Étienne Cabet

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Étienne Cabet
Born(1788-01-01)January 1, 1788
DiedNovember 9, 1856(1856-11-09) (aged 68)
St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Known forfounder of the Icarian movement
Notable work
"Travel and Adventures of Lord William Carisdall in Icaria" (1840)

Étienne Cabet (French:  [kabɛ] ; January 1, 1788 – November 9, 1856) was a French philosopher and utopian socialist who founded the Icarian movement. Cabet became the most popular socialist advocate of his day, with a special appeal to artisans who were being undercut by factories, and his communitarian ideals (based on the Golden Rule) later influenced Karl Marx and others. Cabet published Voyage en Icarie in French in 1839 (and in English in 1840 as Travels in Icaria), in which he proposed replacing capitalist production with workers' cooperatives. Recurrent problems with French officials (a treason conviction in 1834 resulted in five years' exile in England), led him to emigrate to the United States in 1848. Cabet founded utopian communities in Texas and Illinois, but was again undercut, this time by recurring feuds with his followers.

French philosophy, here taken to mean philosophy in the French language, has been extremely diverse and has influenced Western philosophy as a whole for centuries, from the medieval scholasticism of Peter Abelard, through the founding of modern philosophy by René Descartes, to 20th century philosophy of science, existentialism, phenomenology, structuralism, and postmodernism.


The Icarians were a French-based utopian socialist movement, established by the followers of politician, journalist, and author Étienne Cabet. In an attempt to put his economic and social theories into practice, Cabet led his followers to the United States of America in 1848, where the Icarians established a series of egalitarian communes in the states of Texas, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and California. The movement split several times due to factional disagreements.

The Golden Rule is the principle of treating others as one's self would wish to be treated. It is a maxim that is found in many religions and cultures.


Early and family life

Cabet was born in Dijon, Côte-d'Or, the youngest son of a cooper from Burgundy, Claude Cabet, and his wife Francoise Berthier. He was educated as a lawyer. [1] Cabet married Delphine Lasage on March 25, 1839 at Marylebone, London, during his exile in England, who bore a child. [2] [3]

Dijon Prefecture and commune in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, France

Dijon is a city in eastern France, capital of the Côte-d'Or département in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region.

Côte-dOr Department of France

Côte-d'Or is a department in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté.

Marylebone inner-city area of central London

Marylebone is an area in the West End of London, England, which is part of the City of Westminster.

Career in France

Cabet secured an appointment as attorney-general in Corsica. He represented the government of Louis Philippe, despite having headed an insurrectionary committee during the July Revolution of 1830 which led to the ouster of the "Republican Monarch" King Charles X (and the ascent of Louis Philippe). However, Cabet lost this position for his attack upon the conservatism of the government in his Histoire de la révolution de 1830. [4] Nonetheless, in 1831, Cabet was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in France as the representative of Côte d'Or, and sat with the extreme radicals. [5] Accused of treason in 1834 because of his bitter attacks on the government both in the history book and subsequently, Cabet was convicted and sentenced to five years' exile. [6] He fled to England and sought political asylum. Influenced by Robert Owen, Thomas More and Charles Fourier, Cabet wrote Voyage et aventures de lord William Carisdall en Icarie ("Travel and Adventures of Lord William Carisdall in Icaria", 1840), which depicted a utopia in which a democratically elected governing body controlled all economic activity and closely supervised social life. "Icaria" is the name of his fictional country and ideal society. The nuclear family remained the only other independent unit. The book's success prompted Cabet to take steps to realize his Utopia. [5]

Corsica Island in the Mediterranean, also a region and a department of France

Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 18 regions of France. It is located southeast of the French mainland and west of the Italian Peninsula, with the nearest land mass being the Italian island of Sardinia to the immediate south. A single chain of mountains makes up two-thirds of the island.

July Revolution July 1830 revolution in France

The French Revolution of 1830, also known as the July Revolution, Second French Revolution or Trois Glorieuses in French, led to the overthrow of King Charles X, the French Bourbon monarch, and the ascent of his cousin Louis Philippe, Duke of Orléans, who himself, after 18 precarious years on the throne, would be overthrown in 1848. It marked the shift from one constitutional monarchy, under the restored House of Bourbon, to another, the July Monarchy; the transition of power from the House of Bourbon to its cadet branch, the House of Orléans; and the replacement of the principle of hereditary right by popular sovereignty. Supporters of the Bourbon would be called Legitimists, and supporters of Louis Philippe Orléanists.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

In 1839, Cabet returned to France to advocate a communitarian social movement, for which he invented the term communisme. [7] Cabet's notion of a communal society influenced other socialist writers and philosophers, notably Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. [8] [9] Some of these other writers ignored Cabet's Christian influences, as described in his book Le vrai christianisme suivant Jésus Christ ("The real Christianity according to Jesus Christ", in five volumes, 1846). This book described Christ's mission to be to establish social equality, and contrasted primitive Christianity with the ecclesiasticism of Cabet's time to the disparagement of the latter. In it, Cabet argued that the kingdom of God announced by Jesus was nothing other than a communist society. [10] The book also contained a popular history of the French Revolutions from 1789 to 1830. [5]

Social movement type of group action

A social movement is a type of group action. There is no single consensus definition of a social movement. They are large, sometimes informal, groupings of individuals or organizations which focus on specific political or social issues. In other words, they carry out, resist, or undo a social change. They provide a way of social change from the bottom within nations.

Commune Community of people living together, sharing common interests

A commune is an intentional community of people living together, sharing common interests, often having common values and beliefs, as well as shared property, possessions, resources, and, in some communes, work, income or assets.

Karl Marx Revolutionary socialist

Karl Marx was a German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist and socialist revolutionary.

In 1841 Cabet revived the Populaire (founded by him in 1833), which was widely read by French workingmen, and from 1843 to 1847 he printed an Icarian almanac, a number of controversial pamphlets as well as the above-mentioned book on Christianity. There were probably 400,000 adherents of the Icarian school. [5]

Emigration to the United States of America

In 1847, after realizing the economic hardship caused by the depression of 1846, Cabet gave up on the notion of reforming French society. [11] Instead, after conversations with Robert Owen and Owen's attempts to found a commune in Texas, Cabet gathered a group of followers from across France and traveled to the United States to organize an Icarian community. [12] They entered into a social contract, making Cabet the director-in-chief for the first ten years, and embarked from Le Havre, February 3, 1848, for New Orleans, Louisiana. They expected to settle in the Red River valley in Texas. However, the Peters Land Company gave them deeds to only 320 acres of land in Denton County, Texas near what became Dallas, Texas rather than the million acres of land in the Red River Valley they expected (more than 200 miles away). [11] The first group of emigrants ultimately returned to New Orleans; Cabet came later at the head of a second and smaller band. Neither Texas nor Louisiana proved the looked-for Utopia, and, ravaged by disease, about one-third of the colonists returned to France. [5]

Robert Owen Welsh social reformer

Robert Owen was a Welsh textile manufacturer, philanthropic social reformer, and one of the founders of utopian socialism and the cooperative movement. Owen is best known for his efforts to improve the working conditions of his factory workers and his promotion of experimental socialistic communities. In the early 1800s Owen became wealthy as an investor and eventual manager of a large textile mill at New Lanark, Scotland. He initially trained as a draper in Stamford, Lincolnshire, and worked in London before relocating at the age of 18 to Manchester and going into business as a textile manufacturer. In 1824, Owen travelled to America, where he invested the bulk of his fortune in an experimental socialistic community at New Harmony, Indiana, the preliminary model for Owen's utopian society. The experiment was short-lived, lasting about two years. Other Owenite utopian communities met a similar fate. In 1828, Owen returned to the United Kingdom and settled in London, where he continued to be an advocate for the working class. In addition to his leadership in the development of cooperatives and the trade union movement, he also supported passage of child labour laws and free, co-educational schools.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Le Havre Subprefecture and commune in Normandy, France

Le Havre, is an urban French commune and city in the Seine-Maritime department in the Normandy region of northwestern France. It is situated on the right bank of the estuary of the river Seine on the Channel southwest of the Pays de Caux.

The remainder (142 men, 74 women and 64 children, although 20 died of cholera en route), moved northward along the Mississippi River to Nauvoo, Illinois, where they purchased twelve acres recently vacated by the Mormons in 1849. [13] [14] Cabet was unanimously elected leader, for a one-year term. The improved location enabled the experiment to develop into a successful agricultural community. Education and culture were highly valued by members. By 1855, the Nauvoo Icarian community had expanded to about 500 members with a solid agricultural base, as well as shops, three schools, flour and sawmills, a whiskey distillery, English and French newspapers, a 39 piece orchestra, choir, theater, hospital and the state's largest library (4000 volumes). [13] Members met on Saturdays to discuss community affairs and problems, with universal male suffrage; women were allowed to speak but not vote. On Sundays members talked about ethical and moral issues, but there were no denominational religious services, only members had espoused Christianity before joining the community. Based on this success, some even considered expanding the community 200 miles west to Adair County, Iowa. [15]

However, Cabet was forced to return to France in May 1851 to settle charges of fraud brought up by his previous followers in Europe. [13] [16] Although found not guilty by a French jury in July 1851, when Cabet returned to Nauvoo in July 1852, the community had changed. Some men were using tobacco and abusing alcohol, many women were adorning themselves with fancy dresses and jewelry, and families claimed land as private property. Cabet responded by issuing "Forty-Eight Rules of Conduct" on November 23, 1853, forbidding "tobacco, hard liquor, complaints about the food, and hunting and fishing 'for pleasure'" as well as demanding absolute silence in workshops and submission to him. [16] Some described him as authoritarian or emotionally unstable; internal problems arose and worsened. [17]

In the spring of 1855, Cabet tried to revise the colony's constitution to make him president for life, but was instead relieved of the presidency, so his followers went out on strike, and were in turn temporarily barred from the communal dining hall. [17] Although the colony by then had 526 members and 57 more across the Mississippi River at Montrose, Iowa, it was suffering economically—dependent upon money brought by new members and subsidies from the "Le Populaire" home office in France. [16] [17]

Moreover, split regarding the work division and food distribution worsened during the summer and following year. [13] Cabet published his final book, Colonie icarienne aux États-Unis d'Amérique (1856), but that failed to solve the internal problems. In October 1856, about 180 supporters and Cabet left Nauvoo in three groups for New Bremen, Missouri near St. Louis, Missouri.

Death and legacy

Cabet suffered a stroke on November 8, 1856, a few days after moving to Missouri with the last group of his followers, and soon died. [18] He was buried at the Old Picker's Cemetery, but his remains were moved during construction of a high school on the site, and now rest at New Saint Marcus Cemetery and Mausoleum in Affton, St. Louis County, Missouri, with a gravestone funded by the French Embassy. [2]

On February 15, 1858, the remaining Icarians settled in Cheltenham on the western edge of St. Louis, under the leadership of a lawyer named Mercadier, whom Cabet had designated as his successor. That colony would disband in 1864 (with several young men fighting in the American Civil War) and two families rejoined the Icarians in Corning, Iowa discussed below (the Cheltenham area became a neighborhood within St. Louis). [19] Before his death, Cabet sued the Nauvoo Icarians in a local court, as well as petitioned the Illinois legislature to repeal the act that incorporated the community. [13] [20] The Nauvoo colony relocated to Corning, Adams County, Iowa, about 80 miles southwest of Des Moines, Iowa between 1858 and 1860, because of Illinois crop failures as well as the end of financial support from France following the Panic of 1857. The Corning Icarians prospered until another factional split in 1878, prompted by new emigrants from France, who left to establish a community in Cloverdale, California in 1883 (but "Icaria Speranza" lasted only four years). The colony at Corning disbanded in 1898, but by that time it had existed for 46 years, making it the longest non-religious communal living experiment in American history. [19]

The library at Western Illinois University has a Center for Icarian Studies, as well as Icarian archives and papers. The Nauvoo Historical Society also has some papers and artifacts on display, and some in the town remember the Icarians during the Labor Day Grape Festival, through a historical play. Although the growing of Concord grapes in the Nauvoo area began in the 1830s based on the efforts of a French Catholic priest and expanded in 1846 when a Swiss vintner named John Tanner brought the Norton grape to the area, Baxter's Vineyards and Winery (founded Icarians Emile and Annette Baxter in 1857) continues as a 5-generation old family business and is Illinois' oldest winery. [19]

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  1. Randall J. Soland, Utopian Communities of Illinois: Heaven on the Prairie (History Press 2017), p. 57
  2. 1 2 https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/13997563/etienne-cabet
  3. British parish records on ancestry.com; the child may have been Gentilly Cabet, who married Eugene Dagousset in Paris in 1891 according to another ancestry.com database
  4. Wikisource-logo.svg Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Cabet, Étienne"  . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Wikisource-logo.svg  Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Cabet, Etienne"  . New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
  6. Soland p. 58
  7. "CABET, Etienne (1788-1856) Fondateur du communisme en France". Recherches sur l’anarchisme. Retrieved 2007-02-27.
  8. "Engels To Marx" . Retrieved 2007-06-05.
  9. "Engels To Étienne Cabet 5 April 1848" . Retrieved 2007-06-05.
  10. Paul Bénichou, Le Sacre de l'écrivain : Doctrines de l'âge romantique (Paris: Gallimard, 1977), p. 402 n.63.
  11. 1 2 Soland p. 59
  12. Friesen, John W.; Friesen, Virginia Lyons (2004). The Palgrave Companion to North American Utopias. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 137.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 Friesen, John W.; Friesen, Virginia Lyons (2004). The Palgrave Companion to North American Utopias. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 139.
  14. Solandp. 59
  15. Soland p. 63
  16. 1 2 3 Pitzer, Donald (1997). America's Communal Utopias. Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press. p. 283.
  17. 1 2 3 Soland p. 64
  18. Ancestry.com's Missouri Registry of Deaths for the week of November 10, 1856, p. 122
  19. 1 2 3 Soland p. 65
  20. Some miscellaneous handwritten records of the Hancock County, Illinois court relative to "E. Cabbett" are available in ancestry.com's library edition, images 1117-1119 of 1825-1858 records

Further reading