control of the property of its citizens, or, more properly, plutocratic. The substance of these pamphlets, with additions, appeared in a volume published in Boston in 1857, with the title: “The Radical Deficiency of the Existing Circulating Medium and the Advantages of a Mutual Currency.” Greene’s political activities led to his being made a member of the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention of 1803, but he was not able to secure recognition for any of his special theories.

After 1853, Greene lived in Paris for several years, and returned at the opening of the Civil War. He was appointed the Colonel of the Fourteenth Massachusetts Volunteers, July 5, 1861. This regiment became the First Massachusetts Heavy Artillery on the first day of January, 1862. He had control of the Long Bridge that led from Washington into Virginia, and of Fort Runion and Fort Albany, that protected this bridge and the aqueduct that supplied the city with water. In the “Diary and Correspondence” of James Freeman Clarke is an interesting account of his visit to this command, in November, 1861. Subsequently Greene had command of an artillery brigade. In the autumn of 1862 he came into conflict with General J. S. Wadsworth, Military Governor of the District of Columbia, and John A. Andrew, Governor of Massachusetts, who interfered with his command, as he claimed. In his letter of resignation he also said that Major Andrew Washburn of his regiment had been court-martialled by inferior officers as the result of such interference on the part of Wadsworth and Andrew. His resignation took effect October 11, 1869. After this he acted as a volunteer aid to General Butler in the campaign before Petersburg, and also at Bermuda Hundred.

Greene then took up his residence in Boston and its neighborhood for n number of years. In 1861 he published a large pamphlet on ” Consciousness as Revealing the Existence of God, Man, and Nature.” This was followed, in 1866, by a translation of  “Job,” with notes, intended to give a fresh interpretation of this Oriental poem. In 1868 appeared a pamphlet on ” The Sovereignty of the People,” a defence of the rights of the people as guaranteed in the Bill of Rights of the several State constitutions. “The legal peoples,” he said, “and not Congress, are the true sovereign. It is the freedom of speech and of the press, the enjoyment of liberty and property, and the pursuit of happiness, which is to be ranked as of the natural right, and which is guaranteed as such by the State constitutions. If the legal peoples govern the governments, public opinion governs the legal peoples; and public opinion is formed by women and non-voters as well as by men and voters.” In the same year he appeared as an advocate of paper money, but as guaranteed by land-values.

In 1870 Greene published “Explanations of the Theory of the Calculus,” and he wrote other pamphlets on mathematical subjects, his ability in this direction being very considerable. His skill in logic appears in a pamphlet on “The Facts of Consciousness and the Philosophy of Mr. Herbert Spencer.” This is a sharp criticism of Spencer’s position, and of his failure to base his philosophy on the facts of consciousness, as Greene claims. His own point of view is thus stated: “It is the life of the soul, and that life only, which is immediately perceived in consciousness. What is the life of the soul? Observation in consciousness teaches us that it is a life of intelligence; that it consists mainly in immediate knowing; for if we feel or will, we know that we feel, and know that we will. More careful and somewhat painful observation teaches us that there is not only a life of the soul, but also something that is alive, –a knower. This knower perceives itself as subject, never as object, and as an intelligence; and this immediate perception or intuition of active and spontaneous intelligence is the only adequate knowledge the soul has of intelligence. If the soul attribute intelligence to other beings, it does so by induction only, and in the light of its intuitive notion of intelligence. The soul also perceives itself as one in the strictest sense of the word ‘unity’. It has also intuitions of ideality and diversity. We might continue this enumeration through a detailed list of a thousand and one other intuitions, all of them unscientific in the sense that they are above science, and conditions without which science would be impossible. Such is the genesis of first truths.”

Among other subjects on which Greene wrote were: “The Blazing Star,” with an appendix treating of the “Jewish Kabbala;” a reply to Dr. E. H. Clarke on ” Sex in Education;” and a letter to the Minister of King’s Chapel on the condition of the working-people of Boston. He published “Imogen and Other Poems,” 1871; and “Cloud-Rifts at Twilight,” 1878. “Imogen” is a well written tale in verse, with considerable lyric power. Greene was not a poet, but he had a considerable facility in the production of verses. In 1875 he brought together, under the title of ”Socialistic, Communistic, Mutualistic, and Financial Fragments,” about a dozen of his essays that had previously appeared in pamphlet form. These related wholly to one phase or another of his social theories, including his system of mutual banking, free-love and marriage, and the status of the working classes. The volume concludes with an address of the Boston section (French-speaking) of “The Working-People’s International Association,” written by Greene, revised by the officers of that organization, and read to the New England Labor Reform League, at its session for 1873. He was the vice-president and chairman of the executive committee of the Labor Reform League, and he seems to have been active in the International. While he thus associated himself with the socialists, he appears to have been inclined to accept the theories of the anarchists as then represented in this country by E. H. Heywood, editor of “The Word,” published at Princeton, Mass., and vigorously devoted to anarchism. To that journal he was a contributor, though he did not accept all the theories it represented. To the furtherance of the interests of working-men he gave much attention and enthusiasm, largely identifying himself with their propaganda His theories in this direction appear in his International address, wherein he says: `’ The working-man ought to have the whole of his fair earnings; but he cannot have this whole if other parties are paid the triple or the quadruple of what they respectively earn. . . . What is required at the present time is not so much equality before the laws as equal laws: that is to say, laws that do not themselves bring forth and perpetuate inequality.”

Greene was well known to most of the transcendentalists, though his extreme views were not acceptable to many of them. In November, 1841, Margaret Fuller wrote to Emerson: “How did you like the military-spiritual-heroic-vivacious phoenix of the day?” This was a very good description of Greene, for he was zealous, eccentric, arbitrary, and mystical, and very entertaining in conversation. He was one of the four persons who addressed the Town and Country Club during the brief period of its existence; and he frequently attended other gatherings of the transcendentalists. At one of Alcott’s conversations the subject was the “Angelic and Demonic Man,” a favorite topic with him. He described the angelic man as blond, of nervous temperament, with blue eyes, contemplative, intuitive; in fact, gave a very good description of himself. Then he described the demonic man as being strong, with dark eyes and hair, with great energy and will power, his eyes full of fire. This portrait was a very good one of Greene, who sat directly in front of the speaker. The company present saw the application being made, and waited eagerly for the outcome of the encounter sure to result. Alcott went on: “The demonic man is logical, loves disputation and argument, he smokes,” etc. Then Greene asked: “But has not the demonic man his value?” “Oh, yes,” was the reply, “the demonic man is good in his place, very good,–he is good to build railroads; but I do not like to see him in pulpits, begging Mr. Greene’s pardon.” Then Greene began to ask questions, which Alcott answered calmly and smilingly. But these questions were subtly logical and calculated to wind the speaker up until he confessed to absurdities and was evidently defeated. The combat went on, and with a growing interest on the part of the audience. Just as Greene had brought his victim to a reductio ad absurdum Alcott soared away into one of the most eloquent of his flights of impressive speech, leaving Greene and his logical apparatus quite out of sight. When Louisa Alcott was asked what good angel saved her father from the merciless defeat Greene had prepared for him, she replied: ” Oh, he knew well enough what he was about.”

Greene spent the last years of his life in England, and he died at Weston-super-Mare, May 30, 1878. He showed forth, as perhaps no one else did, the individualistic tendencies of transcendentalism. He was opinionated, dogmatic, and combative. These characteristics were well described by one of his friends: “Those who knew Mr.. Greene intimately could not but wonder at the fatality which prevented him from making that mark on the public mind which he made on all the individual minds that came within the sphere of his influence. In personal intercourse he was delightful, stimulating the thinking powers of his companions, while often astounding them by his paradoxes. He became intellectually a come-outer of the most resolute kind. He affronted all accredited notions and conventional standards in a way that amazed even radicals. In his laughing, imperious fashion he told Theodore Parker, at a time when Parker was the horror of all New England orthodoxy in religion and cautiousness in politics, that be regretted to find him such a rotten conservative; and Garrison and Phillips he spoke of as brave and earnest sentimentalists, but men who had small logical faculty to perceive the necessary results of their own propositions regarding the rights of man, and of no account as thinkers.

“In truth, Mr. Greene was the most inexorable of logicians, and had the audacity and intrepidity to accept all the consequences of any theory he adopted. He was one of the most original of American metaphysicians. He had studied the works of Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Leibnitz, Spinoza, Locke, Kant, Fichte, and Hegel, and had delved down to the central idea of each of these masters in philosophy.

“His wit, humor, geniality, the essential sweetness underlying his argumentative habit, his grand indifference to everything which interfered with or assumed to check his independence, the cordiality of soul which ran through all his blunt contradictions of some of my most cherished ideals, and his friendly interest in everything I was employed upon for the moment, are things I shall never forget. I never met him without a renewed wonder at the increased amount of his generalized knowledge, and at the reach and depth of his philosophical thinking. By the character of his mind he could never be a conformist. His individuality became more and more aggressive and untamable as he grew older. He was intended for a great man, but some subtle element in his nature prevented him from realizing the distinction to which his powers evidently pointed.”

From Edna Dow Cheney, “Reminiscences of Mr. Alcott’s Conversations,” The Open Court 2 no. 23 (August 2, 1888): 1133.

But [Bronson Alcott’s] most remarkable passage of arms that I remember was with the late Col. Greene. Col. Greene was a master of the art of logic and almost rivaled Socrates in his skill in winding an adversary up into -a complete snarl. Of course, he was quite antipathetic to Mr. Alcott. On one occasion, Mr. Alcott described the demonic man and it was point for point a portrait of Mr. Greene, then Reverend and not Colonel, who sat directly before him. “The demonic man is strong, he has dark hair and eyes, his eye is full of fire, he has great energy, strong will. He is logical, and loves disputation and argument. The demonic man smokes, etc.” The company silently made the application, but Mr. Greene said, “But has not the demonic man his value?” “ Oh, yes!” said Mr. Alcott, “ the demonic man is good in his place, very good, he is good to build railroads, but I do not quite like to see him in pulpits, begging Mr. Greene’s pardon.”

Mr. Greene took the thrust very pleasantly but sharpened his weapons for a retort. On the first convenient occasion he had a string of questions arranged so artfully that while beginning very simply, they would inevitably lead to a reductio ad absurdum, if Mr. Alcott answered them frankly, according to his theory. Mr. Alcott replied with a simple affirmative or negative as Mr. Greene had planned, until the company began to perceive his intention, and that if the next question were answered as it must be, Mr. Alcott would be driven to the wall. The question was put, but instead of the simple answer, Mr. Alcott began to talk, and that most delightfully. He soared higher and higher, as if he had taken the wings of the morning, and brought us all the glories of heaven. I believe none of us could tell what he said, but we listened in rapture. Mr. Greene sat with one finger crossed upon another waiting for a pause to put in his question, but the time never came, his opponent was borne away in a cloud far out of sight.

I always queried whether this was intentional, or whether his good angel carried him away, but. Louisa said, “O, he knew well enough what he was about.”

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Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, Reminiscences of Rev. Wm. Ellery Channing, D.D. (excerpts)

Two fragments from Elizabeth Palmer Peabody’s Reminiscences of Rev. Wm. Ellery Channing, D.D. (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1880)

[William B. Greene / Transcendentalism / Emerson – pages 364-365]

In the last year of Dr. Channing’s life I one day said to him, showing him a passage in his sermon on “Likeness to God,”–“Lieutenant Greene says the whole Transcendental movement in New England is wrapped up in this paragraph”: “The divine attributes are first developed in ourselves, and thence transferred to our Creator. The idea of God, sublime and awful as it is, is the idea of our own spiritual nature, purified and enlarged to infinity. In ourselves are the elements of the Divinity. God does not sustain a figurative resemblance to man; it is the resemblance of a parent to a child, the likeness of kindred natures.”

Dr. Channing took the book, and after reading the passage said ” All that I have said there is true. But the development of the divine attributes in ourselves is the realization not of what is peculiar to any individual, but what is common to all men, and manifested in the utmost purity by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is the unfallen ideal man. The danger that besets our Transcendentalists is that they sometimes mistake their individualities for the Transcendent. What is common to men and revealed by Jesus transcends every single individuality, and is the spiritual object and food of all individuals.”

I asked, ” Don’t you think Mr. Emerson recognizes this?”

“Yes,” he replied, “in the poems of the ‘Problem’ and of the ‘Sphinx’ I think he does. But many of his professed followers do not, and fall into a kind of ego-theism, of which a true understanding, of Jesus Christ is the only cure, as I more and more believe.”

I have not the date of this conversation, but it was after the poems referred to came out in the “Dial.” [pp 364-365]

[William B. Greene: autobiographical and theological fragments – pages 435-448]

I made a new acquaintance in that year [1841], a young Lieutenant of the United States Army, who first attracted my attention by inquiring at my library for Kant’s works in some other than the German language. In talking with him about this book, I was struck with his different cast and method of thought from that to which I was accustomed. He did not (as Mr. Emerson afterward said of him) “draw in our team,” but rather–referring to his harked and fresh individuality–seemed to be “a special answer to a special prayer.” For some time I did not know even his name, but my attention was riveted by his unexpected and oracular remarks, often quite piquant in their expression: “The Transcendentalists of Boston are the extreme opposite of Kant; they do not see the transcendental objective (except Mr. Emerson, who names it Oversoul); but it is they themselves that transcend.” Of Parker’s sermon on “The Transient and Permanent in Christianity,” he said, ” It wants unity.” Of Emerson’s discourse at Divinity Hall, ” It is a true gospel addressed to the philosopher and theologian; but it is not the preaching to the poor, for that must address heart and will rather than intellect.” Of the so-called Orthodox, “They have lost the transcendental objective out of their creeds, which now are only logical fetiches.” Of the Unitarians, “They have no life, for they mistake manifestation for principle (which it always contradicts), and are the only Christians who idolize a man; for the Orthodox sink or raise Jesus into God before they worship him.”

“And so lose,” said I, “what the Swedenborgians call the Divine Humanity?”

“Yes,” said he, “the Orthodox of to-day are Tri-theists, not Trinitarians.”

“That is just what Dr. Channing says,” I replied. “And therefore he repudiates the unscriptural word trinity in his preaching. But he draws a strong line of distinction between Jesus, the unfallen son of man, and all other men, whose more or less imperfect natures prevent them from being, like him, transparent images of God. Dr. Channing cannot be classed with any sect. He has fraternized with the Unitarians because they alone have stood bravely for free inquiry, independence of private judgment, and free speech; and been persecuted for it, and excommunicated by the sects who arrogate to themselves the name of Christian. But he is not sympathizing with them now in excommunicating Theodore Parker on account of his theology, and James Freeman Clarke on account of the new catholic organization he would give the Church.”

“It is only in unphilosophic minds,” said he, “that the doctrine of the Trinity becomes Tritheism.” The formula of the Trinity was the legitimate abstraction of the Greek mind,–an analytic definition of the Divine nature, which had been revealed by the facts of Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. Those facts of actual life in history are the seed of the Christian religion. Spiritual life is absolute in God, who is love; and manifest in Jesus, who is truth,–the first begotten of love; and the influence proceeding from love and truth upon the human race is the Holy Spirit. The whole Trinity is in the Father, for he is love, wisdom, and power; and the whole Trinity is in Jesus Christ, for he manifests love, wisdom, and power; and every man is a trinity of feeling, thought, and activity; so the whole trinity is in the Holy Spirit, which it is the purpose of the absolute love to produce through the manifested truth, in the aspiring energy of men. This is the creed which Athanasius set up against the heresy of Arius, which had denied the at-one-ment with God that the human race “receives by Jesus.” The great mischief was that the Roman empire undertook to meddle, and say who should belong to the Church, and set up this philosophic formula at the threshold, to be acknowledged as the condition of entrance. Since only philosophers could understand this definition, this arbitrary decree put a lie into the mouth of every unphilosophical Christian who obeyed it. The apostles required no abstract doctrinal creed, but a belief in the facts of Christ’s life and death and resurrection, as proved facts of history. Men can be forced to believe facts by proofs, but faith is the gift of God to those only who devoutly and freely aspire to understand the spiritual meaning of the facts which will be found to symbolize all the spiritual truth that shall ever be unfolded in the history of mankind. The conception of the Trinity of the Divine nature is as old as philosophic thought. We find it in thin abstractions in India, Phoenicia, Egypt, etc., being suggested in every natural form; but it was only revealed perfectly in the manifestation which Jesus made of a spiritual life that takes the sting from death.”

All the above thoughts were not expressed at once, but in several conversations, illustrated by the history of Church dogma, and noted down by me at the time, in order to be read to Dr. Channing in my Sunday visit.

Its full meaning was further illustrated to me before Sunday, by my learning something of my young philosopher and theologian personally. He told me himself that he had been commissioned at nineteen years of age and sent to the Florida war; and he had just been permitted to resign, because the surgeon of the army had pronounced him ill, with even small chance to get home to die. I learned later that he had graduated at West Point with high honors, was a profound mathematician, a keen student of the science of war and reader of military biography, especially of that of Napoleon Bonaparte. Otherwise he had little literary culture, his reading having been largely Lord Byron’s and Shelley’s poetry. “Queen Mab,” he said, had been his gospel; and his theology also was Shelley’s,–namely, that God is merely a complex of the laws of Nature. But his life in Florida had brought him to deeper truth. He was Lieutenant to the celebrated Captain Bonneville, whose Indian imperturbability of temperament, iron will, and despotic habits made an immense impression on his imagination, and commanded his admiration. Captain Bonneville soon left him in command of a regiment of desperadoes (who were, however, condignly ignorant), and had counselled him to keep himself entirely aloof from their familiarity, in order to preserve the prestige of his authority. In the long intervals between short periods of intense military activity, he was alone in his tent with only his books and thoughts, and was knowing to gigantic crimes being perpetrated by the State Government of Florida, which wholly misled and hoodwinked the distant Central Government. In one of his meditations on Captain Bonneville’s and his own power over his men, he said to himself: “These brutal men are governed not by the complex of my thoughts, nor by the complex of the laws of Nature, of which they know nothing but by me,–a self-determining force, a free spirit, a person.” And at once it flashed like lightning upon him, “And God is behind the complex of the laws of Nature,–a self-acting, free, supreme, infinite Person, to whom all finite persons are responsible.” He started from his seat, seized “Queen Mab” and flung it from the door of his tent into the far distance; and then rushed to his valise and took out the Bible that his mother had put into it when he left home, and for the first time opened it. He could not believe that it was by blind chance his eye fell on the words from Isaiah quoted by Christ in the synagogue of Nazareth on the day he commenced his ministry: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” etc. As he read these words he thought he heard a roar of artillery, and sprang to the door of his tent–to learn that the roar was within his own soul! He then told of his reading the New Testament, and his study of the action of Jesus, and of the apostles after the Spirit had brought to their minds and interpreted to them the words of Jesus. Soon the desire arose-in his own mind to leave the sphere of unhallowed activity in which he found himself, and to become a minister of Christ. So he prayed that God would take him out of his present bonds, for he could not himself break the oath of the soldier. “And God has answered my prayer,” said he; “and delivered me by means of this malarial fever, which incapacitates me as a soldier. I have not died, as the surgeon predicted I should; and already I have begun my theological studies in a private and desultory way, by studying out the history of the dogmas of the Christian Church, beginning with the Trinity.”

Now, true to one of my first intuitions, that “nobody believes what is false because it is false, but because it seems to be true,” I had longed all my life to learn the genesis and history in human thought of a belief in the Trinity, which so many minds greater than mine had accepted. This I said to Dr. Channing the next Sunday when I went to see him, and told him all about the conversations of the week; and I was delighted to find that he was quite open to considering the subject de novo, recalling the conversation with Coleridge in 1822, when he had affirmed that the doctrine of the Trinity was “the perfection of human reason.” He said: “And Coleridge agreed with your friend in deprecating that this formula should be imposed on the mind arbitrarily; because no abstract statement can really be believed that is not produced by the mind’s own action on facts, as your friend truly says. To make a sacrament of an unintelligible proposition is consecrating a lie, and demoralizes the mind. I have no objection to the formula of the Trinity as Coleridge explained it,–the relation perceived between the creating spirit and the created spirit in its purity, by which man finds intelligent and moral life in the Holy Spirit. But in my office of preaching the gospel to the multitude, I avoid all abstractions of the philosophers; and, like St. John and St. Paul, I labor to fix attention on the living Son of God in a son of man, who could defy his enemies to convict him of any sin, and who lived in the world and died to convince them that God was their Father as well as his, and to show how they might form Christ within themselves. Hence I have avoided a word which now is associated with an error that destroys the simplicity of worship,–tritheism.”

At another time I told him of Lieutenant Greene’s declaring that election (to privileges) was a fact on the intellectual and other planes of life, and had only been made false on the spiritual plane by Calvin’s tacking to it the doctrine of reprobation and everlasting punishment,–a presumptuous sin on his part; for he had no business to invent, in his ambition to make his system of theology complete, what was certainly not revealed, and which really denied to God the power of freely forgiving. Christ taught that the method of life is love (those who pursue any other “know not what they do”), for love leads at once to the fulfilling of righteousness to men and worship of the true God.

A few days after this Dr. Channing met Lieutenant Greene at my room, and sat down with the air of a determination to become acquainted. I do not remember just in what connection he said these words: “The doctrine of irresistible grace, which of course you know I consider the most monstrous of errors, because it contravenes the principle of human freedom.” There was a pause, when I said, “Lieutenant Greene would say, Sir, that these doctrines are identical.” He looked up in astonishment, and in the conversation that ensued between them I looked intently from one to the other as they spoke; for it was my own past and future in discussion on the essential points of personal responsibility and God’s forgiveness of sin,–concerning which my mind had never been satisfied since that shock upon my moral sensibility received before my acquaintance with Dr. Channing, and to which I have alluded in the early part of this volume.

The next day when Dr. Channing came into my room as usual, he said to me with the most paternal tone, “I observed yesterday great solicitude in your manner as your young friend and I were conversing.”

“The subject was very interesting, Sir,” I replied.

“Oh, yes,” said he, “I know it; the most interesting–the question of questions, certainly–how to harmonize the free-will of man and the pardoning grace of God. Both are irrefragable facts. But you must remember that calmness of mind is indispensable to the discovery of truth. We need not be distressingly anxious in our Father’s house. All apparent contradictions will be reconciled gradually, if we have faith to believe that the eternal reason is the creating Father of our reason, which, if it be finite, is growing forever into the infinite by prayer and moral effort.”

“I am not painfully anxious,” I said. “This new way of looking at myself from God’s point of view rather than from my own seems to be clearing up my practical difficulties, by helping me to forgive myself for not being perfect, and to accept humbly and gratefully the forgiveness of my sins.”

“Oh, then, do not let me trouble or hinder you,” said he. And, inquiring into my meaning, I told him that I thought the Unitarian method of self-discipline was a kind of attempt to lift ourselves up by our own ears,–assuming a responsibility of self-culture which was self-torture. (I think this was the time when he told me of the visit of the old lady, who said the Unitarians left the soul in despair before the moral ideal they set up.)

I wish to draw attention to the fact that in all this winter, when he saw that I was reviewing to criticize the whole system of thought and action that I had been working out under his lead, he did not say one word to check it, but rather seemed to rejoice in my freely questioning it. He took great interest in my study with Lieutenant Greene of the history of the dogmas of the Church, and my search for the truths that they often only express unfortunately. Inquiry with him was always really free. He was the victim of no habits of thought. He helped one to criticize himself. However strong his opinion, it was always a subject for revision under new lights.

This was not merely true of his theological opinions. His articles on Napoleon in the first volume of his Works contained a very decided view. But he was eager to know if others who had personal relations with this remarkable person differed from him; and I have letters of his on the subject addressed to Sismondi and De Gerando, even after he had printed his own views, which shows that he was still desirous to modify his own view if truth demanded it. He deprecated stereotyping his own thought; he would rather have it ever growing broader. I told him Lieutenant Greene thought that in his article on Napoleon he exalted the men of thought above the men of action, when it was the men of action who made the men of thought; for great writers and great artists followed, not preceded, great historical events,–wars, political revolutions, etc.

His attention was immediately arrested, and he introduced the subject when he next saw Lieutenant Greene, who maintained the view of Napoleon which Hazlitt’s Life of him gives. He said: “Napoleon, at the beginning of his career, embodied and worked out the idea of the sovereignty of the people versus what is called legitimacy; and went on conquering until he lost his idea and fell into an emperor. Then the legitimists whipped him, and sent him to St. Helena.” Dr. Channing was pleased with this, and frankly admitted that he had treated of him only as he was after he “fell into an emperor,” and might not have estimated what he had done for mankind when he was yet truly himself.

In the year 1841 there was much question about the organization of the Christian church or churches; question whether there should be any organization; whether the time had not come for the Church to be viewed as a spiritual influence, guarded in its freedom by the Constitution of the country, which in the United States assures to every one of legal maturity freedom of conscience and the liberty of prophesying. Lieutenant Greene, being the grandson of the great Baptist saint and preacher Batchelder,–the odor of whose sanctity still lingers in the air of New Hampshire and Maine,–was inclined to the old Pilgrim independency. Mr. Ripley was suggesting, by the constitution of Brook Farm, the end of the church militant and the initiation of the time when “none shall say, Know ye the Lord! for all shall know Him from the least unto the greatest.” And James Freeman Clarke had come back to Boston to propose a really catholic church, whose forms of worship should combine the Congregational, Methodist, Episcopal, and Quaker forms; whose platform should be simply, “Our faith is in Jesus Christ, and our purpose is to learn his religion and practise it in social union;” and, discriminating faith from belief, should leave to every one the liberty of defining for himself (none gainsaying) faith in Christ; inviting every one to the Supper of the Lord who was sincerely willing to come, without imposing any condition; baptizing by immersion or sprinkling, according to the desire of each; and accepting as church members those who like the Quakers repudiated the forms altogether, and considered the Supper and baptism purely spiritual exercises. Mr. Clarke also wished to ignore as much as possible the distinction of clergy and laity, and to give all his people the liberty of prophesying occasionally in the pulpit, and always at the weekly social meeting. Some of these meetings were for the discussion of doctrine,–for Mr. Clarke believed in worshipping God with the mind as well as heart and might. Some meetings were for the laying out and organizing the humane work, to. do which is the supreme object of the Church; for he believed, with the Pilgrim Independents, that the church did not make the Christian, but Christians made the church for an instrumentality, because the work of humanity can only be done by social union of activity. The social union of this “Church of the Disciples” was, of course, absolutely to ignore all distinctions of rank; and at least once a month there was to be a meeting merely for social recreation, which in the summer was to be held at the residence of some of the affluent members,–thus giving a day of enjoyment, in one of the beautiful suburban villas around Boston, to those members of the church whose narrow circumstances kept them all the year round in the hot city.

It must be obvious to every reader of the foregoing pages how this plan, in every feature of it, must have met Dr. Channing’s views. He took great interest in the planting of this vine,–among whose fruits have been the Kansas-Aid Societies, the Children’s-Aid Societies, and many others for benevolent work and intellectual and esthetic culture. One other feature completed the plan, making it a truly catholic church in Dr. Channing’s eyes. Mr. Clarke invited into his pulpit, in the evening service, preachers of all the different sects, so that his people might have a free range of doctrinal thought, and not believe in their own independent creed in ignorance of others, but from intelligent conviction, and have a chance to do justice to all others while preferring their own. Dr. Channing attended and took part in many of the preliminary meetings; and his two brothers and his son, and many of the members of the Federal Street Church became members of this broader one with his sympathy.

In forming the “Church of the Disciples” nothing was said about money. Mr. Clarke had faith to believe that the brethren would remember that the laborer was worthy of his hire, and that the matter of his salary could be left to a voluntary subscription in which every one should give what he could afford, and those who could afford nothing were to come wholly “without price.” His faith has been justified, and the church that literally met in a hired “upper chamber,” the first year, now gathers in one of the largest buildings in Boston, and Mr. Clarke is liberally supported by a voluntary subscription, which covers all the expenses of the church besides.

Thus it may be seen, that, in the last year of his life, Dr. Channing was as free from dogmatism and as open to new movements as in his youth, and even more so. While his heart was ever growing calmer and stronger in the central faith of God-with-us in Christ Jesus, his intellect ranged Nature, wide awake to the fact that “the Spirit is making all things new” for evermore. In what is called the “advanced thought” of to-day I see nothing indisputable which he did-not anticipate by some suggestion or inquiry.

If I had been able to gather into this volume all I heard him say, it would be seen indeed that he had fore glimpses even of the scientific discovery of the descent of man’s body from star-dust, through all the evolutions of vegetable and animal form, and other discoveries of science; and was still asking questions which he believed Nature would be able to answer in the immortal existence, much of whose spiritual experiences the phenomena of matter prophesy.

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Thomas Wentworth Higginson on William Batchelder Greene

Two fragments from Thomas Wentworth Higginson’s Cheerful Yesterdays (Boston, 1898)

[William B. Greene at Harvard Divinity School – pages 106-107]

Two of the most interesting men in the Divinity School were afterward, like myself, in military service during the Civil War. One of them was James Richardson, whom Frothingham described later as “a brilliant wreath of fire-mist, which seemed every moment to be on the point of becoming a star, but never did.” He enlisted as a private soldier and died in hospital, where he had been detailed as nurse. The other had been educated at West Point, and had served in the Florida Indian wars; he was strikingly handsome and mercilessly opinionated; he commanded the first regiment of heavy artillery raised in Massachusetts, did much for the defense of Washington in the early days of the Civil War, and resigned his commission when Governor Andrew refused to see justice done–as he thought–to one of his subordinates. His name was William Batcheldor Greene.

[The Town and Country Club – pages 172-176]

I had previously written an article for the “North American Review,” another for the “Christian Examiner,” and three papers in prose for “Putnam’s Magazine,” one of these latter being a description of a trip to Mount Katahdin, written as a jeu d’esprit in the assumed character of a lady of the party. A few poems of mine had also been accepted by the last-named periodical; but these had attracted little notice, and the comparative eclat attendant on writing for the “Atlantic Monthly” made it practically, in my case, the beginning of a literary life. I was at once admitted to the Atlantic Club, an informal dinner of contributors in those days, and at first found it enjoyable. Before this I had belonged to a larger club, rather short-lived, but including some of the same men,–the Town and Country Club, organized in 1849, at Boston. The earlier club had no dinners; in fact, it erred on the side of asceticism, being formed, as Emerson declared, largely to afford a local habitation and dignified occupation to Mr. Alcott. Had its christening been left to the latter, a rhetorical grandeur would have belonged to its very opening; for he only hesitated whether the “Olympian Club ” or the “Pan Club” would be the more suitable designation. Lowell marred the dignity of the former proposal by suggesting the name “Club of Hercules” as a substitute for “Olympian;” and since the admission of women was a vexed question at the outset, Lowell thought the “Patty Pan” quite appropriate. Upon this question, indeed, the enterprise very nearly went to pieces; and Mr. Sanborn has printed in his “Life of Alcott” a characteristic letter from Emerson to myself, after I had, in order to test the matter, placed the names of Elizabeth Peabody and Mary Lowell Putnam–Lowell’s sister, and also well known as a writer–on the nomination book. Emerson himself, with one of those serene and lofty coups d’etat of which only the saints are capable, took a pen and erased these names, although the question had not yet come up for decision, but was still pending when the erasure was made. Another vexed subject was the admission of colored members, the names of Frederick Douglass and Charles Lenox Remond being proposed. This Lowell strongly favored, but wrote to me that he thought Emerson would vote against it; indeed, Emerson, as he himself admitted to me, was one of that minority of anti-slavery men who confessed to a mild natural colorphobia, controlled only by moral conviction. These names were afterwards withdrawn; but the Town and Country Club died a natural death before the question of admitting women was finally settled.

That matter was not, however, the occasion of the final catastrophe, which was brought on by Falstaff’s remediless disease, a consumption of the purse. Ellery Channing said that the very name of the club had been fatal to it; that it promised an impossible alliance between Boston lawyers, who desired only a smoking-room, and, on the other hand, as he declared, a number of country ministers, who expected to be boarded and lodged, and to have their washing done, whenever they came up to the city. In either case, the original assessment of five dollars was clearly too small, and the utter hopelessness of raising any additional amount was soon made manifest. After the club had existed six months, a circular was issued, asking the members to remit, if possible, two dollars each before April 4, 1850, that the debts of the club might be paid, and their fellow members “be relieved from an unequal burden.” This sealed the doom of the enterprise, and “the rest is silence.” It is now far easier to organize a University Club on a fifty or one hundred dollar basis than it was then to skim the cream of intellectual Boston at five dollars a head. The fine phrase introduced by Mr. Alcott into the constitution, “the economies of the club,” proved only too appropriate, as the organization had to be very economical indeed. Its membership, nevertheless, was well chosen and varied. At its four monthly gatherings, the lecturers were Theodore Parker, Henry James the elder, Henry Giles (then eminent as a Shakespeare lecturer), and the Rev. William B. Greene, afterwards colonel of the First Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. Among the hundred or more members, there were well-known lawyers, as Sumner, E. R. Hoar, Hillard, Burlingame, Bemis, and Sewall; and there were clergymen, as Parker, Hedge, W. H. Channing, Hill, Bartol, Frothingham, and Hale; the only non-Unitarian clergyman being the Rev. John O. Choules, a cheery little English Baptist, who had been round the world with Commodore Vanderbilt in his yacht, and might well feel himself equal to any worldly companionship. The medical profession was represented by Drs. Channing, Bowditch, Howe, and Loring; and the mercantile world by the two brothers Ward, Franklin Haven, William D. Ticknor, and James T. Fields. Art appeared only in John Cheney, the engraver, and literature in the persons of Emerson, Hawthorne, Longfellow, Lowell, and Whipple. These five authors were contributors to the “Atlantic Monthly,” and took part also in the early dinners of the Atlantic Club.

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James Freeman Clarke, Reminiscences of William B. Greene

From James Freeman Clarke’s Diary and Correspondence (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1891)

[Col. William B. Greene’s Army command outside Washington, DC, November, 1861 – pages 278-282]

The whole aspect of the city is changed. It is like a city of Europe,–like Berlin, or Vienna, or St. Petersburg,–but with a difference. For this of ours is not a mere standing army, to be wielded blindly in the interests of despotism, but an intelligent army of freemen, come to protect liberty and law. It is the nation itself which has taken up arms, and come to Washington to defend its own life and the ideas of the fathers. It has come to defend the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution, laws, and traditions of the land.

Therefore the most interesting thing in and about Washington is the army, considered as a collection of individuals. I enjoyed talking with the soldiers in the camps, in the hospitals, and in Washington. I talked with many of them from all parts of the land,–Michigan, Minnesota, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Vermont, New York; Irish also, and Germans; and I never talked with men who seemed animated by a more earnest purpose; never with men more serious, manly, and unpretending. Rogues and villains there doubtless are in this, as in all armies; but they are a small minority. The mails go from every camp, weighed down with letters for friends at home. From Port Royal, the other day, the steamer brought fifteen thousand letters, an average of one for every man.

In Fort Runion which is the tete du point of the Long Bridge, there is a company of Marblehead men in garrison. Nearly every one of them has had fever and ague, for the fort is on the edge of a swamp. But the men said they were very willing to stay there, since any other company would have to be seasoned as they had been, and they were already acclimated. There was true heroism in this. . . .

Saturday, November 16, —. Went in a carriage with three friends (one of them being W. H. Channing, and another the Boston correspondent of the “New York Tribune”) over the Long Bridge, on a visit to some of the camps in Virginia. Our passes, good for ten days, and admitting us everywhere within the lines, had been procured from General McClellan. We first went to Fort Runion and Fort Albany, both garrisoned by the Massachusetts Fourteenth, and under the command of Col. William B. Greene. Colonel Greene is a graduate of West Point, and has been successively in the Florida War, as United States officer of regulars; student of theology in the Baptist Seminary, Newton; Unitarian minister at South Brookfield, Mass.; and author of various profound metaphysical, theological, and politico-economical works. From Fort Albany one overlooks the Potomac and a wide extent of country. It is a powerful fortification, defended by high earthworks, deep ditches, a tangled abattis of limbs of trees, and heavy pieces of artillery. The colonel summoned his regiment together, and asked them to sing some of their songs and hymns for the party; introducing to them more particularly Mrs. John A. Andrew. Among these songs the most conspicuous was the famous John Brown song,–

“John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave;
His soul goes marching on.
Glory, glory, hallelujah!”

Several times afterward did we hear this song sounding among the woods of Virginia; and surely it seemed true in the deepest sense. John Brown’s soul is marching on! For what is the soul of John Brown but his unconquerable hatred of slavery, and his fervent desire of seeing it abolished ? And is not that desire and feeling marching on? Is not slavery recognized more and more as the cause of the war, the deadly foe of the Union, the poison in our cup, the enemy of true democracy and true Christianity, and something which must be destroyed, if the life of the nation is to be saved ? . . .

To say this, or something equivalent, to Massachusetts men, on the banks of the Potomac, in Old Virginia, was accounted by me a privilege. The colonel asked us to address the men, and we did; but at this time we spoke of the pride which Massachusetts took in her soldiers,–of the credit they brought to the old State by their discipline in camp and courage in the field. We told them of the women at home, who could be happy only when doing something for their soldiers; and of the heroic deaths of the brave officers, Massachusetts boys, who, amid their own sufferings, thought only of the welfare of their men, and of their heroism. A lady of the party said a few words, suited to the scene and hour. . . .

During the evening, Governor Andrew took me, with two other gentlemen, to call on the President. The porter at the White House told us that he had gone out, but would soon be back. So we went on through gallery and corridor; blue room, council room, and parlor;–all lighted, and all empty. The doors stood open; but not a soul could be anywhere seen. The only signs of occupancy which we found were two pairs of little shoes standing outside a door, indicative of children sleeping quietly within. Happy children, who can play all day in a palace as in a cottage, and sleep all night undisturbed by the uneasy cares which deny rest to kings and presidents!

Selecting the room which best suited us, we talked together until the President, returning home and hearing our voices, came where we were. What is the impression which his appearance, manner, and conversation make on one? This: of an unassuming country gentleman, modest but self-possessed, with sagacity and full powers of observation, but without the least touch of political manoeuvring. Mr. Lincoln is no politician; does not pretend to be a great and accomplished statesman; but is an honest, candid, modest, sagacious American citizen. who means to do his duty as well as he can. . . .

Sunday, November 17. In the afternoon of this sunny Sunday, I walked over the Long Bridge to hold a religious service with the Massachusetts Fourteenth, in Fort Albany, in compliance with an invitation brought to me on the previous evening by three of the soldiers. It so happened that I stood to address the troops with my face to the Potomac and the city of Washington; and the soft lights of evening gathered over the scene as the service went on, and the voices of the soldiers arose in song, while “the sounding aisles of the dim woods” of Virginia rang to the anthem of the free soldiers of Massachusetts. It was a thrilling scene, and one long to be remembered by me.

After preaching, parade-drill; and after this came what the colonel called the “cultus of the flag.”

The soldiers were drawn up around the flag-staff: the band saluted the flag; the men presented arms. Then the flag was lowered by four men, and carefully folded into a triangular form; then carried by one of them in his arms reverently, while the others walked beside him; and the soldiers formed an escort for it to headquarters, where it was put away for the night on a shelf. . . .

The result of this visit to Washington was, on the whole, gratifying. Far more gratifying was this visit in 1861, in time of war, than the other in 1851, in time of peace. Then all was outward prosperity; but inwardly all was corruption. Now outwardly everything denotes disaster and calamity; but inwardly there is a brave and generous purpose. Soldiers go to the war impelled by this motive; their friends at home feel its influence. . . .

It is very sad to go through the hospitals, and see the young men maimed for life; unable any more to take part in youthful sports; never again to ride or run or swim or skate or dance. They go out with a youthful beauty which touches all hearts; they come home disfigured and deformed. What does not the nation owe to those who incur these risks for its sake?

Nevertheless, war is like a fever, in which nature makes an effort to throw off some deep-seated evil worse than the fever. Our nation was gradually becoming corrupt. The poison of slavery was penetrating every part of the social system. It corrupted the great political parties, it polluted the church, it demoralized trade, it debased society.

Is it not a grand thing to see all this flood of evil checked, even by the storm of war ?

Thus may Washington, redeemed and purified, yet become our holy city! God grant that the immense woes and wrongs of war may at least produce this happy result, a community saved from the corruptions of prosperity and peace.

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William Batchelder Greene Timeline & Miscellany


  • April 4: William B. Greene born in Haverhill, MA. Records show the name as “Green,” and this is probably before WBG’s father changed his own name from Peter Nathaniel Green to Nathaniel Greene.


  • Mary Gardiner Greene born in Haverhill, MA.
  • In 1821, the Greenes moved to Boston, where Nathaniel established the American Statesman.


  • May(?): WBG enters Chauncy Hall School, Boston, G. F. Thayer, principal.


  • May: WBG leaves Chauncy Hall School, enters Haverhill Academy, Haverhill, Ebenezer Smith, Jr., principal.


  • October: WBG leaves Haverhill Academy.
  • October 9: WBG sets out from NYC, en route to Havre and then Paris. Accompanying him is E. Henderson Otis (Mrs. H. G. Otis, Jr.). He stays with a relative, Mr. Welles, and attends school. He is in France until at least Nov. 17.


  • March 21: WBG accepts appointment to military academy at West Point.
  • July 1: WBG admitted to West Point.
  • July: in The Military and Naval Magazine, “List of the cadet appointments for 1835, to enter the military academy between the first and twentieth June” includes “William B. Green, of Suffolk county [MA].”


  • July 1: WBG withdraws from West Point.


  • November 3: in Niles Weekly, report of WBG’s appointment to 7th Infantry. [p. 159]


  • July 1: WBG appointed 2nd Lt., 7th Infantry, US Army.
  • July 11: in Army and Navy Chronicle, notice of appointment of “Wm. B. Green.”
  • December 14: in Senate Executive Journal, “William B. Greene, of the State of Massachusetts, to be 2d lieutenant, 1st July 1839.” p. 230


  • February 9: stated date of composition of William B. Greene’s “Song of Espousal,” “Fort Russell, East Florida.”
  • June 23: in Senate Executive Journal, M. Van Buren nominates “Nathaniel Greene at Boston” for the post of “deputy postmaster.” p.293
  • November 19: in Army and Navy Chronicle, William B. Greene’s “Song of Espousal” reprinted for The Token for 1841. [source: Boston Evening Gazette] [p. 334]


  • Early November: WBG returns to Boston.
  • November 9: Ralph Waldo Emerson mentions Greene’s return in letter to Margaret Fuller. The same day, Fuller asks, in a letter to Emerson, “how do you like our military-spiritual-heroico-vivacious phoenix of the day?” The reference is to Greene, who is already a favorite of Elizabeth Palmer Peabody.


  • April 1/2: Emerson writes to Greene via Elizabeth Peabody. Greene has been attempting to schedule a meeting with Emerson. Emerson suggests April 4.
  • April 4: WBG’s 23rd birthday. According to a letter to Emerson, written that day, he has a prior commitment to spend the day with Ida Russell (a participant in some of Fuller’s conversations.) He asks to visit Emerson April 7.
  • April 7: The meeting with Emerson apparently takes place.
  • October 12: WBG accepted as “resident student” at Newton Theological Institution. He will concentrate on research as he tries to determine his proper religious vocation.
  • November 25: Emerson, in a letter to Frederic Hedge, reports that WBG preached at Orestes Brownson’s Society for Christian Union and Progress “a week or more since.”


  • February 1: in Christian Reflector, “William B. Green, Boston” is listed among “resident students” at Newton Theological Institution. [p. 20]



  • July 26: in Christian Register, account of the Annual Visitation and Exhibition, Friday, July 18, at the Cambridge Divinity School. William B. Greene was 8th among presenters. with “The Scholastic Philosophy in Connection with Christianity.” [p. 118]
  • August: in Monthly Religious Magazine, “Annual Visitation of the Cambridge Divinity School,” announces graduates and dissertations, including, “The Scholastic Philosophy in Connexion with Christianity,” by Mr. William B. Greene. [p. 286]
  • September: in Christian Examiner and Religious Miscellany, notice of Cambridge Visitation. [p. 280]
  • November 8: in Christian Register, “Ordination,” “On Wednesday last, Rev. William B. Greene, recently of the Theological School, Cambridge, was ordained as Pastor of the First Congregational Church of South Brookfield. The Council assembled at 10 o’clock, of which Rev. Dr. Thompson of Barre was chosen Moderator, and opened the meeting with Prayer. The public religious services were introduced with prayer by the Rev. Mr. Allen of Northborough. Selections from the Scripture were read by Rev. Samuel May of Leicester. The sermon was preached by Rev. James F. Clarke of Boston from II. Cor. iv. 13. ‘We also believe, and therefore speak.’ The Ordaining Prayer was offered by Rev. Mr. Wellington of Templeton. The Charge by Rev. Dr. Parkman of Boston. The Right Hand of Fellowship by Rev. Mr. Nute of Petersham. The Address to the People by Rev. Alonzo Hill of Worcester. The Benediction by the Paster. The services were attended by a numerous assembly, and we rejoice in the good prospects of that ancient and respectable Society.” p. 178


  • March: in Christian Examiner and Religious Miscellany, notice of William B. Greene’s participation in the ordination of Rev. Frederick Henry Bond, January 7, in Barre, MA. [p. 316] In The Monthly Religious Magazine, notice of February 4 ordination of Hubbardston, MA. Reading of the Scriptures by William B. Greene. [p. 142]
  • June 27: in Christian Register, “Sunday School Convention at Templeton,” reports “Short addresses were then made by Rev. . . . Green of South Brookfield. . . .” p. 103
  • September 14: Elizabeth “Bessie” Greene, daughter of William Batchelder Greene and Anna Blake Shaw Greene, born, Brookfield (?), MA. []


  • October 9: in the Christian Register, William B. Greene responds to “A Personal Trinity” (Boston Recorder, August 12, 1847) with a short letter. [SCAN IN FULL]
  • November 20: in the Christian Register, William B. Greene’s second reply to the author of “A Personal Trinity.”


  • February 26: in Christian Register, “Personal Experience,” extracts from Greene’s The Incarnation. [p. 2]
  • April 22: in Christian Register, reports ordination on April 12 of Rev. G. W. Weeks, “recently of Brookfield, having been invited to and accepted the Pastoral charge of the Unitarian Society in Pomfret, Vt., at their request he was ordained by a Council convened by the First Congregational Church in Brookfield–Rev. W. B. Greene, Pastor. . . . Charge by Rev. W. B. Greene. . . . Mr. Weeks has been a much respected and successful Minister of the Methodist denomination, in Brookfield.” [source: Springfield Republican] [p. 67]
  • May: in Christian Examiner and Religious Miscellany, a review of Greene’s The Incarnation. [p. 466-7]
  • June: in The Monthly Religious Magazine, a report of the Ministerial Conference at “Church of the Savior,” Wednesday, May 31. “Rev. W. B. Green designated the diversities that obtain among Unitarians, and took the ground that no man denying the Resurrection is theologically a Christian. Adjourned.” [p. 288]
  • July: in The Monthly Religious Magazine, account of installation of Rev. Ephraim Nute, June 21. Sermon by Rev. Mr. Greene of Brookfield. [p. 334]
  • August 12: in Christian Register, notice of donations to the American Unitarian Association includes: “From Rev W B Greene of Brookfield for Tracts 10.00.” [p. 131]
  • September: in Christian Examiner and Religious Miscellany, a short review of Remarks in Refutation of Jonathan Edwards. [p. 307]
  • September 9: in Christian Register, “We rejoice to know that a young preacher, by the name of Penniman, who has studied with Rev. W. B. Greene of Brookfield, is about to devote himself to the care of the church at Savannah, that he will receive ordination as an Evangelist, and take charge of the society sometime in the next month. Dr. Penniman has been quite acceptable in the practice of medicine in Worcester county, and confidently trust will be blest now as a Physician of souls.” [p. 147]
  • October 7: in Christian Register, reports ordination as an Evangelist of Dr. J. Allen Penniman. “. . . charge by Rev. Mr. Green, of Brookfield. . . . Dr. Penniman has been a respectable physician in Brookfield. . . .” [p. 163]
  • November: in Christian Examiner and Religious Miscellany, another report of Rev. J. Allen Penniman’s ordination, September 29, in Worcester. Sermon by Rev. William B. Greene, from Hebrews viii. 5. [p. 472] Also noted in The Monthly Religious Magazine, p. 525.


  • May: in Christian Examiner and Religious Miscellany, short notice of Greene’s Letter to Eber Carpenter. [p. 516-7]
  • October: in The Rural Repository, “Notes by the Way” (Prisoner’s Friend) reports, “Leaving Brookfield, we called on our devoted friend, Rev. Mr. Greene, in the South parish. We were kindly received here and encouraged in our labors, not by good words only, but by something more substantial.” p. 85
  • November 24: in Christian Register, a review of Equality. [SCAN IN FULL]
  • December: in The Massachusetts Quarterly Review, notice of the publication of Equality, with the note: “This is a valuable and keen criticism of the Currency, and Institutions, and Practices, connected with it, showing how easily Capital prevails over Labor. We regret to have no space for extracts.” Josiah Warren’s Equitable Commerce, 2nd ed., is also noted. [p. 160]


  • March: in The Massachusetts Quarterly Review, “Two New Trinities,” a review of George F. Simmons’ The Trinity: its Scriptural Foundation and the early construction of Church Doctrines respecting it, and William B. Greene’s A New Gnosis. PP196-200 cover Greene’s text. [SCAN FULL TEXT]
  • March 16: in Christian Register, “A corresponent of the Lowell Advertiser, writing from Washington, states that Mr. Nathaniel Green, after eighteen years’ service as Postmaster of Boston, has, within a few days, closed his account of millions with the post office department, and upon a final settlement received a check for seven hundred dollars and the thanks of the head of the department for the faithful discharge of his duties and the prompt settlement of his accounts.” p.43
  • July 13: in Christian Register, reports ordination of Mr. Francis Le Baron as “Evangelist and minister at large” in Worcester, MA. “Charge, by Rev. Wm. B. Greene of Brookfield.” p. 111
  • August: in The Monthly Religious Magazine, a report of the ordination of Francis Le Baron.
  • September: in Christian Examiner and Religious Miscellany, yet another report of the ordination of Francis Le Baron. [p. 316]
  • October: in The Rural Repository, “Notes by the Way” (Prisoner’s Friend) reports, “S. BROOKFIELD. Rev. Mr. Greene here has aided us from year to year, and expressed the deepest interest in our cause.” p. 96
  • November: in Monthly Religious Magazine, “Intelligence,” reports on the Autumnal Convention in Springfield, MA, Oct 15-17. SELECTIONS: “Rev. Mr. Greene of Brookfield asked, how men could be brought to recognize these truths; what was meant by coming to and humbling the soul before Christ?” [p. 520-528] [SCAN IN FULL]


  • May: in Christian Examiner and Religious Miscellany, notice of Christian Hymns for Public and Private Worship, 26th ed. Boston: Crosby & Nichols. Includes contributions from “Rev. W. B. Greene’s . . . Brookfield, Mass.” [p. 535]



  • July 22: in the Liberator, a report of the debate in the Massachusetts State Constitutional Convention, Tuesday, July 12, including William B. Greene’s speech. [SCAN IN FULL]
  • Augest 19: in the Liberator, on page 131, under the heading “POLITICAL RIGHTS OF WOMEN,” notice of Greene’s speech of July 12, published in full on page 153. “Our readers will find, on our last page, a very able defence of the right of the Women of Massachusetts to vote upon the adoption of the amended Constitution of the State, by Rev. WILLIAM B. GREENE, of Brookfield. It was made in the Convention; and if right, not might–reason, not prejudice–justice, not precedent–had prevailed, its appeals would have been as successful as they are unanswerable. Mr. Greene makes his democracy a matter of PRINCIPLE, and deserves the credit which belongs to an honest, consistent and outspoken man.”


  • August 14: in the Liberator, “Collections for the Anti-Slavery Society” includes $100 from “Anna Shaw Greene, Jamaica Plain. [p. 131]
  • November 20: in the Liberator, a notice and review of The Radical Deficiency of the Existing Circulating Medium. [p. 186] [SCAN IN FULL]
  • December: in The Monthly Religious Magazine and Independent Journal, a short review of The Radical Deficiency of the Existing Circulating Medium: “Half a dozen years ago, several citizens of Brookfield, of whom Mr. Greene was the leading and directing mind, presented a paper to the State Legislature, praying permission to establish a mutual bank, for which the property of all stockholders should be pledged, to an extent not exceeding three quarters of its real amount, and whose bills should be redeemable, at all their places of business, not in specie, but in all manner of goods. The plan and the argument here offered have an ingenious amplification and defense in this compact volume. In moeny or metaphysics, in banking or in abstract contemplation, Mr. Greene’s intellect is equally ready, energetic, brilliant, and “impracticable.” If the book–which is virtually a bright criticism on may points of political economy, as well as a special plea–is not read in such times as these, the author may well despair of a hearing.” [p. 432]


  • January: in The North American Review, a notice of the publication of The Radical Deficiency of the Existing Circulating Medium. [p. 299]
  • December 22: Francis Parkman writes from Paris to his sister, Molly, “I am well lodged, Hotel de France, 239 Rue St. Honore—I have felt much better since arriving. I find abundant occupation for the winter. I often see Anna Greene, and have been at Howland’s and Mrs. Wharton’s. For the rest, I shun Americans like the pest. I have not even given my address to my bankers, Hottinguer & Co., to whom please direct. I tell them to send my letters to Wm. Greene.”


  • January: in The North American Review, a notice of the publication of The Radical Deficiency of the Existing Circulating Medium. [p. 299]
  • January 19: Francis Parkman writes from Paris to his sister, Molly, “I see Anna Greene almost daily. Greene is a capital fellow, and nothing of a parson.”



  • January 16: in The Round Table. A Saturday Review of Politics, Finance, Literature, Society, mention of “Nose of a Notary,” published by Loring and translated by “a daughter of Col. Greene, of the Post.” [p. 78]


  • August 1: in American Literary Gazette and Publishers’ Circular, a notice of the publication of The Sovereignty of the People. [p. 164]


  • March 1: in American Literary Gazette and Publishers’ Circular, a notice of the publication of The Theory of the Calculus. [p. 252] Repeated March 15, p. 285.
  • July 1: in The Literary World; a Monthly Review of Current Literature, a notice of the publication of The Theory of the Calculus, by Wm. B. Greene. [p. 31]


  • May: in The Religious Magazine and Monthly Review, notice of Transcendentalism, 4th edition, and The Facts of Consciousness and the Philosophy of Mr. Herbert Spencer: These “are the titles of two remarkable pamphlets by Mr. William B. Greene, and will furnish what William Corbett would call “a bone to gnaw,” to those who have a liking for such hard problems in Psychology. We look upon Mr. Greene as an able and independent writer, less satisfactory, perhaps, than he would be were it not for the slight excess of individualism which marks his productions.” [p 544]
  • May 1: in American Literary Gazette and Publishers’ Circular, notice of The Facts of Consciousness and the Philosophy of Mr. Herbert Spencer. [p. 14]
  • August 1: in American Literary Gazette and Publishers’ Circular, notice of the publication of Transcendentalism, 4th edition. [p. 187]
  • November: in Lippincott’s Magazine of Popular Literature and Science, notice of the publication of Transcendentalism, 4th edition. [p. 528]


  • January: in The Universalist Quarterly and General Review, publication notices for Transcendentalism, 4th ed., and The Facts of Consciousness and the Philosophy of Mr. Herbert Spencer. [p. 128]
  • December 11: in Christian Union, Edward E. Hale writes, “As William Greene says, very wisely, if you want a quality, act as if you had it already, and by habit it will grow.” [p. 482]


  • April: in The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, a short review of The Blazing Star. [p 95-6] [SCAN IN FULL]



  • May 7: Bessie Greene and Susan Dimock die in wreck of the Schiller, off the Scilly Isles.
  • May 11: in New York Times, “Miss Susan Dimock, M.D., of Boylston street, Boston, and Miss Bessie Green, daughter of Col. W. B. Green, of the same city, were well known there and highly respected. Hopes are still entertained of their having survived the terrible disaster, because Miss Dimock was an excellent swimmer. [p. 1, col. 5] Also, “The following dead have been indentified:. . . Miss S. Dimock.” [p. 1, col. 4]

Socialistic, Communistic, Mutualistic, and Financial Fragments (1875):

  • June 1: in The Literary World; a Monthly Review of Current Literature: “These ‘Fragments’ are a series of Essays on the before name questions, by a representative American writer and thinker. The advance ground taken, the vigorous thought displayed, and the finely cultivated style of the author will interest numerous readers, who will find very much that is valuable within these pages.” [p. 2]
  • June 24: in the New England Evangelist: “This book is well described by its title. Its author, Col. Green, has his own independent views, and as chairman of the Executive Committee of the Labor Reform League, has said much at different times to indicate the fact. With much he says we agree, and with much we disagree. But the author is evidently an honest thinker, and entitled to a hearing. His use of English renders his thoughts sufficiently perspicuous.” [p. 2]
  • July: in The Unitarian Review and Religious Magazine: a short notice. [p. 112]



  • November 29: Death of Nathaniel Greene.


  • July 9: in letter to Sarah Shaw, Lydia Maria Child writes, “Dear Bessie Green’s rule never to separate a mother from her illegitimate child was a wise provision for this craving of human nature.” [Child, Selected Letters, p. 552.]
  • October: in The New-England Historical and Genealogical Register, Charles Carleton Coffin’s “Memoir of Nathaniel Greene” provides one of the best biographical sources available to date. Portions are taken from a history of Boscawen and Webster, NH. A daughter of Charles Gordon Greene, Mrs. Charlotte G. Cunston, is identified. [pp 373-8] [SCAN IN FULL + PORTRAIT]


  • September 24: in The Literary World; a Monthly Review of Current Literature, a mention of Three Vows and Other Poems, by William Batchelder Greene [II]. [p. 331]
  • November: in The Dial; a Semi-monthly Journal of Literary Criticism, Discussion, and Information, a mention of Three Vows and Other Poems. [p. 156]
  • December: in The Californian, a mention of Three Vows and Other Poems. [p. 537]


  • April 28: in The Literary World; a Monthly Review of Current Literature, a mention of “Cloud Rifts at Twilight,” by William Batchelder Greene [II]. [p. 142]
  • May 24: in the Christian Union, a short, positive review of Cloudrifts at Twilight,” by William Batchelder Greene [II]. [p. 663]
  • May 26: in The Literary World; a Monthly Review of Current Literature, a short review of Cloudrifts at Twilight: “We have made a conscientious effort to discern either rhyme or reason in the Cloudrifts at Twilight of William of William Batchelder Greene [G. P. Putnam’s Sons. $1.25], and have had difficulty in finding either. Flashes of reason there are now and then and even occasional revelations of a definite purpose, but most of the productions in the volume seem like the incoherent ravings of delerium.” [p. 167]
  • July: in The Catholic World, A Monthly Magazine of General Literature and Science, a short review of Cloudrifts at Twilight: “Mr Greene’s verses are beautifully printed on admirably thick paper. It grieves us not to find anything more hearty to say by way of recommendation of his volume. Considered as a poet, we dare not recommend him to take comfort in the thought he has embodied in his “Heart of Grace.” “Oblivious fame,” we fear, will go on sleeping, let him raise his voice never so high and pile up the “numbers of his songs” until they resemble Pelion upon Ossa. Fame is rather deaf to poets in our generation anyhow. They multiply like rabbits in Australia under the fancied necessities of so many monthly magazines, and though a good many of them manage rhyme and rhythm with more facility and correctness than Mr. Greene, and though they constitute a mutual admiration society, most of them, being “critics” as well, it is more than doubtful that fame will consent to carry the burden they impose upon her beyond their tombstones. Mr. Greene’s will hardly go so far.” [p. 571]

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