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James Pratt  |  mise en ligne : juillet 2009

Allen, John (en anglais)


Born 1814, in Massachusetts [1], died 2 October 1858, at Patriot, Indiana ; son of Solomon Jr and Abigail [2] ; older siblings brother Simeon and sister Elizabeth (mar. Geo C. Leach) ; ordained Universalist Minister 1837. Married 1st (31 Oct. 1841 to Sarah Maria Parker ; died ca 1844), one child Frederick (1843) ; Married 2nd on 4 Oct 1848 to Ellen Lazarus (1825-1917) ; children (1) Victor Considerant Allen, (3 Sep. 1849) ; (2) Mary Catherine (3 Sep. 1851) [3] ; (3) Urner or Earnest (21 Oct. 1854) ; (4) Caroline (13 Dec. 1857).


John Allen spent his life in a succession of ministries promoting the central reforms of his time : temperance and abstinence, abolition, labor reform and Fourierism or “Association”, as the movement was called in the United States.
In appearance Allen was not a tall man but endowed with a noble brow ; he had prodigious energy and was very enthusiastic, “though with otherwise plain features and unruly dark brown hair which asserted its rights in spite of brush and comb, and would not lie gracefully down over his brow. It added to the look of determination there was on the little man’s countenance, shown by the lines in his face and rigid and spare muscles, a ‘hold on’ expression which so coincided with his character.” [4]
John Allen’s formal education has not been identified. At age (?) 21, he was apprenticed in (?) 1835 to Sylvanus Cobb ; noted Universalist minister who exerted a major influence on Allen [5].
The panic and depression of 1837 focused an era of social, political and economic change in the formative years of Allen’s mind. He was greatly influenced by Albert Brisbane’s advocacy of Fourierism, George Ripley’s philosophy of Transcendentalism, as well as Cobb’s on abstinence and abolition. [6] Throughout his life Allen followed his mentor Cobb’s example, lecturing incessantly on passionate causes of reform, attending reform conventions, starting periodicals, using his Universalist ministership as a base, but then leaving it to pursue a particular cause.
In November 1837 at age 23 ; John Allen offered to preach two Sundays at the Watertown, Massachusetts, Universalist Society for only meat and drink as compensation [7]. This led to his first official designation as a Minister with a pulpit for the Watertown Universalist Society. In April of 1839, he asked and received permission to use the meeting house four times a year to preach on abolition, but 11 days later the permission was rescinded. [8] Within two months Allen found a new post at Hanson. The following May, 1840, he was one of four to preach to the Old Colony Universalist Association convention. [9]
In November ; 1840, Allen introduced a resolution at a Universalist Anti-Slavery Convention : “Whereas, The institution of Slavery exists in our land ; subjecting two and a half millions of our brethren to perpetual bondage, depriving them of all the privileges of civil and religious liberty - and whereas we as Christians profess to believe in the common parentage, and the universal brotherhood and equality of the human family ; Therefore, ‘Resolved, That no individual can be a consistent Universalist who refuses to acknowledge the sinfulness of Slavery, and give his voice and influence to its immediate abolition.” His motion died in committee. [10]
Allen moved in April 1841 to a more liberal church at Rockport, Mass., [11] wherein he got agreement to use the meeting house to preach on the subjects of temperance, abolition, peace, etc., so long as it did not interfere with regular Sabbath services. [12]
Allen’s Occasional Sermon on abolition published in Boston gave him national prominence, even evoking a Mississippi paper to call him “a blackleg of the blackest kind”. [13] It also shows his character to ignore his surrounds of a Gloucester clipper fleet’s business that regularly ferried barrels of rum to Africa in exchange for slaves.
Allen called and chaired the organizational meeting of a temperance society for Rockport in August, 1841, while he courted Sarah Maria Parker prior to marrying her in October.. The following February this Washingtonian Total Abstinence Society published an address by Allen, the preamble of which is an example of both his eloquence, and his grand view of the world of 1842 : [14]
“...what do we behold ? Reform written upon every old theory, custom, and department of human affairs...And all are changing ...Journeys that but a few years ago were hardly accomplished in fifteen days of toil, are now performed in as many hours. The old world and the new are brought in immediate contact ; distance is annihilated, and the blue concave above seems but a whispering gallery, to convey intelligence to the other side of the globe. The omnipotent spirit of progress is rife in the community, continually making innovations upon time-honored customs, gray old usages, and decomposing the very elements of antiquated systems. And in all these struggles of society, — in all these efforts for reform, the amelioration of the condition of our race, the relief of human suffering, the abolition of social evils, is the prominent idea. It is the great purpose of the age, to add to the sum of human happiness. To this end, the spirit of benevolence aims to seek out and relieve the bitter woes of every individual soul. It studies to acquire a knowledge of man’s rights, of his moral and intellectual endowments, of his vast capabilities and capacities, of the value to be attached to individual mind, and of the reverence due to the “image of God” in man, without reference to his country, his cast, or his complexion. This just appreciation of individual worth, this thirst for universal happiness, this charity, heaven-born, that communes with publicans and sinners, that extends the hand of sympathy and aid to the degraded and despised, without stopping to inquire the creed or the character of the sufferer, and only intends to relieve and to elevate, this is the grand characteristic of our age.”
Horace Greeley’s feature of Albert Brisbane’s articles on Fourierism in March 1842 began to attract wide notice. Nearly a hundred periodicals opened their pages to its discussion in the next fifteen months. [15]
Allen left Rockport in the spring of 1843. The day after Christmas that year he, with his brother-in-law George Leach and two others, called a convention in Boston of the “Friends of Social Reform in New England ”, ”to counsel and aid the great cause of social reorganization, to contemplate progress at home and abroad of Fourierism, to build an Association - a home on the broad basis of Attractive Industry.” He served on a Committee of Business along with three famous names, W. H. Channing, George Ripley, and Frederick Douglass as well as three others.
In early 1844, Allen moved his ministry in Hollowell, Maine. By March he was preaching sermons on Fourierism as being the incarnation of all Christian virtues. Existing society was conducted on a system of antagonism whereby the whole busy world was toiling to thwart each other’s interests and to live upon one another, rather than on the Christian rule of loving one’s neighbor as oneself. In nine cases out of ten Society provoked and occasioned the very vices and crimes which it punished. The principle of Christian law that lay at the foundation of the social structure had to be restored according to Fourier’s principles, which would bring us toward Eden again. Allen’s lectures in Hollowell were so successful that the legislative chamber was opened to accommodate the crowds. [16] In April he participated in a New York convention with Greeley, Brisbane and Channing, serving on three important committees, Business, Finance, and Nominations. Most of the interested writers and lecturers were in the prime of youth, and all forms of socialism were their great dream. This ideal fertilized in many ways the genius of all these men, and through them grew the intellect of the entire nation.
Allen, as one of four Fourierists, in the summer of 1844 took up the cause of the 10 hour maximum working day, playing a significant role in advocating worker protection during the decade of the 1840s. These four called a meeting of delegates out of which came the New England Workingmen’s Association that October. They worked with most major labor organizations throughout the decade. [17]
In June Charles Dana wrote Allen urging selection of one Association for a complete trial ; Allen in the meantime was organizing on the 20th of the same month in Hollowell a convention of the Friends of Association that brought delegates from all over the Kenebec River basin. In January 1845, Allen, now a fully convinced Associationist, [18] served as Secretary at the annual meeting of the Friends of Association, and did again the next year.
Allen served four New England Universalist churches, then, abandoning the pulpit, joined Brook Farm as it was changing from its founding as a Transcendental intellectual idea to a Fourier Phalanx. [19]
He heard George Ripley insist that Association was a reform which encompassed all other reforms, and Fourierism was the only logical plan for reorganization. [20] This appears to have given Allen perspective on the way to serve all of his passions. Joining Brook Farm in March 1845 ; he brought his infant son and even took his wife’s body to bury at the commune. He was one of a younger group who volunteered to raise money to keep Brook Farm solvent, traveling about New England and upstate New York on frequent circuits for over a year seeking subscriptions to Brook Farm’s organ, the “Harbinger”, and lecturing on Fourier’s doctrines. He became a well known lecturer.
He had become so committed to Fourier’s ideas that he wrote, “I am good for nothing out of Association.” [21] Allen was a man of passionate action ; who wrote only two columns in the “Harbinger”, but made hundreds of speeches over New England and the then Midwest, espousing Fourier’s principles.
His twenty-six months of attempting to aid Brook Farm was ironic. He did not believe in vaccination ; and thus allowed his infant son to carry small pox (contacted from a run-away slave using Allen’s sister’s Grahamite Hotel, a part of the underground railway in Boston) to infect Brook Farm... The virulence decimated Brook Farm’s school, its chief source of revenue, as well as affected son Fred’s future health. [22]
After Brook Farm’s failure, in 1847 he was anointed in a special ceremony by W.H. Channing and a new group, The “Religious Union of Associationists”, and sent forth to evangelize in the Midwest. [23]
To his credit ; he fit no mold of a New England arch conservative : The next year he married again ; this time to the independent minded Ellen Lazarus, daughter of old conservative Jewish families of North Carolina, and who also had been a devoted member of Brook Farm. To begin their Associationist work in the Midwest, they moved to Indiana : With his wife’s funds he forgot his years of temperance preaching and established a vineyard on the banks of the Ohio River. [24] They were both so committed to Associationist ideas that the following year they named their first child Victor Considerant Allen. In the report of the 1850 U.S. Census, Allen’s occupation was corrupted to read “Furyite”.
Allen returned to his vocation by becoming the Universalist minister in Terre Haute, Indiana, and attempted to raise funds for the Kossuth cause. In the spring of 1853 Brisbane brought Victor Considerant to meet Allen on their way to inspect sites for a Fourierist trial in the west. Allen delighted Considerant, saying that when a site was found, he could be ready in 8 days to go to it.
In the fall of 1854, on his pledge of the previous year to Considerant and Brisbane, he had failed to raise funds for the new colonization society in Texas, but he recruited two brothers to take equipment from Cincinnati to the La Reunion colony, to carry 500 cuttings from his vineyard, and he himself to accompany François Cantagrel to explore north Texas for a parent site.
In February 1855 Allen ventured with Cantagrel deep into the milieu of the south, acting as English translator for Cantagrel to check vacant north Texas lands unclaimed on the state records in the Austin General Land Office. Did his Yankee accent, determined character ; his passionate convictions, limit his constraint among Southerners ? Or was it his reputation of connections with Albert Brisbane and Horace Greeley, or Mississippi newspaper labels that made Texas newspapers suddenly write editorials against him, saying “ We had rather see Texas a howling desert than peopled with the likes of John Allen”. The innocent French suffered from this Yankee’s reputation in the South, which contributed to their inability to get an empresario grant of free land from the Texas Legislature.
Considerant and Savardan credited Allen with a major role in beginning La Réunion. Belgian colonist Fred Haeck wrote of him as out of bed working every morning at four to create the colony farm, “to hunt cattle, plant sweet potatoes, peas, beans with me. The same Allen slaughters beef to eat, removes their hides, etc.” When control of the stock company lands were offered to the 130 persons present on the site, he joined those forming the Company of Reunion to assume management in August 1855. Pole Kalixt Wolski wrote, “This pastor is a famous shot, and loved to show his prowess, especially on snakes. He never took a step without his gun, and saved the corpse of every snake he shot.” [25] After he left that fall of 1855 to tend his own farm’s harvest in Indiana, the 500 cuttings shipped to Texas from his “Mt Allen” vineyard, as he called it, probably did not survive the drought. Leaving twelve-year-old son Fred in the care of colonists, he planned to return, but did not. He died suddenly of “congestive fever” at his vineyard on the Ohio River on 2 October, 1858, leaving plans for more ways to communicate Association ideals unfulfilled.
John Allen’s brother-in-law Marx Lazarus observed that Allen was “ little fitted for business and money making ”. His wife added, “ The lesson of distrust was one he could not learn, and with the worst of people such as we had to deal with there [in Indiana], that, together with his unbounded generosity and unselfishness led to our financial ruin and added much to the disappointment and discouragement that crushed him.” [26] But Allen himself would likely have had the same reaction that he showed on the failure of Brook Farm eleven years earlier, when he addressed a meeting of Associationists : “As reported in the Christian World, Allen began by saying that this was the last time he should address those with whom he had passed pleasant years at Brook Farm, and discovered much emotion in his farewell notice of that institution. The failure at Brook Farm was no exception in Allen’s view. He said every institution for social progress for humanity had failed. Labor was a failure ; the school was a failure ; so were Christianity, government, politics. Failure was everywhere ! And everything declared it. Association was the latest revelation of humanity - a true gospel, and had for its great, its divine mission, to meet the wide demand of humanity, and to make society as truly happy as it was now universally and truly miserable ! “ [27] In the boom of the time, this must have seemed ridiculous, but not to John Allen.


James Pratt

Dernière mise à jour de cette fiche : octobre 2013

Notes

[1. Exact date and place unknown, probably Gloucester, Mass. US Census 1850, Posey Township, Switz. County, Indiana.

[2. Vital Records of Roxbury Mass, Vol II, marriages and deaths (Salem, Essex, 1926 p.11. Index of marriages in Mass Centinel & Colombian Centinel (Boston, G.K.Hall, 1961) p. 64.

[3. Alllen’s daughter Mary Catherine Allen became an important 20th century Shaker leader.

[4. Codman, John T. Brook Farm (Boston, Arena Publishing Co., 1894), p. 122-123.

[5. Autobigraphy of the first forty-one years of the life of Sylvanus Cobb (Boston, Univ’lst Pub House, 1867), pp 273-4. Cobb as early as 1831 preached total abstinence ; then a novel unpopular cause. Cobb became agent of a Temperance Society devoting 3 days a week to that cause while maintaining his Malden Mass. pastorship and tutoring fledgling ministers, including Allen. Cobb resigned his pulpit to start an abolitionist Boston paper in 1839. Lincoln thanked him for his support of the emancipation policy.

[6. Other influences : In 1834 Albert Brisbane returned from a six year grand tour to bring to the United States Charles Fourier’s message of what the combined efforts of man could do ; and where a model for future communities should come from. In 1836, George Ripley, Ralph Waldo Emerson ; and others conversed on philosophy which led to the creation of the Transcendental Club in 1836 : Ripley visited Shaker and Zoarite communities as an age of religious rebellion dawned ; and locofocoism helped create a climate of opinion favorable to communal experiments.

[7. Record of the Newton and Watertown Univ. Soc. (1826-1858).

[8. Ibid., 8 April 1839, and 19 April 1839 ; MSS letter John Allen to “Zilla” (Matilda Eastman), 1 Oct. 1845.

[9. In the summer of 1840 the towns of Groton and Boston hosted conventions of “Friends of Universal Reform” which George Ripley attended and Emerson wrote about. Horace Greeley printed a new magazine for Brisbane named “The Future, Devoted to the Cause of Association and a Reorganization of Society ”. The Transcendentalists debated reform. Ripley reviewed Brisbane’s translation of Fourier’s lectures on Social Christianity and a reorganization of society through Fourierism.

[10. “Address before the Universalist Anti-Slavery Convention”, at its first session, held Nov 19, 1840, in Lynn, Mass. (Waltham, Christian Freeman Office, 1840).

[11. Record Book, 1st Univ’lst Soc., Rockport, Mass., 8 Apr 1841.

[12. Two months later, January 1841, George Ripley acted on reform by leaving the pulpit. He and the Transcendentalists bought Brook Farm. Through Fourier and communalism Ripley reasoned that Christianity might be tied to progress, democracy and the future.
The socialist ideas of Fourier created immediate enthusiasm that caught up reformers, who soon formed summer Phalanxes in village New England, New York and Pennsylvania. Nearly all collapsed with the first frost

[13. Miller, Russell M. The Larger Hope : The First Century of the Universalist Church in America (1770-1870), (Boston, Unitarian Universalist Association, 1979) Vol I p601 ; and Christian Freeman, 3 (25 Jun 1841) : 29.

[14. 22 Feb 1842. “An Address Delivered before the Washington Total Abstinence Society. . .” (Pubd by the Society, 1842). This preamble seems more prescient today than his main thesis on the need to eliminate every grog shop.

[15. Gospel Banner, Vol 9, No.1 p. 1.

[16. Gospel Banner and Maine Family Visitant, Vol 9, No.33, p130, col 2. 29 July 1843.

[17. Rozwenc, Edwin. Cooperatives Come to America : A History of the Protective Union Stall Movement 1847-1865 (Mt. Vernon, Colombia Press, 1947) ; Noyes, John Humphrey. History of American Socialisms (1870) repr entitled Strange Cults and Utopias of 19th Century America (New York, Dover, 1966) ; Crowe, Charles. George Ripley, Transcendentalist and Utopian Socialist (Athens, U. of Georgia Press, 1967), p. 209.

[18. For Ripley’s influence on Allen, see Ripley’s speech on firm commitment to Fourierism, as reported by W.F. Channing in The Present (NY Jan 15, 1844, I) and Cooke, Geo. W. “Brook Farm” The New England Magazine Vol XVII No. 4., Dec 1897, p. 395.

[19. Crowe, Chas. “Fourierism and the Founding of Brook Farm”, Boston Public Library Quarterly, Vol XII, No. 2, 1959, p. 79-88.

[20. The Brook Farm change toward Fourierism under Ripley’s leadership lay in the Theory of Attractive Industry, not in other aspects of Charles Fourier’s philosophy. Classes were set up in the religious aspects of “Attraction” . As Fourier believed, God governed the universe by Attraction - by pleasure, not by constraint. Mankind needed to understand how God planned for it to use its natural impulses. If it overcame the restrictions it placed on itself, “Harmony” would result. The Brook Farmers therefore reorganized themselves in groups and series according to Fourier’s Law of Passionate Attraction. See Curtis, p. 164-168.

[21. MSS letter, John Allen to Marianne Dwight, 9 March 1846, Abernathy Library of American Literature, Middlebury College.

[22. Swift, Lindsay. Brook Farm, Its Members, Scholars, and Visitors (New York, McMillan, 1900), p. 182-4.

[23.Emerson had called the movement ‘a rage in our poverty to live rich and gentleman-like’ By 1847 prosperity had eliminated the rage. See Curtis, p. 319

[24.John Allen letter to I.C. Ray, Oct 20, 1849 from Patriot Ind. Describes his new life in the west, including description of his vinticulture, its morality, slavery and land speculation.

[25. American Impressions of Kalixt Wolski, memoire trans by Marion M. Coleman (Cheshire Conn., Cherry Hill Books, 1968)

[26. Letter, Ellen Lazarus Allen to George W. Mordecai, 18 Oct 1858.

[27. Curtis, p. 319 ; reported in the Christian World Nov 1847 or after.


Ressources

Sources

US Census 1850, Posey Township, Switz. County, Indiana.
Vital Records of Roxbury Mass, vol. II, marriages and deaths (Salem, Essex, 1926).
Index of marriages in Mass. Centinel & Colombian Centinel (Boston, G.K.Hall, 1961).
Record of the Newton and Watertown Univ. Society (1826-1858).
« Address before the Universalist Anti-Slavery Convention », at its first session, held Nov 19, 1840, in Lynn, Mass. (Waltham, Christian Freeman Office, 1840).
Record Book, 1st Univ’lst Soc., Rockport, Mass., 8 avril 1841.
Abernathy Library of American Literature, Middlebury College (lettre de John Allen à Marianne Dwight, 9 mars 1846)
Wolski, Kalixt, « American Impressions » (traduction par by Marion M. Coleman, Cheshire Conn., Cherry Hill Books, 1968).
Archives Nationales, Paris, fonds sociétaire, 10AS28(9)
Newspapers : Christian Freeman, Gospel Banner, Maine Family Visitant, Christian World, The Present.

Bibliography

Autobiography of the first forty-one years of the life of Sylvanus Cobb, Boston, Univ’lst Pub House, 1867, p. 273-4.
Beecher, Jonathan, Victor Considerant and the Rise and Fall of French Romantic Socialism, Berkeley-Los Angeles, University of California Press, 2001.
Codman, John T., Brook Farm, Boston, Arena Publishing Co., 1894.
Cooke, Geo. W., « Brook Farm », The New England Magazine, XVII, 4, décembre 1897, p 395.
Crowe, Charles, « Fourierism and the Founding of Brook Farm », Boston Public Library Quarterly, vol. XII, n° 2, 1959
Crowe, Charles, George Ripley, Transcendentalist and Utopian Socialist, Athens, University of Georgia Press, 1967.
Guarneri, Carl J., The Utopian Alternative. Fourierism in Nineteenth Century America, Ithaca et Londres, Cornell University Press, 1991.
Miller, Russell M., The Larger Hope : The First Century of the Universalist Church in America (1770-1870), Boston, Unitarian Universalist Association, 1979.
Noyes, John Humphrey, History of American Socialisms, 1870, réimprimé sous le titre Strange Cults and Utopias of 19th Century America, New York, Dover, 1966.
Rozwenc, Edwin, Cooperatives Come to America : A History of the Protective Union Stall Movement 1847-1865, Mt. Vernon, Colombia Press, 1947.
Swift, Lindsay, Brook Farm, Its Members, Scholars, and Visitors, New York, McMillan, 1900.


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Pour citer cette notice

PRATT James, « Allen, John (en anglais) », Dictionnaire biographique du fouriérisme, notice mise en ligne en juillet 2009 : http://www.charlesfourier.fr/spip.php?article680 (consultée le 12 décembre 2017).

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