A Worker's Cooperative on the Great Plains
Publication Year: 2013
In 1869 six London families arrived in Nemaha County, Kansas, as the first colonists of the Workingmen’s Cooperative Colony, later fancifully renamed Llewellyn Castle by a local writer. These early colonists were all members of Britain’s National Reform League, founded by noted Chartist leader James Bronterre O’Brien. As working-class radicals they were determined to find an alternative to the grinding poverty that exploitative liberal capitalism had inflicted on England’s laboring poor. Located on 680 acres in northeastern Kansas, this collectivist colony jointly owned all the land and its natural resources, with individuals leasing small sections to work. The money from these leases was intended for public works and the healthcare and education of colony members.
The colony floundered after just a few years and collapsed in 1874, but its mission and founding ideas lived on in Kansas. Many former colonists became prominent political activists in the 1890s, and the colony’s ideals of national fiscal policy reform and state ownership of land were carried over into the Kansas Populist movement.
Based on archival research throughout the United States and the United Kingdom, this history of an English collectivist colony in America’s Great Plains highlights the connections between British and American reform movements and their contexts.
Published by: University of Nebraska Press
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The Workingmen’s Cooperative Colony — also known as Llewellyn Castle — was an obscure communal utopia that played a role in American history far greater than its size would suggest. It was an underfunded, struggling operation through its brief existence, and other ephemeral detritus that America’s ancestors left behind on the ...
Introduction: Llewellyn Castle
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...ville, Tennessee, in the town of Clarksville. As the American Civil War ended in 1865, Bristow’s parents, William and Martha, migrat-ed west to northeastern Kansas to escape the hardships of Recon-struction. By 1869 the Bristows had settled in the soporific little vil-lage of Wetmore along the Central Branch, Union Pacific Railroad, ...
1. The Sorrow of the Land: Bronterre O’Brien and the National Reform League
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My Dear Schoolmaster, I esteem you above all the Chartists I know. I have got two of your “Poor Man’s Guardians,” and I have just enlightened — my spirits raised — my hopes strengthened, in the James Bronterre O’Brien was the inspirational figure behind the ny and an iconic role model for those who emigrated to Kansas in ...
2. High Moral Chivalry: The Mutual Land, Emigration, and Cooperative Colonization Company
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...inhabitants, and for all generations born upon it, to be bought up, of any one generation (be that section large or small), and that moment your community is divided into tyrants and slaves — into For many working-class radicals, particularly those who had labored in the field of political equity and social justice as long as members ...
3. An Honest Social State: The Workingmen’s Cooperative Colony
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If it be said that such application of public property would benefit the poor only, and be an injustice to the rich, the answer is that the lands so purchased would not be the property of the poor, but the property of the whole nation — rich and poor; and that, inasmuch as the rents accruing therefrom would be applicable to public uses only, ...
4. Moral Intoxication: Frederick Wilson
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We doubt if there be a single recorded instance in the whole history of civilized society of any king, ruler, statesman, legislator, prophet, philosopher, orator, or other public man, seeking honestly, and with probabilities of success, the reign of justice, humanity, and fraternity for his fellow-countrymen, that was not overwhelmed with calumny, ...
5. Hold Up the Lamp of Hope: John Radford
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Workers of the farm, railroad and factory unite, stand together in the battle of life and at the ballot box, to strip these modern tyrants of the power to either destroy industrial self-protecting union or prevent the complete freedom of political action at the ballot box.As the new year of 1875 dawned on the Workingmen’s Cooperative ...
Conclusion: The O’Brienites
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When evaluating the O’Brienites and the Workingmen’s Cooper-ative Colony in Kansas as a social movement, the entire process of O’Brien and the National Reform League during the Chartist era, through the institutional development of the Kansas colony, to the final dispersal of O’Brien’s ideas in Britain and the United States, ...
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Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2013