In 1892 most of the nation had heard of Edward Bellamy (1850 - 1898), but very few people knew the name of Edward's first cousin, Francis Bellamy (1855 - 1931). During their lifetimes, Edward Bellamy's name was much better known than Francis's. Even today, with almost the whole nation reciting Francis's Pledge, perhaps more people know the name of Edward Bellamy, although neither are recognized by the vast majority of Americans.
In 1892, Edward Bellamy was famous as the author of the best seller, Looking Backward, and the leader of a socialist movement called "Nationalism." Francis Bellamy was a vice president of the Christian Society of Socialists, an auxiliary of Edward's Nationalist movement. Francis worked as a lieutenant in the campaign to nationalize the American economy gradually and peacefully. Occasionally Edward and Francis were mistaken for brothers since both were involved in Nationalism and were only five years apart in age.
Their fathers were brothers who both spent their lives in the Baptist ministry. Edward's father, Rufus King Bellamy (1816 - 1886) was a younger brother of Francis's father, David Bellamy (1806 - 1864). Edward was raised in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, now part of Chicopee near Springfield. Francis spent most of his childhood in Rome, New York.
Their grandfather was Jonathan Bellamy (1781 - 1845), a successful merchant in Washington County, New York State. The earliest Bellamy ancestors to arrive in New England had come to Connecticut from England in the 1630's. The most famous of their New England ancestors was Jonathan's grandfather, Joseph Bellamy (1719 - 1790). He had studied under Jonathan Edwards and was a life long friend and lieutenant in Jonathan Edwards's famous revival, the "Great Awakening." Although Jonathan Edward's fire and brimstone theology is now mainly a curiosity, Joseph Bellamy's writings still have an honored place in many seminaries. His theology was compatible with the spirit of the American Revolution.
Edward was born in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, on March 26, 1850. Rufus King Bellamy his father, was the Baptist minister for thirty-five years in this village which is now part of Chicopee now on the edge of Springfield, Massachusetts.
Edward was educated in the public school of the village. He was a leader, during the 1860's, in the Chicopee Young Men's Lyceum, a debating society. Even then his radical ideas were beginning to show.
Back in America, he studied law in the office of Leonard & Wells in Springfield and was admitted to the bar in 1871, but he practiced only a few months because he saw the law as one more way the wealthy exploited the poor. He then moved into the newspaper world. In 1871 he was an editorial contributor to the New York Evening Post and then an editorial writer and columnist on the staff of the Springfield Daily Union from 1872 - 1877.
In 1881 Edward married Emma A. Sanderson and they had two children. Their son, Paul, became editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and their daughter, Mrs. Earnshaw, tried to revive Edward's Nationalist movement in the Great Depression, when she was president of the International Alliance of Bellamy Clubs.
In 1880 Edward and his brother, Charles, founded the Springfield Daily News. Charles Bellamy wrote several books critical of the social and industrial conditions of the factory system, one being "The Breton Mills," published in 1879. Much of the brothers' analysis of the American economy came from watching the changes in Chicopee during the 1870's and 1880's.
During this period, Chicopee changed from a New England village to a mill town with large numbers of skilled and semi-skilled factory workers. The working class was growing and was coming to be composed of Irish, French-Canadian and Polish workers, who were devout Roman Catholics. By the 1870's the Irish were supplanting the Yankee middle class in the political leadership of the growing town. By 1875, thirty-five per cent of the total population was of foreign birth.
Edward soon turned the newspaper business over to his brother and began to devote his full time to writing stories. William Dean Howells, the leading literary critic of his day, thought him the literary successor of Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Many of his stories were related to the life of the native New Englanders in Chicopee. The growing town's social life was characteristic of small town life throughout the country. The high point of this middle-class community was in the 1870's and, socially, life was fuller than it ever had been. The decade was marked by the growth of lyceums and debating societies, an increase in the number of concerts and lectures, the organization of brass bands and singing societies, and of baseball teams, tennis clubs and even a country club. Amateur theatricals were popular and there was a rapid proliferation of the fraternal lodges and societies. Drawing classes, spelling bees, parties of all kind were frequent. Meanwhile, the solid citizenry busied itself with social work, which sometimes involved the cause of temperance work.
But the atmosphere of Edward's short stories reflected another part of Yankee village life in the 1870's and 1880's. This was Mary Baker Eddy's world, a world of lonely people who had lost their vital interests and were bored and ailing. Edward's tales mirrored this boredom. He then struck out on a line that was followed by H. G. Wells a decade later. In the small town of which he wrote, with all its interest in pseudo-science, there was also an interest in actual science. The marvels of applied science appealed to their Yankee inventiveness and his stories began to reflect this feeling and envisioned possibilities for the future based on advances in physics, mechanics and psychology.
The widespread labor unrest of the late 1870's and 1880's, culminating in the bloody Haymarket Square Riot in Chicago in 1886, deeply disturbed Edward. The trial of the five Chicago anarchists involved in the riot showed him that Americans would kill five innocent people for their unpopular socialist beliefs. All of this found expression in Edward's most famous book, Looking Backward. Published in 1888, it sold over a 100,000 copies in its first year. Eventually over a million copies were printed in the United States and Europe and it was translated into over twenty languages.
Looking Backward was the best-selling book in the decade following its publication and the third most popular work of fiction in the nineteenth century, ranking just behind Uncle Tom's Cabin and Ben Hur. Its intellectual and emotional influence was enormous. In 1935, the philosopher John Dewey and historian Charles Beard ranked Looking Backward among the two most influential books published between 1885 and 1935. Some economists ranked it just behind Marx's Das Kapital as most influential book on economics published in the nineteenth century . Mark Twain was fascinated by the book and invited Edward Bellamy to visit him. William Dean Howells said that it moved the nation more than any other American work. (Howells eventually became a socialist who followed Tolstoy's type of Christian Socialism.)
Looking Backward is the story of Julian West, who falls into a deep trance-like sleep in 1887 and awakens one hundred and thirteen years later in a glorious new Boston. He finds that the United States by the year 2000 has become a giant corporation utilizing every conceivable labor-saving device in order to increase productivity and consumer happiness. Each citizen is a shareholder in this giant enterprise and all have equal incomes. The men, like Army draftees, join the country's "industrial army" at the age of twenty-one and serve until age forty-five, when they may retire. As in the Army, the government assigns all jobs according to the country's needs. Those assigned to the most arduous jobs work the shortest hours and vice versa. The role of the Victorian heroine and other women in this socialist utopia is a little unclear, but it did give the Victorian women an example of a middle class women freely joining the work force and escaping the drudgery of housekeeping, an idea considered "radical" by many conservatives of the time.
There are no wars, no political parties, no politicians, no paper money. Citizens are issued credit cards which are used to draw goods from public storehouses, which look much like today's shopping malls. Everyone receives the same amount of credit yearly. Arrogance, servility, envy and greed are at a minimum.
Bellamy pictured the transition to a secure and happy utopia as taking place by natural stages from an economy dominated by capitalistic monopolies to one owned by the government. Unlike Marxists, Bellamy did not see class war as an inevitable step in the transition from capitalism to socialism. His utopian socialism was to be reached through peaceful and gradual transition, not through violent proletarian revolution.
Around the nation some of the readers of Looking Backward desired to discuss the social implications of this novel and to promote its vision of the future. "Bellamy Clubs," soon to be called "Nationalist Clubs," were organized throughout the nation. Eventually 167 clubs were formed, a few of them were headed by people still famous, such as Clarence Darrow of the Chicago Nationalist Club. Thus, Looking Backward led to the formation of a movement which had an important influence on the politics of the 1888-1892 period and, later, on the reforms of the Progressive Era.
The first Nationalist Club was formed in Boston. On September 18, 1888, two Civil War veterans, Captain Charles E. Bowers and General A. F. Devereux formed the "Boston Bellamy Club." Bellamy had received correspondence from other people in the Boston area interested in the same subject, and he had invited Cyrus Field Willard of the Boston Globe and Sylvester Baxter of the Boston Herald to a December meeting at Captain Bowers's office. Also attending were five Christian socialists, Alzire A. Chevallier of the Christian Science Monitor, Frederick White, Reverend W.P.D. Bliss, Edward Everett Hale, and William Dean Howells.
On December 15, 1888, they formed the Boston Nationalist Club. Edward Bellamy, who attended this meeting, insisted that his name not be used, and at Captain Bower's suggestion the name "Nationalist" was substituted. This "Nationalism" signified not "my country over others" but "nationalization" or public ownership and management of the economy.
Cyrus Field Willard had been a member of the Socialist Labor Party but had become discouraged by their disputes and dissensions. He was labor editor of the Boston Globe. Sylvester Baxter was an editorial writer on the Boston Herald. Both men were also leaders in the American Theosophist Society, a small religious movement that tried to combine the best of the religions of the Far East with Christianity. Baxter soon became president of the Theosophical Society in Malden, the town James Upham lived in.
Eventually this Nationalist Club was called the Boston Nationalist Club Number One to distinguish it from the Boston Nationalist Club Number Two, which was founded in 1889. The Boston Nationalist Club Number One held discussions on theory and values. Its activities included lectures, discussions and contacts with various world-wide socialist and reform movements in conjunction with its religious auxiliary, the Christian Society of Socialists.
Two charter members of this Nationalist Club became leaders in the Society of Christian Socialists, an auxiliary formed in Boston on February 18, 1889. They were Edward's cousin, Francis Bellamy, then a Baptist minister, and W. D. P. Bliss of the Protestant Episcopal Church. Bliss became President and Francis Bellamy, Vice President in charge of Education.
Very soon after the Society of Christian Socialists was organized, its monthly publication, The Dawn, was founded. Its managing editor was Rev. W.D.P. Bliss and among its associate editors were Edward Bellamy and Frances Willard, President of the Women's Christian Temperance Union.
The Society`s Declaration of Principles reflected Francis Bellamy's economic beliefs. The principles stated that economic rights and powers were gifts of God, not for the receiver's use only, but for the benefit of all. All social, political and industrial relations should be based on the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man, in the spirit of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Capitalism was not based on Christian love but on a selfish individualism. (Today we might use the words "free market system" or "free enterprise" for "capitalism." The term "free enterprise" was coined in the 1930's by the National Association of Manufacturers because the word "capitalism," labeled an economic system blamed by many for the misery of the Great Depression.)
The Christian Socialists, like other socialists, believed the social results of capitalism were undesirable. The natural resources of the earth and the mechanical inventions of man were made to accrue disproportionately to the advantage of the few. Because production was unplanned, commercial and industrial crises, now called business recessions or depressions, were common. The control of business was rapidly concentrating in the hands of a dangerous plutocracy, and thus the destiny of the masses of wage earners was becoming increasingly dependent on the will and resources of a narrowing number of employers. The greed and selfishness of the capitalist system encouraged the moral evils of mammonism, recklessness, overcrowding, intemperance, prostitution, and crime.
Christians should protest against such an economic system and should demand a reconstructed social order based on the principle that "We are members one of another." The tendency of businesses to form combinations and trusts would eventually result in the development of a few giant business monopolies which could be taken over peacefully by the federal, state and local governments. These democratic governments then would build a new order based upon a socialist economic system combined with Christian love and charity. .
A major objective of the Christian Socialists was to show that the objectives of socialism were embraced in the goals of Christianity. The teachings of Jesus Christ lead directly toward some form of socialism and, in obedience to Christ, the Christian Church should apply itself to the realization of the Social Gospel of Christianity through Socialism.
In an article in The Dawn, "Aims and Methods," (August,1889) Francis Bellamy stated that Christian Socialists had entered into their organization for the propagation of these convictions. He argued that the members of the Church should recognize that the capitalistic system was questionable from the point of view of righteousness and that, until the system was questioned, the ethics of Jesus could not be introduced into business.
Francis believed the Bible clearly promoted the principles of socialism. In the Old Testament the sayings of Moses were based upon a socialistic conception of the state. In the New Testament Jesus preached a Social Gospel of the duties of the strong to the weak and the Gospel of the Golden Rule. Christ said that "They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition for the love of money is the root of all evil" and "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."
Early disciples of the church and the writers of the New Testament, such as the Apostle James and the Apostle John, believed that church members should look out for each other. James, possibly the brother of Jesus, said, "...Ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you...your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as if it were fire...behold, the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud..."
Some theologians would argue that some of the early Christian fellowships were communistic, but probably few would agree with Francis Bellamy that they were socialistic. Some believed in "primitive communism" in the sense that they believed in sharing their wealth and income. Probably none believed that the government - then the Roman Empire - should own all productive resources, which then included slaves.
"Communism" was the ultimate goal of the Communist Party in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and for most other "Communist" countries in the twentieth century. However, their actual economies were not primitive communism but rather totalitarian state socialism with little equality of income. Atheism was the state's official "religion."
Marx hoped the state would wither away eventually after a stage of state socialism, but the totalitarian socialist governments run by the communist parties in the twentieth century showed no tendency to give up power willingly. The communist parties in these totalitarian socialist states were as exploitative as any capitalist class. As the only political party permitted in the Soviet Union, the Communist Party claimed that only it knew the truth - "scientific materialism" - and the expression of other political points of view was a criminal act.
Francis Bellamy, as a Vice President in the Society of Christian Socialists, was an active speaker and chairman of its Educational Committee. His lectures included, "The Socialism of the Bible," "What is Christian Socialism?," "Jesus the Socialist,"and "How Many Angels Can Live on the Point of a Needle?," about the poor women in sweat shops. He gave a series of sermons on the socialism of the primitive Church, drawn from the Acts of the Apostles.
He designed, taught and promoted two courses for the Society's education program called,"Classes in the Study of Social Christianity." The contents of the first course was as follows:
I. An Edward Bellamy Digest of his book, "Looking Backward." II. The Yesterday of Labor, or the Rule of Might. III. The Today of Labor, or Something is still Wrong. IV. The Tomorrow of Labor of What Can be Done. V. The Subject Reviewed in the Light of the Bible.
The second course covered the following topics: I. The Competitive System, II. Cooperation and Profit Sharing, III. Socialism versus Anarchy, V. Christian Socialism.
The classes met once a month or more . Members of the class paid a fee and received a six month subscription to The Dawn. Instruction was loosely based on the Socratic method. The subjects fitted well into the themes of the Nationalist Movement.
On October 24, 1889, a second Nationalist Club was founded in Boston. This Nationalist Club Number Two was much more oriented towards political action on the local level. In 1890 it pressured the Massachusetts State Legislature for the right of municipalities to set up their own electric, gas, and water utilities. The electric and gas companies opposed giving the municipalities this "socialist" right, but, after several ups-and-downs, the legislation passed in 1891. During the hearings, Richard T. Ely, liberal economist and author on the James Upham's Lyceum League of America's reading list, had a role in presenting arguments for municipal ownership of public utilities.
The founder and President of Boston Nationalist Club Number Two was Henry Legate, a lawyer. He and other members also succeeded in demanding that Boston have a fuel department to buy coal not only for the various departments of the city, but also for citizens that wished to buy it. This bill passed in 1892, but eventually the Supreme Court of Massachusetts overthrew it. Legate, on December 3, 1892, prepared and began the circulation of a petition for the nationalization of the telegraph and telephone systems as part of the post office department.
By 1891 Francis Bellamy was recognized as one of the leading spokesmen for his cousin's Nationalist movement. Although he had resigned as minister of Bethany Baptist Church and had gone to work for The Youth's Companion in April 1891, he continued to give occasional talks for the Society of Christian Socialists and the Nationalists.
In the middle of 1891 he was asked to write an article for the Arena magazine defending the Nationalist movement from charges that the Nationalists were promoting a totalitarian form of socialism. The Arena magazine was a liberal magazine published in Boston. Its editor, B. O. Flower, in the May issue had written an editorial, "Is Socialism Desirable?," to lead off a series of articles discussing the ideas of the Nationalists.
Edward Bellamy argued that Flower was a Nationalist but did not know it, and Flower expressed surprise that he should be considered a Nationalist. Flower , somewhat like Daniel Ford, believed that the socialistic beliefs and activities of the Nationalists were a catalyst for needed reform. However, like many other liberal Americans, he feared that a "Nationalist" economy, planned and controlled by the federal government and managed like the Army, would turn into totalitarian socialism and, possibly, military despotism.
In his article, "The Tyranny of All the People," in the July 1891 issue of the Arena, Francis Bellamy defended his cousin's form of Socialism. Francis argued that the industrial army type of socialism described in Looking Backward, could be democratic and not totalitarian. Both Edward and Francis believed that a nation should represent unity, family, fatherland, fraternity. If Edward`s socialism should turn into military socialism, Francis argued that the American people would vote it out of office.
He furthered contended that a modern industrial society needed the strong arm of government to protect the weak from the tyranny of giant corporations. Most of the maxims of the business system and its profit motive contradicted the Christian law of love, making it impossible for both business and working people to obey the Sermon on the Mount. Socialism would produce a work environment where the Golden Rule would thrive.
In his May editorial in the Arena, Flower had argued that the state is naturally tyrannical and not naturally benevolent and only limits on the state created a free nation. Human nature had a tendency toward popular despotism. Individualism and economic liberty were necessary to protect the people's freedom from government abuse.
In the August, Reverend Minot J. Savage, Congregationalist clergyman and writer, argued against Nationalism as a form of state socialism but did point out that Edward and Francis Bellamy's belief in a slow evolution of economic, social and political reforms was the right approach to the nation's problems. He agreed with the Nationalists that the people should vote against corporate control of Congress, state legislatures and local councils. Monopolies should have their prices controlled, as recommended by leading economist Richard Ely. The ruthless methods of large corporations, such as Standard Oil, would be attacked by the muckrakers and other reformers in the next decade.
In 1891 Edward began a new socialist periodical of his own called the New Nation (1891 - 1894). Mason A. Green from the Republican in Springfield was the managing editor and Bellamy its guiding spirit. Its office was in Boston and Edward spent four days a week here to coordinate its activities.
Many of the reform ideas of Francis Bellamy are reflected in The New Nation. One common thread was municipal ownership of water, streetcar lines, gas, and electricity. Francis had spoken and written on the desirability of such public ownership on several occasions. Other reforms urged in The New Nation were a free school system, women's suffrage, nationalization of the liquor business, right to a job, the eight-hour day, safety laws, public baths, and the elimination of child labor.
About seventy per cent of space in the New Nation consisted of news on monopolies, oppression of workers and unions, poverty, nationalization of industries, and public ownership of utilities. It weekly circulation eventually reached 8000. The paper was eventually given up in 1894 because it was losing money and the Nationalist movement was dying. In the heyday of the movement there were a hundred and sixty-five Nationalist clubs scattered throughout the country, and many local papers were published that were devoted wholly or in part to the cause. (In 1890 there were about five such papers being issued in California alone.)
The Nationalist movement and Society of Christian Socialists had connections with the Fabian Society in England. Sidney Webb of the Fabian Society wrote an occasional article for The Dawn and Edward sometimes wrote an occasional article for the Fabian publications. When interest in the Christian Society of Socialists and The Dawn began to decline, W. P. D. Bliss founded the American Fabian in 1895. In 1896, he turned it over to the New York Fabian Society, where it survived until 1900.
It is generally recognized that the Bellamy type of Fabian Socialism had done more to make the American middle class think seriously about social principles than any other force in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The British Fabian Society under Sidney Webb and George Bernard Shaw had a role in founding the British Labor Party.
The high point of the political activity of the members of the Nationalist movement was in the People's Party's congressional and the presidential campaign of November, 1892. The People's Party was organized in May, 1891, in Cincinnati, by a national convention composed chiefly of representatives of the agricultural and industrial classes. The party grew out of the movements previously inaugurated by the Granges and the Farmers' Alliances. They first went into active politics in 1890, when they carried Kansas and Nebraska and elected nine members of Congress.
Their platform included abolition of the national banking system's issue of fiat money; loans to the people at 2 per cent or less on nonperishable agricultural products; free and unlimited coinage of silver; national ownership of public communications system and transportation; the graduated income tax; and prohibition of alien ownership of land.
On July 2, 1892, The People's Party national convention at Omaha, Nebraska, nominated a former Union general and congressman, James B. Weaver of Iowa, for President. He had been the National Greenback party's candidate for the presidency in 1880. In 1892 he received over a million votes and 22 electoral votes and his party won several farm state legislatures and five United State senators.
A curious side light of this campaign is that the People's Party nominated Henry Winn of Malden for Massachusetts Governor. Winn was a disciple of Edward Bellamy and Henry George, but he won only a handful of votes. When, however, the populist Independent Party of Malden nominated Henry Winn for Mayor, he won the office by a plurality of 390 votes in November 1892. Could James Upham, a Malden resident, have voted for him, thus expressing support for Edward Bellamy's movement?
Edward Bellamy's health began to decline in the 1890's and he died from consumption in Chicopee in 1898. He spent the last years of his life writing "Equality," which was published in 1897. It was not nearly as successful as Looking Backward but it developed his socialist themes in much more explicit detail. In Equality he advocated equality for both sexes and all races. Bellamy's theme of equality in the work place for women and their right to work outside the home had an important early role in helping middle class women join the work force and fight for their right to vote.
As public education came increasingly to be seen as the principle engine of an "intentionally progressive" society - the phrase was John Dewey's - interest groups with divergent views of what that society ought to be staked their claims to education and in the process politicized the public schools in order to maintain or create the America of their ideals. Many reformers thought that long-term reforms in society were as achievable through education as through politics. An early example of this is the Farmers' Alliances distribution of free copies of Looking Backward as a consciousness-raising device for their members in the 1890's. Another example was James Upham's flag over the school campaign. Another example was the National Education Association.
The leader in public education in the nineteenth century was Massachusetts whose Horace Mann, liked to argue that, "As `the child is father to the man,' so may the training of the schoolroom expand into the institutions and fortunes of the state." Mann set up the first normal school or teachers college. During the 1890`s and 1900's public schooling expanded to serve all children and at older ages. Tracts were filled with millennial bursts of secular enthusiasm for public educational institutions.
In 1892 the public school systems were still dominated by local school boards, but the National Education Association hoped to centralize education under the control of professional educators. The leader of this group was William Torrey Harris (1835 - 1909) who dominated the National Association of School Superintendents, which in turn dominated the NEA. Harris had joined the St. Louis public school system in 1857 and from 1867 to 1880 he was superintendent of St. Louis schools. Between 1880 and 1889 he helped establish the unsuccessful Concord School of Philosophy near Boston. He was President and Life Director of the NEA and President of the National Association of School Superintendents. He represented the federal Bureau of Education at the Paris Exposition in 1889 and the Chicago Centennial in 1892-93.
Although Harris had called Edward Bellamy's Nationalism as repressive to the individual as the rule of a king, he believed in a state controlled public school system. As the leading Hegelian philosopher in the United States, he believed that the State had a central role in society. He believed youth should be trained in loyalty to the State and that the public school was the institution to plant fervent loyalty and patriotism. Like many other American educators of his time, he admired and copied the Prussian educational system. His support enabled James Upham and Francis Bellamy to take over the National Celebration of the Public Schools for Columbus Day, which was officially directed by the NEA's special committee, chaired by Francis Bellamy.
One of Harris's allies was Charles W. Eliot, president of Harvard University. The National Educational Association in July 1892 appointed a Committee of Ten on the subject of uniformity in public school programs, especially in relations to requirements for college admission. Eliot was the chairman and Harris, then U.S. Commissioner of Education, was one of its all male committee members. (Both Harris and Elliot openly advocated a limited role for women in the work force.)
The committee unanimously declared that there is a best way of beginning and pursuing each subject, which every class should follow; that the topics within a subject can be defined with a good deal of precision; that every subject taught in the secondary schools should be presented in the same way; and that most of the instruction should be addressed to classes and not to individual pupils.
The National Educational Association was founded in 1857 as the Teachers Association and renamed the NEA in 1870. Women were admitted in 1860 but the first woman wasn't elected president until 1910. At the same time it first endorsed women's suffrage.
In 1904 a National Colored Teachers Association formed and soon changed its name to National Association of Teachers in Colored Schools. It was renamed the American Teachers Association in 1937. In 1926 it began some collaboration with the NEA. In 1954 the Supreme Court overturned its 1896 "separate but equal" ruling. In 1963 the NEA and ATA began preparation for a merger, which took place in 1966. In 1968 it elected its first black president.
John Dewey saw the schools as shaping the society and considered Edward Bellamy as his "Great American Prophet." Dewey (1859 -1952), born and raised in Vermont, had gone from Johns Hopkins University in 1884 to the University of Michigan and in 1894 to the University of Chicago as head of the Department of Philosophy, Psychology and Education. In 1892, under the influence of Edward Bellamy, Dewey tried to start a monthly magazine, "Thought News," with the objective of discussing political,education and social issues from a socialist perspective.
Dewey was interested in the socialist economic experiments in the Union of the Soviet Socialists Republics. Between 1920 and 1928 he wrote fifteen articles on the new educational system in the Soviet Union for the New Republic. In 1928 he visited the Soviet Union, studied its educational system and wrote several articles and a book on the topic.
He never became a true communist sympathizer because he was too objective about the reality of the Soviet experiment. He headed a commission to hear the case of Leon Trotsky, who was opposed, defamed and eventually murdered by Joseph Stalin. In Mexico in 1937 and 1938, Dewey and his committee held the investigation of the charges made against Trotsky. After reading and hearing Stalin's charges, Dewey and his colleagues published two volumes in which Trotsky was exonerated. The hearing reaffirmed Dewey's opposition to totalitarian socialism and his commitment to democratic socialism.
In an April, 1934, article in Common Sense, Dewey states why he favored Edward Bellamy's socialism as reflected in Looking Backward and Equality. It is also a good summary of the differences between Bellamy's and Marxist socialism:
"He uses his picture of the new order as a means of making us realize by force of contrast the realities of the social world in which we now actually live...It was evolved by his own brooding on the injustices, oppression and wreckage attendant on the present economic system, and that when he had seen these things for himself, he employed his imagination of a social order based on economic equality to enable others to see what he had himself seen and felt. Many person have indicted the present system. But what enabled Bellamy's books to circulated by the hundreds of thousands was that his indictment operated through imagination setting forth what was possible. The result is a sense of the terrible gulf between what is possible and what is actual.
"He gives a statement of the principle that, from a technical intellectual point of view, underlies his indictment of the present economic system... that individuals might acquire an unlimited ownership of things as far as their abilities permit. But this view absolutely ignores the social consequence which result from the unequal distribution of material things in a world where everybody absolutely depends for life and all its uses on their share of those things. In this simple sentence, Bellamy has given the unanswerable reply to those moralists who unwittingly defend the existing order by making a sharp separation between the material on one side and the ethical and ideal on the other. Bellamy's communism rests on an ethical base rather than upon a view that is sometimes called scientific because of its abstraction from considerations of human well-being. But his ethical principle always takes cognizance of the dependence of human life and its supreme values upon equal access to and control over material things. In doing that, it makes ample place for all the factors that `scientific' communists have emphasized, regarding the political and social power that is exercised by economic relations of production and distribution.
"He portrayed the complete contradiction between our present economic system and the realization of human equality and liberty. No one has carried through the idea that equality is obtainable only by complete equality of income more fully than Bellamy...
"This approach inevitably suggests comparison and contrast with that of Marx. Bellamy`s most obvious indebtedness to Marx is in connection with his adoption of the idea that the present system is resulting in greater and greater concentration of capital...and the fact that this concentration would result in the organization and socialization of labor, while the final outcome would be a society economically communist in nature. The most obvious point of contrast is found in Bellamy's conviction that the revolution would be essentially peaceful in nature. He imagined that by the end of the nineteenth century the trust movement would have resulted in the practical consolidation of the entire capital of the nation, so that the `logical' next step in evolution would be its nationalization and administration for the benefit of the people.
"It is fairly evident that Bellamy was too much under the influence of the idea of evolution in its Victorian sense. Consequently he thought on the one hand that the mass of the people would realize the great transitional service rendered by the system of consolidated capitalism, while on the other hand, it is implied that those who control this system would be impotent in the face of the public demand that the final logical step be taken. It is a moderate comment that Bellamy was not conscious of how long the capitalist psychology would remain active, even among the laborers and farmers, after the capitalist system had broken down, and that he did not realize the extent of sabotage, so brilliantly exposed by Veblen, that prevails among the capitalist class - witness the manipulations by insiders carried on at the expense of stockholders.
"There is another point in Bellamy's theory in relation to Marx's that remains ambiguous. The administrative government plays a large part in Bellamy's theory. On the face of it there is no `withering away of the state.' At the same time, in view of Marx's definition of the state as the agent of class domination, it may be that the difference is more verbal than real. For Bellamy's administrative government is certainly the expression of a classless society.
"I wish that those who conceive that the abolition of private capital and of energy expended for profit signify complete regimenting of life and the abolition also of all personal choice and all emulation, would read with an open mind Bellamy's picture of a socialized economy...In an incidental chapter on the present servility to fashion he brings out the underlying principle...Equality creates an atmosphere which kills imitation, and is pregnant with originality, for everyone acts out himself, having nothing to gain by imitating anyone else.' It is the present system that promotes uniformity, standardization and regimentation.
"From the standpoint of their immediate task in Europe, Marx and Lenin may have been right in being chary of prognosis of the future classless society. It seemed to them part of a hated idealism to indulge in imaginative picturization. But the value of judging the present in terms of imagination of what is possible in the future, nowhere appears more clearly than in Bellamy's account of private life and the direction that emulation takes under a system of socialized production and distribution.
"It is not surprising that during the present bankruptcy of economic class control, there is a great revival of interest in Bellamy. It is an American communism that he depicts, and his appeal comes largely from the fact hat he sees in it the necessary means of realizing the democratic ideal...I hope that what I have said will lead some to consult his Equality which is more thorough than the more popular Looking Backward, as he himself intended. The chapters on the Suicide of the Profit System and the Parable of the Water Tank are priceless...The chapter on What Started the Revolution and its sequel are extraordinary summaries of contemporary history.
"It is encouraging to know that Bellamy Societies are starting almost spontaneously, but also with the aid of a central organization, all over the country...In this country the problem of industrial socialization is much more of a psychological problem than, it seems to me, it is in any European country. The worth of Bellamy's books in effecting a translation of the ideas of democracy into economic terms is incalculable. What `Uncle Tom's Cabin' was to the anti-slavery movement Bellamy's book may well be to the shaping of popular opinion for a new social order..."
In 1947 Dewey was made an honorary president of the National Education Association. Some of the ideas of Edward Bellamy live on in Dewey's theories of progressive education promoted in the teacher's colleges and in many public schools for much of the twentieth century. The other influential spokesman for Edward Bellamy in American education was Francis Bellamy. As Chairman of the National Public School Celebration Committee of the NEA in 1892, Francis Bellamy wrote the Pledge of Allegiance for the public school system.
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Dr. John W. Baer
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