THE COMMUNISTIC SOCIETIES OF THE UNITED STATES
FROM PERSONAL VISIT AND OBSERVATION
BY CHARLES NORDHOFF
TO MY FRIENDS, DOCTOR AND MRS. JOHN DAVIS, OF CINCINNATI.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
SUBJECTS OF THE INQUIRY THE CONDITION AND NECESSITIES OF LABOR MISTAKE OF THE TRADES-UNIONS REASONS FOR IT LABOR SOCIETIES, AS AT PRESENT MANAGED, MISCHIEVOUS
THE AMANA SOCIETY
ITS HISTORY AND ORIGIN AMANA IN 1874 SOCIAL HABITS AND CUSTOMS RELIGION AND LITERATURE
THE HARMONISTS AT ECONOMY
ECONOMY IN 1874 HISTORY OF THE HARMONY SOCIETY ITS RELIGIOUS CREED PRACTICAL LIFE SOME PARTICULARS OF "FATHER RAPP"
THE SEPARATISTS OF ZOAR
ORIGIN AND HISTORY THEIR RELIGIOUS FAITH PRACTICAL LIFE AND PRESENT CONDITION
"MOTHER ANN" THE ORDER OF LIFE AMONG THE SHAKERS A VISIT TO MOUNT LEBANON DETAILS OF ALL THE SHAKER SOCIETIES SHAKER LITERATURE "SPIRITUAL MANIFESTATIONS"
THE ONEIDA AND WALLINGFORD PERFECTIONISTS
ORIGIN AND HISTORY THEIR RELIGIOUS BELIEF DAILY LIFE AND BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION SUNDAY AT ONEIDA "CRITICISM" AND "PRAYER-CURES"
THE AURORA AND BETHEL COMMUNES
AURORA IN OREGON BETHEL IN MISSOURI THEIR HISTORY AND RELIGIOUS FAITH
THE BISHOP HILL COLONY
ITS ORIGIN AND HISTORY CAUSES OF ITS FAILURE
THE CEDAR VALE COMMUNE
THE SOCIAL FREEDOM COMMUNITY
THREE COLONIES—NOT COMMUNISTIC
ANAHEIM, IN CALIFORNIA VINELAND, IN NEW JERSEY SILKVILLE PRAIRIE HOME, IN KANSAS
COMPARATIVE VIEW AND REVIEW
STATISTICAL COMMUNAL POLITICS AND POLITICAL ECONOMY CHARACTER OF THE PEOPLE INFLUENCES OF COMMUNISTIC LIFE CONDITIONS AND POSSIBILITIES OF COMMUNISTIC LIVING
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
VIEWS IN ZOAR MAP SHOWING LOCATION OF COMMUNISTIC SOCIETIES GRACE BEFORE MEAT—AMANA SCHOOL-HOUSE—AMANA AMANA, A GENERAL VIEW CHURCH AT AMANA INTERIOR VIEW OF CHURCH PLAN OF THE INSPIRATIONIST VILLAGES ASSEMBLY HALL—ECONOMY CHURCH AT ECONOMY A STREET VIEW IN ECONOMY FATHER RAPP'S HOUSE—ECONOMY CHURCH AT ZOAR SCHOOL-HOUSE AT ZOAR A GROUP OF SHAKERS THE FIRST SHAKER CHURCH, AT MOUNT LEBANON SHAKER ARCHITECTURE—MOUNT LEBANON SHAKER ARCHITECTURE—ENFIELD, N. H. SHAKER WOMEN AT WORK SHAKER COSTUMES SHAKER WORSHIP.—THE DANCE SISTERS IN EVERY-DAY COSTUME ELDER FREDERICK W. EVANS VIEW OF A SHAKER VILLAGE THE HERB-HOUSE—MOUNT LEBANON MEETING-HOUSE AT MOUNT LEBANON INTERIOR OF MEETING-HOUSE AT MOUNT LEBANON SHAKER TANNERY—MOUNT LEBANON SHAKER OFFICE AND STORE AT MOUNT LEBANON A SHAKER ELDER A GROUP OF SHAKER CHILDREN SHAKER DINING-HALL A SHAKER SCHOOL SHAKER MUSIC-HALL J. H. NOYES, FOUNDER OF THE PERFECTIONISTS COSTUMES AT ONEIDA THE BETHEL COMMUNE, MISSOURI CHURCH AT BETHEL, MISSOURI
Though it is probable that for a long time to come the mass of mankind in civilized countries will find it both necessary and advantageous to labor for wages, and to accept the condition of hired laborers (or, as it has absurdly become the fashion to say, employees), every thoughtful and kind-hearted person must regard with interest any device or plan which promises to enable at least the more intelligent, enterprising, and determined part of those who are not capitalists to become such, and to cease to labor for hire.
Nor can any one doubt the great importance, both to the security of the capitalists, and to the intelligence and happiness of the non-capitalists (if I may use so awkward a word), of increasing the number of avenues to independence for the latter. For the character and conduct of our own population in the United States show conclusively that nothing so stimulates intelligence in the poor, and at the same time nothing so well enables them to bear the inconveniences of their lot, as a reasonable prospect that with industry and economy they may raise themselves out of the condition of hired laborers into that of independent employers of their own labor. Take away entirely the grounds of such a hope, and a great mass of our poorer people would gradually sink into stupidity, and a blind discontent which education would only increase, until they became a danger to the state; for the greater their intelligence, the greater would be the dissatisfaction with their situation—just as we see that the dissemination of education among the English agricultural laborers (by whom, of all classes in Christendom, independence is least to be hoped for), has lately aroused these sluggish beings to strikes and a struggle for a change in their condition.
Hitherto, in the United States, our cheap and fertile lands have acted as an important safety-valve for the enterprise and discontent of our non-capitalist population. Every hired workman knows that if he chooses to use economy and industry in his calling, he may without great or insurmountable difficulty establish himself in independence on the public lands; and, in fact, a large proportion of our most energetic and intelligent mechanics do constantly seek these lands, where with patient toil they master nature and adverse circumstances, often make fortunate and honorable careers, and at the worst leave their children in an improved condition of life. I do not doubt that the eagerness of some of our wisest public men for the acquisition of new territory has arisen from their conviction that this opening for the independence of laboring men was essential to the security of our future as a free and peaceful state. For, though not one in a hundred, or even one in a thousand of our poorer and so-called laboring class may choose to actually achieve independence by taking up and tilling a portion of the public lands, it is plain that the knowledge that any one may do so makes those who do not more contented with their lot, which they thus feel to be one of choice and not of compulsion.
Any circumstance, as the exhaustion of these lands, which should materially impair this opportunity for independence, would be, I believe, a serious calamity to our country; and the spirit of the Trades-Unions and International Societies appears to me peculiarly mischievous and hateful, because they seek to eliminate from the thoughts of their adherents the hope or expectation of independence. The member of a Trades-Union is taught to regard himself, and to act toward society, as a hireling for life; and these societies are united, not as men seeking a way to exchange dependence for independence, but as hirelings, determined to remain such, and only demanding better conditions of their masters. If it were possible to infuse with this spirit all or the greater part of the non-capitalist class in the United States, this would, I believe, be one of the gravest calamities which could befall us as a nation; for it would degrade the mass of our voters, and make free government here very difficult, if it did not entirely change the form of our government, and expose us to lasting disorders and attacks upon property.
We see already that in whatever part of our country the Trades-Union leaders have succeeded in imposing themselves upon mining or manufacturing operatives, the results are the corruption of our politics, a lowering of the standard of intelligence and independence among the laborers, and an unreasoning and unreasonable discontent, which, in its extreme development, despises right, and seeks only changes degrading to its own class, at the cost of injury and loss to the general public.
The Trades-Unions and International Clubs have become a formidable power in the United States and Great Britain, but so far it is a power almost entirely for evil. They have been able to disorganize labor, and to alarm capital. They have succeeded, in a comparatively few cases, in temporarily increasing the wages and in diminishing the hours of labor in certain branches of industry—a benefit so limited, both as to duration and amount, that it cannot justly be said to have inured to the general advantage of the non-capitalist class. On the other hand, they have debased the character and lowered the moral tone of their membership by the narrow and cold-blooded selfishness of their spirit and doctrines, and have thus done an incalculable harm to society; and, moreover, they have, by alarming capital, lessened the wages fund, seriously checked enterprise, and thus decreased the general prosperity of their own class. For it is plain that to no one in society is the abundance of capital and its free and secure use in all kinds of enterprises so vitally important as to the laborer for wages—to the Trades-Unionist.
To assert necessary and eternal enmity between labor and capital would seem to be the extreme of folly in men who have predetermined to remain laborers for wages all their lives, and who therefore mean to be peculiarly dependent on capital. Nor are the Unions wiser or more reasonable toward their fellow-laborers; for each Union aims, by limiting the number of apprentices a master may take, and by other equally selfish regulations, to protect its own members against competition, forgetting apparently that if you prevent men from becoming bricklayers, a greater number must seek to become carpenters; and that thus, by its exclusive policy, a Union only plays what Western gamblers call a "cut-throat game" with the general laboring population. For if the system of Unions were perfect, and each were able to enforce its policy of exclusion, a great mass of poor creatures, driven from every desirable employment, would be forced to crowd into the lowest and least paid. I do not know where one could find so much ignorance, contempt for established principles, and cold-blooded selfishness, as among the Trades-Unions and International Societies of the United States and Great Britain—unless one should go to France. While they retain their present spirit, they might well take as their motto the brutal and stupid saying of a French writer, that "Mankind are engaged in a war for bread, in which every man's hand is at his brother's throat." Directly, they offer a prize to incapacity and robbery, compelling their ablest members to do no more than the least able, and spoiling the aggregate wealth of society by burdensome regulations restricting labor. Logically, to the Trades-Union leaders the Chicago or Boston fire seemed a more beneficial event than the invention of the steam-engine; for plenty seems to them a curse, and scarcity the greatest blessing. [Transcriber's Note: Lengthy footnote relocated to chapter end.]
Any organization which teaches its adherents to accept as inevitable for themselves and for the mass of a nation the condition of hirelings, and to conduct their lives on that premise, is not only wrong, but an injury to the community. Mr. Mill wisely says on this point, in his chapter on "The Future of the Laboring Classes": "There can be little doubt that the status of hired laborers will gradually tend to confine itself to the description of work-people whose low moral qualities render them unfit for any thing more independent; and that the relation of masters and work-people will be gradually superseded by partnership in one of two forms: in some cases, association of the laborers with the capitalist; in others, and perhaps finally in all, association of laborers among themselves." I imagine that the change he speaks of will be very slow and gradual; but it is important that all doors shall be left open for it, and Trades-Unions would close every door.
Professor Cairnes, in his recent contribution to Political Economy, goes further even than Mr. Mill, and argues that a change of this nature is inevitable. He remarks: "The modifications which occur in the distribution of capital among its several departments, as nations advance, are by no means fortuitous, but follow on the whole a well-defined course, and move toward a determinate goal. In effect, what we find is a constant growth of the national capital, accompanied with a nearly equally constant decline in the proportion of this capital which goes to support productive labor.... Though the fund for the remuneration of mere labor, whether skilled or unskilled, must, so long as industry is progressive, ever bear a constantly diminishing proportion alike to the growing wealth and growing capital, there is nothing in the nature of things which restricts the laboring population to this fund for their support. In return, indeed, for their mere labor, it is to this that they must look for their sole reward; but they may help production otherwise than by their labor: they may save, and thus become themselves the owners of capital; and profits may thus be brought to aid the wages-fund." [Footnote: "Some Leading Principles of Political Economy Newly Expounded." By J. E. Cairnes, M.A. New York, Harper & Brothers.]
Aside from systematized emigration to unsettled or thinly peopled regions, which the Trades-Unions of Europe ought to organize on a great scale, but which they have entirely neglected, the other outlets for the mass of dissatisfied hand-laborers lie through co-operative or communistic efforts. Co-operative societies flourish in England and Germany. We have had a number of them in this country also, but their success has not been marked; and I have found it impossible to get statistical returns even of their numbers. If the Trades-Unions had used a tenth of the money they have wasted in futile efforts to shorten hours of labor and excite their members to hatred, indolence, and waste, in making public the statistics and the possibilities of co-operation, they would have achieved some positive good.
But while co-operative efforts have generally failed in the United States, we have here a number of successful Communistic Societies, pursuing agriculture and different branches of manufacturing, and I have thought it useful to examine these, to see if their experience offers any useful hints toward the solution of the labor question. Hitherto very little, indeed almost nothing definite and precise, has been made known concerning these societies; and Communism remains loudly but very vaguely spoken of, by friends as well as enemies, and is commonly a word either of terror or of contempt in the public prints.
In the following pages will be found, accordingly, an account of the COMMUNISTIC SOCIETIES now existing in the United States, made from personal visit and careful examination; and including for each its social customs and expedients; its practical and business methods; its system of government; the industries it pursues; its religious creed and practices; as well as its present numbers and condition, and its history.
It appears to me an important fact that these societies, composed for the most part of men originally farmers or mechanics—people of very limited means and education—have yet succeeded in accumulating considerable wealth, and at any rate a satisfactory provision for their own old age and disability, and for the education of their children or successors. In every case they have developed among their membership very remarkable business ability, considering their original station in life; they have found among themselves leaders wise enough to rule, and skill sufficient to enable them to establish and carry on, not merely agricultural operations, but also manufactures, and to conduct successfully complicated business affairs.
Some of these societies have existed fifty, some twenty-five, and some for nearly eighty years. All began with small means; and some are now very wealthy. Moreover, while some of these communes are still living under the guidance of their founders, others, equally successful, have continued to prosper for many years after the death of their original leaders. Some are celibate; but others inculcate, or at least permit marriage. Some gather their members into a common or "unitary" dwelling; but others, with no less success, maintain the family relation and the separate household.
It seemed to me that the conditions of success vary sufficiently among these societies to make their histories at least interesting, and perhaps important. I was curious, too, to ascertain if their success depended upon obscure conditions, not generally attainable, as extraordinary ability in a leader; or undesirable, as religious fanaticism or an unnatural relation of the sexes; or whether it might not appear that the conditions absolutely necessary to success were only such as any company of carefully selected and reasonably determined men and women might hope to command.
I desired also to discover how the successful Communists had met and overcome the difficulties of idleness, selfishness, and unthrift in individuals, which are commonly believed to make Communism impossible, and which are well summed up in the following passage in Mr. Mill's chapter on Communism:
"The objection ordinarily made to a system of community of property and equal distribution of the produce, that each person would be incessantly occupied in evading his fair share of the work, points, undoubtedly, to a real difficulty. But those who urge this objection forget to how great an extent the same difficulty exists under the system on which nine tenths of the business of society is now conducted. The objection supposes that honest and efficient labor is only to be had from those who are themselves individually to reap the benefit of their own exertions. But how small a part of all the labor performed in England, from the lowest paid to the highest, is done by persons working for their own benefit. From the Irish reaper or hodman to the chief justice or the minister of state, nearly all the work of society is remunerated by day wages or fixed salaries. A factory operative has less personal interest in his work than a member of a Communist association, since he is not, like him, working for a partnership of which he is himself a member. It will no doubt be said that, though the laborers themselves have not, in most cases, a personal interest in their work, they are watched and superintended, and their labor directed, and the mental part of the labor performed, by persons who have. Even this, however, is far from being universally the fact. In all public, and many of the largest and most successful private undertakings, not only the labors of detail, but the control and superintendence are entrusted to salaried officers. And though the 'master's eye,' when the master is vigilant and intelligent, is of proverbial value, it must be remembered that in a Socialist farm or manufactory, each laborer would be under the eye, not of one master, but of the whole community. In the extreme case of obstinate perseverance in not performing the due share of work, the community would have the same resources which society now has for compelling conformity to the necessary conditions of the association. Dismissal, the only remedy at present, is no remedy when any other laborer who may be engaged does no better than his predecessor: the power of dismissal only enables an employer to obtain from his workmen the customary amount of labor, but that customary labor may be of any degree of inefficiency. Even the laborer who loses his employment by idleness or negligence has nothing worse to suffer, in the most unfavorable case, than the discipline of a workhouse, and if the desire to avoid this be a sufficient motive in the one system, it would be sufficient in the other. I am not undervaluing the strength of the incitement given to labor when the whole or a large share of the benefit of extra exertion belongs to the laborer. But under the present system of industry this incitement, in the great majority of cases, does not exist. If communistic labor might be less vigorous than that of a peasant proprietor, or a workman laboring on his own account, it would probably be more energetic than that of a laborer for hire, who has no personal interest in the matter at all. The neglect by the uneducated classes of laborers for hire of the duties which they engage to perform is in the present state of society most flagrant. Now it is an admitted condition of the communist scheme that all shall be educated; and this being supposed, the duties of the members of the association would doubtless be as diligently performed as those of the generality of salaried officers in the middle or higher classes; who are not supposed to be necessarily unfaithful to their trust, because so long as they are not dismissed their pay is the same in however lax a manner their duty is fulfilled. Undoubtedly, as a general rule, remuneration by fixed salaries does not in any class of functionaries produce the maximum of zeal; and this is as much as can be reasonably alleged against communistic labor.
"That even this inferiority would necessarily exist is by no means so certain as is assumed by those who are little used to carry their minds beyond the state of things with which they are familiar....
"Another of the objections to Communism is similar to that so often urged against poor-laws: that if every member of the community were assured of subsistence for himself and any number of children, on the sole condition of willingness to work, prudential restraint on the multiplication of mankind would be at an end, and population would start forward at a rate which would reduce the community through successive stages of increasing discomfort to actual starvation. There would certainly be much ground for this apprehension if Communism provided no motives to restraint, equivalent to those which it would take away. But Communism is precisely the state of things in which opinion might be expected to declare itself with greatest intensity against this kind of selfish intemperance. Any augmentation of numbers which diminished the comfort or increased the toil of the mass would then cause (which now it does not) immediate and unmistakable inconvenience to every individual in the association—inconvenience which could not then be imputed to the avarice of employers or the unjust privileges of the rich. In such altered circumstances opinion could not fail to reprobate, and if reprobation did not suffice, to repress by penalties of some description, this or any other culpable self-indulgence at the expense of the community. The communistic scheme, instead of being peculiarly open to the objection drawn from danger of over-population, has the recommendation of tending in an especial degree to the prevention of that evil."
It will be seen in the following pages that means have been found to meet these and other difficulties; in one society even the prudential restraint upon marriage has been adopted.
Finally, I wished to see what the successful Communists had made of their lives; what was the effect of communal living upon the character of the individual man and woman; whether the life had broadened or narrowed them; and whether assured fortune and pecuniary independence had brought to them a desire for beauty of surroundings and broader intelligence: whether, in brief, the Communist had any where become something more than a comfortable and independent day-laborer, and aspired to something higher than a mere bread-and-butter existence.
To make my observations I was obliged to travel from Maine in the northeast to Kentucky in the south, and Oregon in the west. I have thought it best to give at first an impartial and not unfriendly account of each commune, or organized system of communes; and in several concluding chapters I have analyzed and compared their different customs and practices, and attempted to state what, upon the facts presented, seem to be the conditions absolutely requisite to the successful conduct of a communistic society, and also what appear to be the influences, for good and evil, of such bodies upon their members and upon their neighbors.
I have added some particulars of the Swedish Commune which lately existed at Bishop Hill, in Illinois, but which, after a flourishing career of seven years, has now become extinct; and I did this to show, in a single example, what are the causes which work against harmony and success in such a society.
Also I have given some particulars concerning three examples of colonization, which, though they do not properly belong to my subject, are yet important, as showing what may be accomplished by co-operative efforts in agriculture, under prudent management.
It is, I suppose, hardly necessary to say that, while I have given an impartial and respectful account of the religious faith of each commune, I am not therefore to be supposed to hold with any of them. For instance, I thought it interesting to give some space to the very singular phenomena called "spiritual manifestations" among the Shakers; but I am not what is commonly called a "Spiritualist."
[Relocated Footnote: Lest I should to some readers appear to use too strong language, I append here a few passages from a recent English work, Mr. Thornton's book "On Labor," where he gives an account of some of the regulations of English Trades-Unions:
"A journeyman is not permitted to teach his own son his own trade, nor, if the lad managed to learn the trade by stealth, would he be permitted to practice it. A master, desiring out of charity to take as apprentice one of the eight destitute orphans of a widowed mother, has been told by his men that if he did they would strike. A bricklayer's assistant who by looking on has learned to lay bricks as well as his principal, is generally doomed, nevertheless, to continue a laborer for life. He will never rise to the rank of a bricklayer, if those who have already attained that dignity can help it."
"Some Unions divide the country round them into districts, and will not permit the products of the trades controlled by them to be used except within the district in which they have been fabricated.... At Manchester this combination is particularly effective, preventing any bricks made beyond a radius of four miles from entering the city. To enforce the exclusion, paid agents are employed; every cart of bricks coming toward Manchester is watched, and if the contents be found to have come from without the prescribed boundary the bricklayers at once refuse to work.... The vagaries of the Lancashire brick makers are fairly paralleled by the masons of the same county. Stone, when freshly quarried, is softer, and can be more easily cut than later: men habitually employed about any particular quarry better understand the working of its particular stone than men from a distance; there is great economy, too, in transporting stone dressed instead of in rough blocks. The Yorkshire masons, however, will not allow Yorkshire stone to be brought into their district if worked on more than one side. All the rest of the working, the edging and jointing, they insist on doing themselves, though they thereby add thirty-five per cent, to its price.... A Bradford contractor, requiring for a staircase some steps of hard delf-stone, a material which Bradford masons so much dislike that they often refuse employment rather than undertake it, got the steps worked at the quarry. But when they arrived ready for setting, his masons insisted on their being worked over again, at an expense of from 5s. to 10s. per step. A master-mason at Ashton obtained some stone ready polished from a quarry near Macclesfield. His men, however, in obedience to the rules of their club, refused to fix it until the polished part had been defaced and they had polished it again by hand, though not so well as at first.... In one or two of the northern counties, the associated plasterers and associated plasterers' laborers have come to an understanding, according to which the latter are to abstain from all plasterers' work except simple whitewashing; and the plasterers in return are to do nothing except pure plasterers' work, that the laborers would like to do for them, insomuch that if a plasterer wants laths or plaster to go on with, he must not go and fetch them himself, but must send a laborer for them. In consequence of this agreement, a Mr. Booth, of Bolton, having sent one of his plasterers to bed and point a dozen windows, had to place a laborer with him during the whole of the four days he was engaged on the job, though any body could have brought him all he required in half a day.... At Liverpool, a bricklayer's laborer may legally carry as many as twelve bricks at a time. Elsewhere ten is the greatest number allowed. But at Leeds 'any brother in the Union professing to carry more than the common number, which is eight bricks, shall be fined 1s.'; and any brother 'knowing the same without giving the earliest information thereof to the committee of management shall be fined the same.'... During the building of the Manchester Law Courts, the bricklayers' laborers struck because they were desired to wheel bricks instead of carrying them on their shoulders."]
THE AMANA COMMUNITY.
The "True Inspiration Congregations," as they call themselves ("Wahre Inspiration's Gemeinden"), form a communistic society in Iowa, seventy-four miles west of Davenport.
The society has at this time 1450 members; owns about 25,000 acres of land; lives on this land in seven different small towns; carries on agriculture and manufactures of several kinds, and is highly prosperous.
Its members are all Germans.
The base of its organization is religion; they are pietists; and their religious head, at present a woman, is supposed by them to speak by direct inspiration of God. Hence they call themselves "Inspirationists."
They came from Germany in the year 1842, and settled at first near Buffalo, on a large tract of land which they called Eben-Ezer. Here they prospered greatly; but feeling the need of more land, in 1855 they began to remove to their present home in Iowa.
They have printed a great number of books—more than one hundred volumes; and in some of these the history of their peculiar religious belief is carried back to the beginning of the last century. They continue to receive from Germany accessions to their numbers, and often pay out of their common treasury the expenses of poor families who recommend themselves to the society by letters, and whom their inspired leader declares to be worthy.
They seem to have conducted their pecuniary affairs with eminent prudence and success.
The "Work of Inspiration" is said to have begun far back in the eighteenth century. I have a volume, printed in 1785, which is called the "Thirty-sixth Collection of the Inspirational Records," and gives an account of "Brother John Frederick Rock's journeys and visits in the year 1719, wherein are recorded numerous utterances of the Spirit by his word of mouth to the faithful in Constance, Schaffhausen, Zurich, and other places."
They admit, I believe, that the "Inspiration" died out from time to time, but was revived as the congregations became more godly. In 1749, in 1772, and in 1776 there were especial demonstrations. Finally, in the year 1816, Michael Krausert, a tailor of Strasburg, became what they call an "instrument" (werkzeug), and to him were added several others:
Philip Moschel, a stocking-weaver, and a German; Christian Metz, a carpenter; and finally, in 1818, Barbara Heynemann, a "poor and illiterate servant-maid," an Alsatian ("eine arme ganz ungdehrte Dienstmagd").
Metz, who was for many years, and until his death in 1867, the spiritual head of the society, wrote an account of the society from the time he became an "instrument" until the removal to Iowa. From this, and from a volume of Barbara Heynemann's inspired utterances, I gather that the congregations did not hesitate to criticize, and very sharply, the conduct of their spiritual leaders; and to depose them, and even expel them for cause. Moreover, they recount in their books, without disguise, all their misunderstandings. Thus it is recorded of Barbara Heynemann that in 1820 she was condemned to expulsion from the society, and her earnest entreaties only sufficed to obtain consent that she should serve as a maid in the family of one of the congregation; but even then it was forbidden her to come to the meetings. Her exclusion seems, however, to have lasted but a few months. Metz, in his "Historical Description," relates that this trouble fell upon Barbara because she had too friendly an eye upon the young men; and there are several notices of her desire to marry, as, for instance, under date of August, 1822, where it is related that "the Enemy" tempted her again with a desire to marry George Landmann; but "the Lord showed through Brother Rath, and also to her own conscience, that this step was against his holy will, and accordingly they did not marry, but did repent concerning it, and the Lord's grace was once more given her." But, like Jacob, she seems to have wrestled with the Lord, for later she did marry George Landmann, and, though they were for a while under censure, she regained her old standing as an "inspired instrument," came over to the United States with her husband, was for many years the assistant of Metz, and since his death has been the inspired oracle of Amana.
In the year 1822 the congregations appear to have attracted the attention of the English Quakers, for I find a notice that in December of that year they were visited by William Allen, a Quaker minister from London, who seems to have been a man of wealth. He inquired concerning their religious faith, and told them that he and his brethren at home were also subject to inspiration. He persuaded them to hold a meeting, at which by his desire they read the 14th chapter of John; and he told them that it was probable he would be moved of the Lord to speak to them. But when they had read the chapter, and while they waited for the Quaker's inspiration, Barbara Heynemann was moved to speak. At this Allen became impatient and left the meeting; and in the evening he told The brethren that the Quaker inspiration was as real as their own, but that they did not write down what was spoken by their preachers; whereto he received for reply that it was not necessary, for it was evident that the Quakers had not the real inspiration, nor the proper and consecrated "instruments" to declare the will of the Lord; and so the Quaker went away on his journey home, apparently not much edified.
The congregations were much scattered in Germany, and it appears to have been the habit of the "inspired instruments" to travel from one to the other, deliver messages from on high, and inquire into the spiritual condition of the faithful. Under the leadership of Christian Metz and several others, between 1825 and 1839 a considerable number of their followers were brought together at a place called Armenburg, where manufactures gave them employment, and here they prospered, but fell into trouble with the government because they refused to take oaths and to send their children to the public schools, which were under the rule of the clergy.
In 1842 it was revealed to Christian Metz that all the congregations should be gathered together, and be led far away out of their own country. Later, America was pointed out as their future home. To a meeting of the elders it was revealed who should go to seek out a place for settlement; and Metz relates in his brief history that one Peter Mook wanted to be among these pioneers, and was dissatisfied because he was not among those named; and as Mook insisted on going, a message came the next day from God, in which he told them they might go or stay as they pleased, but if they remained in Germany it would be "at their own risk;" and as Mook was not even named in this message, he concluded to remain at home.
Metz and four others sailed in September, 1842, for New York. They found their way to Buffalo; and there, on the advice of the late Mr. Dorsheimer, from whom they received much kindness, bought five thousand acres of the old Seneca Indian reservation at ten dollars per acre. To this they added later nearly as much more. Parts of this estate now lie within the corporate limits of Buffalo; and though they sold out and removed to the West before the land attained its present value, the purchase was a most fortunate one for them. Metz records that they had much trouble at first with the Indians; but they overcame this and other difficulties, and by industry and ingenuity soon built up comfortable homes. Three hundred and fifty persons were brought out in the first year, two hundred and seventeen in 1844; and their numbers were increased rapidly, until they had over one thousand people in their different villages.
Between 1843 and 1855, when they began to remove to Iowa, they turned their purchase at Eben-Ezer (as they called the place) into a garden. I visited the locality last year, and found there still the large, substantial houses, the factories, churches, and shops which they built. Street cars now run where they found only a dense forest; and the eight thousand acres which they cleared are now fertile fields and market-gardens. Another population of Germans has succeeded the Amana Society; their churches now have steeples, and there is an occasional dram-shop; but the present residents speak of their predecessors with esteem and even affection, and in one of the large stores I found the products of the Iowa society regularly sold. A few of the former members still live on the old purchase.
They appear to have had considerable means from the first. Among the members were several persons of wealth, who contributed large sums to the common stock. I was told that one person gave between fifty and sixty thousand dollars; and others gave sums of from two to twenty thousand dollars.
They were not Communists in Germany; and did not, I was told, when they first emigrated, intend to live in community. Among those who came over in the first year were some families who had been accustomed to labor in factories. To these the agricultural life was unpleasant, and it was thought advisable to set up a woolen factory to give them employment. This was the first difficulty which stared them in the face. They had intended to live simply as a Christian congregation or church, but the necessity which lay upon them of looking to the temporal welfare of all the members forced them presently to think of putting all their means into a common stock.
Seeing that some of the brethren did not take kindly to agricultural labor, and that if they insisted upon a purely agricultural settlement they would lose many of their people, they determined that each should, as far as possible, have employment at the work to which he was accustomed. They began to build workshops, but, to carry these on successfully, they had business tact enough to see that it was necessary to do so by a general contribution of means.
"We were commanded at this time, by inspiration, to put all our means together and live in community," said one to me; "and we soon saw that we could not have got on or kept together on any other plan."
Eben-Ezer is a wide plain; and there, as now in Iowa, they settled their people in villages, which they called "Upper," "Lower," and "Middle" Eben-Ezer. From the large size of many of the houses, I imagine they had there, commonly, several families in one dwelling. At Amana each family has its own house; otherwise their customs were similar to those still retained in Iowa, which I shall describe in their proper place.
In 1854 they were "commanded by inspiration" to remove to the West. They selected Iowa as their new home, because land was cheap there; and in 1855, having made a purchase, they sent out a detachment to prepare the way.
It is a remarkable evidence of the prudence and ability with which they conduct their business affairs, that they were able to sell out the whole of their eight-thousand-acre tract near Buffalo, with all their improvements, without loss. Usually such a sale is extremely difficult, because the buildings of a communistic society have peculiarities which detract from their value for individual uses. The Rappists, who sold out twice, were forced to submit to heavy loss each time. I do not doubt that several of the northern Shaker societies would have removed before this to a better soil and climate but for the difficulty of selling their possessions at a fair price.
The removal from Eben-Ezer to Amana, however, required ten years. As they found purchasers in one place they sent families to the other; meantime they do not appear to have found it difficult to maintain their organization in both.
"The name we took out of the Bible," said one of the officers of the society to me. They put the accent on the first syllable. The name occurs in the Song of Solomon, the fourth chapter and eighth verse: "Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the lions' dens, from the mountains of the leopards."
Amana in Iowa, however, is not a mountain, but an extensive plain, upon which they have built seven villages, conveniently placed so as to command the cultivated land, and to form an irregular circle within their possessions. In these villages all the people live, and they are thus divided:
Name Population Business
Amana 450 Woolen-mill, saw and grist mill, and farming East Amana 125 Farming. Middle Amana 350 Woolen-mill and farming. Amana near the Hill 125 Farming, saw-mill, and tannery. West Amana 150 Grist-mill and farming. South Amana 150 Saw-mill and farming Homestead 135 Railroad station, a saw-mill, farming, and general depot.
The villages lie about a mile and a half apart, and each has a store at which the neighboring farmers trade, and a tavern or inn for the accommodation of the general public. Each village has also its shoemakers', carpenters', tailors', and other shops, for they aim to produce and make, as far as possible, all that they use. In Middle Amana there is a printing-office, where their books are made.
The villages consist usually of one straggling street, outside of which lie the barns, and the mills, factories, and workshops. The houses are well built, of brick, stone, or wood, very plain; each with a sufficient garden, but mostly standing immediately on the street. They use no paint, believing that the wood lasts as well without. There is usually a narrow sidewalk of boards or brick; and the school-house and church are notable buildings only because of their greater size. Like the Quakers, they abhor "steeple-houses"; and their church architecture is of the plainest. The barns and other farm buildings are roomy and convenient. On the boundaries of a village are usually a few houses inhabited by hired laborers.
Each family has a house for itself; though when a young couple marry, they commonly go to live with the parents of one or the other for some years.
As you walk through a village, you notice that at irregular intervals are houses somewhat larger than the rest. These are either cook-houses or prayer-houses. The people eat in common, but for convenience' sake they are divided, so that a certain number eat together. For Amana, which has 450 people, there are fifteen such cooking and eating houses. In these the young women are employed to work under the supervision of matrons; and hither when the bell rings come those who are appointed to eat at each—the sexes sitting at separate tables, and the children also by themselves.
"Why do you separate men from women at table?" I asked.
"To prevent silly conversation and trifling conduct," was the answer.
Food is distributed to the houses according to the number of persons eating in each. Meal and milk are brought to the doors; and each cooking-house is required to make its own butter and cheese. For those whom illness or the care of small children keeps at home, the food is placed in neat baskets; and it was a curious sight to see, when the dinner-bell rang, a number of women walking rapidly about the streets with these baskets, each nicely packed with food.
When the bell ceases ringing and all are assembled, they stand up in their places in silence for half a minute, then one says grace, and when he ends, all say, "God bless and keep us safely," and then sit down. There is but little conversation at table; the meal is eaten rapidly, but with decorum; and at its close, all stand up again, some one gives thanks, and thereupon they file out with quiet order and precision.
They live well, after the hearty German fashion, and bake excellent bread. The table is clean, but it has no cloth. The dishes are coarse but neat; and the houses, while well built, and possessing all that is absolutely essential to comfort according to the German peasants' idea, have not always carpets, and have often a bed in what New-Englanders would call the parlor; and in general are for use and not ornament.
They breakfast between six and half-past six, according to the season, have supper between six and seven, and dinner at half-past eleven. They have besides an afternoon lunch of bread and butter and coffee, and in summer a forenoon lunch of bread, to which they add beer or wine, both home-made.
They do not forbid tobacco.
Each business has its foreman; and these leaders in each village meet together every evening, to concert and arrange the labors of the following day. Thus if any department needs for an emergency an extra force, it is known, and the proper persons are warned. The trustees select the temporal foremen, and give to each from time to time his proper charge, appointing him also his helpers. Thus a member showed me his "ticket," by which he was appointed to the care of the cows, with the names of those who were to assist him. In the summer, and when the work requires it, a large force is turned into the fields; and the women labor with the men in the harvest. The workmen in the factories are, of course, not often changed.
The children are kept at school between the ages of six and thirteen; the sexes do not sit in separate rooms. The school opens at seven o'clock, and the children study and recite until half-past nine. From that hour until eleven, when they are dismissed for dinner, they knit gloves, wristlets, or stockings. At one o'clock school reopens, and they once more attend to lessons until three, from which hour till half-past four they knit again. The teachers are men, but they are relieved by women when the labor-school begins. Boys as well as girls are required to knit. One of the teachers said to me that this work kept them quiet, gave them habits of industry, and kept them off the streets and from rude plays.
They instruct the children in musical notation, but do not allow musical instruments. They give only the most elementary instruction, the "three Rs," but give also constant drill in the Bible and in the Catechism. "Why should we let our youth study? We need no lawyers or preachers; we have already three doctors. What they need is to live holy lives, to learn God's commandments out of the Bible, to learn submission to his will, and to love him."
The dress of the people is plain. The men wear in the winter a vest which buttons close up to the throat, coat and trousers being of the common cut.
The women and young girls wear dingy colored stuffs, mostly of the society's own make, cut in the plainest style, and often short gowns, in the German peasant way. All, even to the very small girls, wear their hair in a kind of black cowl or cap, which covers only the back of the head, and is tied under the chin by a black ribbon. Also all, young as well as old, wear a small dark-colored shawl or handkerchief over the shoulders, and pinned very plainly across the breast. This peculiar uniform adroitly conceals the marks of sex, and gives a singularly monotonous appearance to the women.
The sex, I believe, is not highly esteemed by these people, who think it dangerous to the Christian's peace of mind. One of their most esteemed writers advises men to "fly from intercourse with women, as a very highly dangerous magnet and magical fire." Their women work hard and dress soberly; all ornaments are forbidden. To wear the hair loose is prohibited. Great care is used to keep the sexes apart. In their evening and other meetings, women not only sit apart from men, but they leave the room before the men break ranks. Boys are allowed to play only with boys, and girls with girls. There are no places or occasions for evening amusements, where the sexes might meet. On Sunday afternoons the boys are permitted to walk in the fields; and so are the girls, but these must go in another direction. "Perhaps they meet in the course of the walk," said a member to me, "but it is not allowed." At meals and in their labors they are also separated. With all this care to hide the charms of the young women, to make them, as far as dress can do so, look old and ugly, and to keep the young men away from them, love, courtship, and marriage go on at Amana as elsewhere in the world. The young man "falls in love," and finds ways to make his passion known to its object; he no doubt enjoys all the delights of courtship, intensified by the difficulties which his prudent brethren put in his way; and he marries the object of his affection, in spite of her black hood and her sad-colored little shawl, whenever he has reached the age of twenty-four.
For before that age he may not marry, even if his parents consent. This is a merely prudential rule. "They have few cares in life, and would marry too early for their own good—food and lodging being secured them—if there were not a rule upon the subject;" so said one of their wise men to me. Therefore, no matter how early the young people agree to marry, the wedding is deferred until the man reaches the proper age.
And when at last the wedding-day comes, it is treated with a degree of solemnity which is calculated to make it a day of terror rather than of unmitigated delight. The parents of the bride and groom meet, with two or three of the elders, at the house of the bride's father. Here, after singing and prayer, that chapter of Paul's writings is read wherein, with great plainness of speech, he describes to the Ephesians and the Christian world in general the duties of husband and wife. On this chapter the elders comment "with great thoroughness" to the young people, and "for a long time," as I was told; and after this lecture, and more singing and prayer, there is a modest supper, whereupon all retire quietly to their homes.
The strictly pious hold that marriages should be made only by consent of God, signified through the "inspired instrument."
While the married state has thus the countenance and sanction of the society and its elders, matrimony is not regarded as a meritorious act. It has in it, they say, a certain large degree of worldliness; it is not calculated to make them more, but rather less spiritually minded—so think they at Amana—and accordingly the religious standing of the young couple suffers and is lowered. In the Amana church there are three "classes," orders or grades, the highest consisting of those members who have manifested in their lives the greatest spirituality and piety. Now, if the new-married couple should have belonged for years to this highest class, their wedding would put them down into the lowest, or the "children's order," for a year or two, until they had won their slow way back by deepening piety.
The civil or temporal government of the Amana communists consists of thirteen trustees, chosen annually by the male members of the society. The president of the society is chosen by the trustees.
This body manages the finances, and carries on the temporalities generally, but it acts only with the unanimous consent of its members. The trustees live in different villages, but exercise no special authority, as I understand, as individuals. The foremen and elders in each village carry on the work and keep the accounts. Each village keeps its own books and manages its own affairs; but all accounts are finally sent to the head-quarters at Amana, where they are inspected, and the balance of profit or loss is discovered. It is supposed that the labor of each village produces a profit; but whether it does or not makes no difference in the supplies of the people, who receive every thing alike, as all property is held in common. All accounts are balanced once a year, and thus the productiveness of every industry is ascertained.
The elders are a numerous body, not necessarily old men, but presumably men of deep piety and spirituality. They are named or appointed by inspiration, and preside at religious assemblies.
In every village four or five of the older and more experienced elders meet each morning to advise together on business. This council acts, as I understand, upon reports of those younger elders who are foremen and have charge of different affairs. These in turn meet for a few minutes every evening, and arrange for the next day's work.
Women are never members of these councils, nor do they hold, as far as I could discover, any temporal or spiritual authority, with the single exception of their present spiritual head, who is a woman of eighty years. Moreover, if a young man should marry out of the society, and his wife should desire to become a member, the husband is expelled for a year—at the end of which time both may make application to come in, if they wish.
They have contrived a very simple and ingenious plan for supplying their members with clothing and other articles aside from food. To each adult male an annual allowance is made of from forty to one hundred dollars, according as his position and labor necessitates more or less clothing. For each adult female the allowance is from twenty-five to thirty dollars, and from five to ten dollars for each child.
All that they need is kept in store in each village, and is sold to the members at cost and expenses. When any one requires an article of clothing, he goes to the store and selects the cloth, for which he is charged in a book he brings with him; he then goes to the tailor, who makes the garment, and charges him on the book an established price. If he needs shoes, or a hat, or tobacco, or a watch, every thing is in the same way charged. As I sat in one of the shops, I noticed women coming in to make purchases, often bringing children with them, and each had her little book in which due entry was made. "Whatever we do not use, is so much saved against next year; or we may give it away if we like," one explained to me; and added that during the war, when the society contributed between eighteen and twenty thousand dollars to various benevolent purposes, much of this was given by individual members out of the savings on their year's account.
Almost every man has a watch, but they keep a strict rule over vanities of apparel, and do not allow the young girls to buy or wear ear-rings or breastpins.
The young and unmarried people, if they have no parents, are divided around among the families.
They have not many labor-saving contrivances; though of course the eating in common is both economical and labor-saving. There is in each village a general wash-house, where the clothing of the unmarried people is washed, but each family does its own washing.
They have no libraries; and most of their reading is in the Bible and in their own "inspired" records, which, as I shall show further on, are quite voluminous. A few newspapers are taken, and each calling among them receives the journal which treats of its own specialty. In general they aim to withdraw themselves as much as possible from the world, and take little interest in public affairs. During the war they voted; "but we do not now, for we do not like the turn politics have taken"—which seemed to me a curious reason for refusing to vote.
Their members came originally from many parts of Germany and Switzerland; they have also a few "Pennsylvania Dutch." They have much trouble with applicants who desire to join the society; and receive, the secretary told me, sometimes dozens of letters in a month from persons of whom they know nothing; and not a few of whom, it seems, write, not to ask permission to join, but to say that they are coming on at once. There have been cases where a man wrote to say that he had sold all his possessions, and was then on the way, with his family, to join the association. As they claim to be not an industrial, but a religious community, they receive new members with great care, and only after thorough investigation of motives and religious faith; and these random applications are very annoying to them. Most of their new members they receive from Germany, accepting them after proper correspondence, and under the instructions of "inspiration." Where they believe them worthy they do not inquire about their means; and a fund is annually set apart by the trustees to pay the passage of poor families whom they have determined to take in. Usually a neophyte enters on probation for two years, signing an obligation to labor faithfully, to conduct himself according to the society's regulations, and to demand no wages.
If at the close of his probation he appears to be a proper person, he is admitted to full membership; and if he has property, he is then expected to put this into the common stock; signing also the constitution, which provides that on leaving he shall have his contribution returned, but without interest.
There are cases, however, where a new-comer is at once admitted to full membership. This is where "inspiration" directs such breach of the general rule, on the ground that the applicant is already a fit person.
Most of their members came from the Lutheran Church; but they have also Catholics, and I believe several Jews.
They employ about two hundred hired hands, mostly in agricultural labors; and these are all Germans, many of whom have families. For these they supply houses, and give them sometimes the privilege of raising a few cattle on their land.
They are excellent farmers, and keep fine stock, which they care for with German thoroughness; stall-feeding in the winter.
The members do not work hard. One of the foremen told me that three hired hands would do as much as five or six of the members. Partly this comes no doubt from the interruption to steady labor caused by their frequent religious meetings; but I have found it generally true that the members of communistic societies take life easy.
The people are of varying degrees of intelligence; but most of them belong to the peasant class of Germany, and were originally farmers, weavers, or mechanics. They are quiet, a little stolid, and very well satisfied with their life. Here, as in other communistic societies, the brains seem to come easily to the top. The leading men with whom I conversed appeared to me to be thoroughly trained business men in the German fashion; men of education, too, and a good deal of intelligence. The present secretary told me that he had been during all his early life a merchant in Germany; and he had the grave and somewhat precise air of an honest German merchant of the old style—prudent, with a heavy sense of responsibility, a little rigid, and yet kindly.
At the little inn I talked with a number of the rank and file, and noticed in them great satisfaction with their method of life. They were, on the surface, the commoner kind of German laborers; but they had evidently thought pretty thoroughly upon the subject of communal living; and knew how to display to me what appeared to them its advantages in their society: the absolute equality of all men—"as God made us;" the security for their families; the abundance of food; and the independence of a master.
It seems to me that these advantages are dearer to the Germans than to almost any other nation, and hence they work more harmoniously in communistic experiments. I think I noticed at Amana, and elsewhere among the German communistic societies, a satisfaction in their lives, a pride in the equality which the communal system secures, and also in the conscious surrender of the individual will to the general good, which is not so clearly and satisfactorily felt among other nationalities. Moreover, the German peasant is fortunate in his tastes, which are frugal and well fitted for community living. He has not a great sense of or desire for beauty of surroundings; he likes substantial living, but cares nothing for elegance. His comforts are not, like the American's, of a costly kind.
I think, too, that his lower passions are more easily regulated or controlled, and certainly he is more easily contented to remain in one place. The innkeeper, a little to my surprise, when by chance I told him that I had spent a winter on the Sandwich Islands, asked me with the keenest delight and curiosity about the trees, the climate, and the life there; and wanted to know if I had seen the place where Captain Cook, "the great circumnavigator of the world," was slain. He returned to the subject again and again, and evidently looked upon me as a prodigiously interesting person, because I had been fortunate enough to see what to him was classic ground. An American would not have felt one half this man's interest; but he would probably have dreamed of making the same journey some day. My kindly host sat serenely in his place, and was not moved by a single wandering thought.
They forbid all amusements—all cards and games whatever, and all musical instruments; "one might have a flute, but nothing more." Also they regard photographs and pictures of all kinds as tending to idol-worship, and therefore not to be allowed.
They have made very substantial improvements upon their property; among other things, in order to secure a sufficient water-power, they dug a canal six miles long, and from five to ten feet deep, leading a large body of water through Amana. On this canal they keep a steam-scow to dredge it out annually.
As a precaution against fire, in Amana there is a little tower upon a house in the middle of the village, where two men keep watch all night.
They buy much wool from the neighboring farmers; and have a high reputation for integrity and simple plain-dealing among their neighbors. A farmer told me that it was not easy to cheat them; and that they never dealt the second time with a man who had in any way wronged them; but that they paid a fair price for all they bought, and always paid cash.
In their woolen factories they make cloth enough for their own wants and to supply the demand of the country about them. Flannels and yarn, as well as woolen gloves and stockings, they export, sending some of these products as far as New York. The gloves and stockings are made not only by the children, but by the women during the winter months, when they are otherwise unemployed.
At present they own about 3000 sheep, 1500 head of cattle, 200 horses, and 2500 hogs.
The society has no debt, and has a considerable fund at interest.
They lose very few of their young people. Some who leave them return after a few years in the world. Plain and dull as the life is, it appears to satisfy the youth they train up; and no doubt it has its rewards in its regularity, peacefulness, security against want, and freedom from dependence on a master.
It struck me as odd that in cases of illness they use chiefly homeopathic treatment. The people live to a hale old age. They had among the members, in March, 1874, a woman aged ninety-seven, and a number of persons over eighty.
They are non-resistants; but during the late war paid for substitutes in the army. "But we did wrongly there," said one to me; "it is not right to take part in wars even in this way."
To sum up: the people of Amana appeared to me a remarkably quiet, industrious, and contented population; honest, of good repute among their neighbors, very kindly, and with religion so thoroughly and largely made a part of their lives that they may be called a religious people.
IV.—RELIGION AND LITERATURE.
"If one gives himself entirely, and in all his life, to the will of God, he will presently be possessed by the Spirit of God."
"The Bible is the Word of God; each prophet or sacred writer wrote only what he received from God."
"In the New Testament we read that the disciples were 'filled with the Holy Ghost.' But the same God lives now, and it is reasonable to believe that he inspires his followers now as then; and that he will lead his people, in these days as in those, by the words of his inspiration."
"He leads us in spiritual matters, and in those temporal concerns which affect our spiritual life; but we do not look to him for inspired directions in all the minute affairs of our daily lives. Inspiration directed us to come to America, and to leave Eben-Ezer for Iowa. Inspiration sometimes directs us to admit a new-comer to full membership, and sometimes to expel an unworthy member. Inspiration discovers hidden sins in the congregation."
"We have no creed except the Bible."
"We ought to live retired and spiritual lives; to keep ourselves separate from the world; to cultivate humility, obedience to God's will, faithfulness, and love to Christ."
"Christ is our head."
Such are some of the expressions of their religious belief which the pious and well-instructed at Amana gave me.
They have published two Catechisms—one for the instruction of children, the other for the use of older persons. From these it appears that they are Trinitarians, believe in "justification by faith," hold to the resurrection of the dead, the final judgment, but not to eternal punishment, believing rather that fire will purify the wicked in the course of time, longer or shorter according to their wickedness.
They do not practice baptism, either infant or adult, holding it to be a useless ceremony not commanded in the New Testament. They celebrate the Lord's Supper, not at regular periods, but only when by the words of "inspiration" God orders them to do so; and then with peculiar ceremonies, which I shall describe further on.
As to this word "Inspiration," I quote here from the Catechism their definition of it:
"Question. Is it therefore the Spirit or the witness of Jesus which speaks and bears witness through the truly inspired persons?
"Answer. Yes; the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Jesus, which brings to light the hidden secrets of the heart, and gives witness to our spirits that it is the Spirit of truth.
"Q. When did the work of inspiration begin in the later times?
"A. About the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth century. About this time the Lord began the gracious work of inspiration in several countries (France, England, and, at last, in Germany), gathered a people by these new messengers of peace, and declared a divine sentence of punishment against the fallen Christian world.
"Q. How were these 'instruments' or messengers called?
"A. Inspired or new prophets. They were living trumpets of God, which shook the whole of Christendom, and awakened many out of their sleep of security."
* * * * *
"Q. What is the word of inspiration?
"A. It is the prophetic word of the New Testament, or the Spirit of prophecy in the new dispensation.
"Q. What properties and marks of divine origin has this inspiration?
"A. It is accompanied by a divine power, and reveals the secrets of the heart and conscience in a way which only the all-knowing and soul-penetrating Spirit of Jesus has power to do; it opens the ways of love and grace, of the holiness and justice of God; and these revelations and declarations are in their proper time accurately fulfilled.
"Q. Through whom is the Spirit thus poured out?
"A. Through the vessels of grace, or 'instruments' chosen and fitted by the Lord.
"Q. How must these 'instruments' be constituted?
"A. They must conform themselves in humility and child-like obedience to all the motions and directions of God within them; without care for self or fear of men, they must walk in the fear of God, and with attentive watchfulness for the inner signs of his leading; and they must subject themselves in every way to the discipline of the Spirit."
Concerning the Constitution of the Inspiration Congregations or communities, the same Catechism asserts that it "is founded upon the divine revelation in the Old and New Testament, connected with the divine directions, instructions, and determinations, general and special, given through the words of the true inspiration."
"Question. Through or by whom are the divine ordinances carried out in the congregations?
"Answer. By the elders and leaders, who have been chosen and nominated to this purpose by God.
"Q. What are their duties?
"A. Every leader or elder of the congregation is in duty bound, by reason of his divine call, to advance, in the measure of the grace and power given him, the spiritual and temporal welfare of the congregation; but in important and difficult circumstances the Spirit of prophecy will give the right and correct decision.
"Q. Is the divine authority to bind and loose, entrusted, according to Matt, xvi., 19, to the apostle Peter, also given to the elders of the Inspiration Congregations?
"A. It belongs to all elders and teachers of the congregation of the faithful, who were called by the Lord Jesus through the power of his Holy Spirit, and who, by the authority of their divine call, and of the divine power within them, rule without abuse the congregations or flocks entrusted to them.
"Q. What are the duties of the members of the Inspiration Congregations?
"A. A pure and upright walk in the fear of God; heartfelt love and devotion toward their brethren, and childlike obedience toward God and the elders."
These are the chief articles of faith of the Amana Community.
They regard the utterances, while in the trance state, of their spiritual head as given from God; and believe—as is asserted in the Catechism—that evils and wrongs in the congregation will be thus revealed by the influence, or, as they say, the inspiration or breath of God; that in important affairs they will thus receive the divine direction; and that it is their duty to obey the commands thus delivered to them.
There were "inspired instruments" before Christian Metz. Indeed, the present "instrument," Barbara Landmann, was accepted before him, but by reason of her marriage fell from grace for a while. It would seem that Metz also was married; for I was told at Amana that at his death in 1867, at the age of sixty-seven, he left a daughter in the community.
The words of "inspiration" are usually delivered in the public meetings, and at funerals and other solemn occasions. They have always been carefully written down by persons specially appointed to that office; and this appears to have been done so long ago as 1719, when "Brother John Frederick Rock" made his journey through Constance, Schaffhausen, Zurich, etc., with "Brother J. J. Schulthes as writer, who wrote down every thing correctly, from day to day, and in weal or woe."
When the "instrument" "falls into inspiration," he is often severely shaken—Metz, they say, sometimes shook for an hour—and thereupon follow the utterances which are believed to proceed from God. The "instrument" sits or kneels, or walks about among the congregation. "Brother Metz used to walk about in the meeting with his eyes closed; but he always knew to whom he was speaking, or where to turn with words of reproof, admonition, or encouragement"—so I was told.
The "inspired" words are not always addressed to the general congregation, but often to individual members; and their feelings are not spared. Thus in one case Barbara Landmann, being "inspired," turned upon a sister with the words, "But you, wretched creature, follow the true counsel of obedience;" and to another: "And you, contrary spirit, how much pain do you give to our hearts. You will fall into everlasting pain, torture, and unrest if you do not break your will and repent, so that you may be accepted and forgiven by those you have offended, and who have done so much for you."
The warnings, prophecies, reproofs, and admonitions, thus delivered by the "inspired instrument," are all, as I have said, carefully written down, and in convenient time printed in yearly volumes, entitled "Year-Books of the True Inspiration Congregations: Witnesses of the Spirit of God, which happened and were spoken in the Meetings of the Society, through the Instruments, Brother Christian Metz and Sister B. Landmann," with the year in which they were delivered. In this country they early established a printing-press at Eben-Ezer, and after their removal also in Iowa, and have issued a considerable number of volumes of these records. They are read as of equal authority and almost equal importance with the Bible. Every family possesses some volumes; and in their meetings extracts are read aloud after the reading of the Scriptures.
There is commonly a brief preface to each revelation, recounting the circumstances under which it was delivered; as for instance:
"No. 10. Lower Eben-Ezer, November 7, 1853.—Monday morning the examination of the congregation was made here according to the command of the Lord. For the opening service five verses were sung of the hymn, 'Lord, give thyself to me;' the remainder of the hymn was read. After the prayer, and a brief silence, Sister Barbara Landmann fell into inspiration, and was forced to bear witness in the following gracious and impressive revival words of love."
The phrase varies with the contents of the message, as, on another occasion, it is written that "both 'instruments' fell into inspiration, and there followed this earnest admonition to repentance, and words of warning;" or, again, the words are described as "important," or "severe," or "gentle and gracious and hope inspiring."
During his wanderings in Germany among the congregations, Metz appears to have fallen into inspiration almost daily, not only in meetings, but during conversations, and even occasionally at dinner—whereupon the dinner waited. Thus it is recorded that "at the Rehmuehle, near Hambach, June 1, 1839—this afternoon the traveling brethren with Brother Peter came hither and visited friend Matthias Bieber. After conversation, as they were about to sit down to eat something, Brother Christian Metz fell into inspiration, and delivered the following words to his friend, and Brother Philip Peter."
The inspired utterances are for the most part admonitory to a holier life; warnings, often in the severest language, against selfishness, stubbornness, coldness of heart, pride, hatred toward God, grieving the Spirit; with threats of the wrath of God, of punishment, etc. Humility and obedience are continually inculcated. "Lukewarmness" appears to be one of the prevailing sins of the community. It is needless to say that to a stranger these homilies are dull reading. Concerning violations of the Ten Commandments or of the moral law, I have not found any mention here; and I do not doubt that the members of the society live, on the whole, uncommonly blameless lives. I asked, for instance, what punishment their rules provided for drunkenness, but was told that this vice is not found among them; though, as at Economy and in other German communities, they habitually use both wine and beer.
When any member offends against the rules or order of life of the society, he is admonished (ermahnt) by the elders; and if he does not amend his ways, expulsion follows; and here as elsewhere in the communities I have visited, they seem vigilantly to purge the society of improper persons.
The following twenty-one "Rules for Daily Life," printed in one of their collections, and written by one of their older leaders, E. L. Gruber, give, I think, a tolerably accurate notion of their views of the conduct of life:
"I. To obey, without reasoning, God, and through God our superiors.
"II. To study quiet, or serenity, within and without.
"III. Within, to rule and master your thoughts.
"IV. Without, to avoid all unnecessary words, and still to study silence and quiet.
"V. To abandon self, with all its desires, knowledge, and power.
"VI. Do not criticize others, either for good or evil, neither to judge nor to imitate them; therefore contain yourself, remain at home, in the house and in your heart.
"VII. Do not disturb your serenity or peace of mind—hence neither desire nor grieve.
"VIII. Live in love and pity toward your neighbor, and indulge neither anger nor impatience in your spirit.
"IX. Be honest, sincere, and avoid all deceit and even secretiveness.
"X. Count every word, thought, and work as done in the immediate presence of God, in sleeping and waking, eating, drinking, etc., and give him at once an account of it, to see if all is done in his fear and love.
"XI. Be in all things sober, without levity or laughter; and without vain and idle words, works, or thoughts; much less heedless or idle.
"XII. Never think or speak of God without the deepest reverence, fear, and love, and therefore deal reverently with all spiritual things.
"XIII. Bear all inner and outward sufferings in silence, complaining only to God; and accept all from him in deepest reverence and obedience.
"XIV. Notice carefully all that God permits to happen to you in your inner and outward life, in order that you may not fail to comprehend his will and to be led by it.
"XV. Have nothing to do with unholy, and particularly with needless business affairs.
"XVI. Have no intercourse with worldly-minded men; never seek their society; speak little with them, and never without need; and then not without fear and trembling.
"XVII. Therefore, what you have to do with such men, do in haste; do not waste time in public places and worldly society, that you be not tempted and led away.
"XVIII. Fly from the society of women-kind as much as possible, as a very highly dangerous magnet and magical fire.
"XIX. Avoid obeisance and the fear of men; these are dangerous ways.
"XX. Dinners, weddings, feasts, avoid entirely; at the best there is sin.
"XXI. Constantly practice abstinence and temperance, so that you may be as wakeful after eating as before."
These rules may, I suppose, be regarded as the ideal standard toward which a pious Inspirationist looks and works. Is it not remarkable that they should have originated and found their chief adherents among peasants and poor weavers?
Their usual religious meetings are held on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings, and every evening. On Saturday, all the people of a village assemble together in the church or meeting-house; on other days they meet in smaller rooms, and by classes or orders.
The society consists of three of these orders—the highest, the middle, and the lower, or children's order. In the latter fall naturally the youth of both sexes, but also those older and married persons whose religions life and experience are not deep enough to make them worthy of membership in the higher orders.
The evening meeting opens a little after seven o'clock. It is held in a large room specially maintained for this purpose. I accompanied one of the brethren, by permission, to these meetings during my stay at Amana. I found a large, low-ceiled room, dimly lighted by a single lamp placed on a small table at the head of the room, and comfortably warmed with stoves. Benches without backs were placed on each side of this chamber; the floor was bare, but clean; and hither entered, singly, or by twos or threes, the members, male and female, each going to the proper place without noise. The men sat on one side, the women on the other. At the table sat an elderly man, of intelligent face and a look of some authority. Near him were two or three others.
When all had entered and were seated, the old man at the table gave out a hymn, reading out one line at a time; and after two verses were sung in this way, he read the remaining ones. Then, after a moment of decorous and not unimpressive silent meditation, all at a signal rose and kneeled down at their places. Hereupon the presiding officer uttered a short prayer in verse, and after him each man in his turn, beginning with the elders, uttered a similar verse of prayer, usually four, and sometimes six lines long. When all the men and boys had thus prayed—and their little verses were very pleasant to listen to, the effect being of childlike simplicity—the presiding elder closed with a brief extemporary prayer, whereupon all arose.
Then he read some verses from one of their inspired books, admonishing to a good life; and also a brief homily from one of Christian Metz's inspired utterances. Thereupon all arose, and stood in their places in silence for a moment; and then, in perfect order and silence, and with a kind of military precision, benchful after benchful of people walked softly out of the room. The women departed first; and each went home, I judge, without delay or tarrying in the hall, for when I got out the hall was already empty.
The next night the women prayed instead of the men, the presiding officer conducting the meeting as before. I noticed that the boys and younger men had their places on the front seats; and the whole meeting was conducted with the utmost reverence and decorum.
On Wednesday and Sunday mornings the different orders meet at the same hour, each in its proper assembly-room. These are larger than those devoted to the evening meetings. The Wednesday-morning meeting began at half-past seven, and lasted until nine. There was, as in the evening meetings, a very plain deal table at the head, and benches, this time with backs, were ranged in order, the sexes sitting by themselves as before; each person coming in with a ponderous hymn-book, and a Bible in a case. The meeting opened with the singing of six verses of a hymn, the leader reading the remaining verses. Many of their hymns have from ten to fourteen verses. Next he read some passages from one of the inspirational utterances of Metz; after which followed prayer, each man, as in the evening meetings, repeating a little supplicatory verse. The women did not join in this exercise.
Then the congregation got out their Bibles, the leader gave out the fifth chapter of Ephesians, and each man read a verse in his turn; then followed a psalm; and the women read those verses which remained after all the men had read. After this the leader read some further passages from Metz. After the reading of the New Testament chapter and the psalm, three of the leaders, who sat near the table at the head of the room, briefly spoke upon the necessity of living according to the words of God, doing good works and avoiding evil. Their exhortations were very simple, and without any attempt at eloquence, in a conversational tone. Finally another hymn was sung; the leader pronounced a blessing, and we all returned home, the men and women going about the duties of the day.
On Saturday morning the general meeting is held in the church. The congregation being then more numerous, the brethren do not all pray, but only the elders; as in the other meetings, a chapter from the New Testament is read and commented upon by the elders; also passages are read from the inspired utterances of Metz or some other of their prophets; and at this time, too, the "instrument," if moved, falls into a trance, and delivers the will of the Holy Spirit.