In Whitman's Hand

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About this Item

Title: Fourier and His Ideas.

Creators: Walt Whitman, Unknown

Date: Between 1850 and 1860

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00043

Source: Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. Transcribed from digital images of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the marginalia and annotations, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note(s): At one point, this manuscript likely formed part of Whitman's cultural geography scrapbook.

Contributors to digital file: Ashlyn Stewart and Kevin McMullen


Key


Paste-on | Whitman's Notes on Paste-on | Whitman's Highlighting on Paste-on | Erasure | Overwrite



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FOURIER AND HIS IDEAS.


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To the Editor of The N. Y. Tribune.

SIR: To-morrow will be the eighty-fifth anniversary of the birth of CHARLES FOURIER. He was born in Besançon, France, on the 7th of April, 1772, and died in Paris on the 10th of October, 1837.

The time may come when mankind will recall these dates with some interest. Meanwhile, allow me to correct certain gross misconceptions in respect to FOURIER, which, in an age so intelligent as ours, ought never to have existed.

I. FOURIER was not, in any received sense of the word, a Socialist. The great founder of Social Science was as much opposed to any promiscuous, hap-hazard association of individuals as the founders of musical science would have been to any promiscuous, hap-hazard combination of sounds; for the former would be as far from producing Social Harmony (the only end at which Fourier aimed) as the latter from producing musical harmony. In other words, the Science of Society, as expounded by FOURIER, is the science of combining and concording individual characters—which differ from each other as much and as regularly as the essential sounds which form the basis of music—in a system of Association, governed by rules as absolute and as perfect as the rules that govern sounds, forms, colors, etc., and produce, when rightly applied, musical, geometrical and chromatic harmonies. These rules are essentially the same in all the Harmonies of the universe, the fundamental law of which is UNITY OF SYSTEM.

II. FOURIER was in no sense of the word a Communist; his fundamental doctrine in respect to property was, that the profits of industry (the basis of all wealth) should be distributed in proportion to the labor, talent and capital of each individual.

III. FOURIER was neither an infidel nor a skeptic, but recognized in all works of creation the hand of a supreme and overruling Providence. In fact, he married his belief in this respect to the extent of believing that God in creating man and creating him as a SOCIAL BEING, precalculated and preordinated for him a system of social relations which he should long since have discovered and established, instead of usurping the Divine Prerogative and devising arbitrary systems of his own. FOURIER contended that, if man had had any real faith in the Universality of Providence, he would have known that God must have framed a system of laws for the regulation of our social relations, and that any other system, based on human reason alone, would result in general antagonism, discord, war, suffering and crime. FOURIER's infidelity "hath "this extent, no more."

IV. FOURIER was not in favor of any immediate change in the relations of the sexes, but held that our present system of marriage was the best that could be devised for the existing social order. But he believed, rightly or not, that human society is destined to continue its onward career, and to go through various other phases of development, each more perfect than the one preceding, and as different from each other as the Patriarchal state from the Savage, as the Civilized from the Barbaric; with each successive phase, he held, must come new manners and customs, new modes of life, new social relations and institutions, approximating nearer and nearer to the absolute or harmonic standard; and, in keeping with this theory, he contended that at last, under the reign of UNIVERSAL ASSOCIATION, there would be a code of laws for regulating the relations of the sexes which would produce a system of Amatory Harmony as perfect, as varied in its effects, as full of rich accords, and as free from monotony, as the system of Musical Harmony.

V. FOURIER did not advocate the unlicensed gratification of the passions; but he did insist that all the faculties and powers of man ought to be fully and harmoniously developed—1st. Because they were implanted in us by God for this and no other purpose; 2d. Because it is only by the integral, systematic and harmonic development of his whole nature, moral, intellectual and physical, that man can fulfill his destiny on earth, which is to realize upon it universal harmony, and secure the reign of UNIVERSAL TRUTH, UNIVERSAL HEALTH, UNIVERSAL WEALTH, and UNIVERSAL HAPPINESS.


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FOURIER'S system, so far from being based on the principle of self-indulgence and epicurism, implies a system of UNIVERSAL INDUSTRY, the active participation in which, on the part of every individualᾹman, woman and child—will constitute the chief source of human happiness.

That a man who held such opinions, and who gave a long and irreproachable life to their advocacy, should be constantly held up to public opprobrium, and that this opprobrium should be invoked also upon the heads of all his disciples, and even upon the heads of all who would give him a fair hearing, may not be inexplicable, but I submit that it is very unjust.

New-York, April 6, 1857.

HENRY CLAPP, JR.


———

[We gladly give place to the foregoing, without fully concurring in the view of the writer. Fourier, in his various writings, developed some great truths, for which the world had long waited, and which it will in due season accept and profit by. The great and difficult problem of reconciling universal plenty with individual possession or property, unfailing work and just recompense for each with unlimited freedom of acquirement, family privacy with the most perfect social economy, has been solved by Charles Fourier. There should be no paupers, but the criminal or the utterly incapable, in a community penetrated by his suggestions. So far, we hold the world deeply indebted to him, and believe his leading ideas of Attractive Industry and Associated Effort will yet be widely and beneficently realized. But if he taught or held that there would ever come a time, under any possible social order, wherein the father and mother of children could innocently dissolve their marital partnership and enter respectively into marital relations with new partners, then we say that his views on this point were utterly mistaken and wrong, and can never be reduced to practice without producing universal anarchy and immorality. It is the part of wisdom to separate truth from error in every man's teachings, accepting the former only—or, in the words of St. Paul, "Prove [try] all things; hold fast that which is good."—Ed. Trib.]


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Remember Le Bruns illustrations of "Comparative anatomy" where he groups the physiognomy of the ^native races of animals of a country and the physiognomy of the ^native races of human beings of the same country.—


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