The Incorrigible Idealist: Robert Dale Owen in America

The Incorrigible Idealist: Robert Dale Owen in America

The Incorrigible Idealist: Robert Dale Owen in America

The Incorrigible Idealist: Robert Dale Owen in America

Excerpt

If we cannot reconcile all opinions, let us endeavor to unite all hearts

A frontier community is greedy for many talents. It needs the logger and the herdsman, the rail splitter and the planter to coerce and cajole nature; it seeks still more assiduously the road builder, the journalist, the teacher and the lawmaker to fuse into a social band those vigorous individuals who have risked life on that rim of civilization we call the frontier. Robert Dale Owen's fifty years in Indiana (1826-1877) arched a span when such integrative talents could be most effectively used in constructive work; his learning and imagination were the tools which an eager humanitarianism, a Utilitarian energy and a painstaking experimentalism mobilized in the service of the new commonwealth. Those were active and stirring years, as he later accurately assessed them, lived in the great middle period of American history when men of ideas and courage found opportunity to shape a new and flexible culture not yet hardened by tradition.

Yet all this was in the future that January morning in 1826 when Robert Dale Owen swung from his horse in the village of New Harmony to take his part in one of the world's most interesting experiments. In this Indiana wilderness his father, Robert Owen, with the help of William Maclure, another wealthy Scotchman, was attempting to demonstrate in 1825-1828 the economic and moral advantages of communal working and living. The elder Owen's conviction that man is a product of his environment and that by education and cooperation he . . .

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