The Diplomatic Relations of the United States with the Barbary Powers, 1776-1816

By Arthur Alphonse Ekirch Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
PROGRAMS FOR A NEW SOCIETY

IN the United States during the Middle Period the advance of science inspired a widespread faith in the idea of progress itself, but in the midst of this general enthusiasm the optimism of certain segments of the American people was adversely influenced by the evils increasing along with the march of science. Especially affected by scientific progress were important groups of the laboring classes--skilled craftsmen displaced by machinery, or mechanics forced to accept the privations of factory labor. Aware of the condition of labor in England since the industrial revolution, and fearful lest America become the heir of England's misfortunes, labor spokesmen in New England, New York, and other industrial centers called for progress by social and economic reforms. Sympathetic with the demands of the early labor movement and critical of the materialistic standards of the rising business class, many American intellectuals and humanitarians also sought to realize their lofty visions of future progress in the reform movements of the day. From abroad the Utopian socialisms of Owen and of Fourier came to claim their American followers. At home the Unitarian and transcendental philosophies, extending a challenge to the faith of the age in material progress, also provided a renewed emphasis on the moral and individual nature of progress. Among these reform groups the machine itself was not condemned so much as was its selfish misuse by man, and this discontent with industrialism was resolved, therefore, by the hope of a better social system in which technological progress might work its magic unalloyed.

During the 1820's these discontented groups were offered a panacea for the evils of industrialism in the Utopian program for future progress proposed by the famous English manufacturer and reformer, Robert Owen. By his frequent sojourns and experimental community in America, Owen became almost as much a part of the New World as of the Old. Following his

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