The Communistic Societies of the United States, by Charles Nordhoff, , at sacred-texts.com
The Agreement or Articles of Association under which the "Harmony Society" was formed in 1805, and which was signed by all the members thenceforward, read as follows:
"ARTICLES OF ASSOCIATION.
"Whereas, by the favor of divine Providence, an association or community has been formed by George Rapp and many others upon the basis of Christian fellowship, the principles of which, being faithfully derived from the sacred Scriptures, include the government of the patriarchal age, united to the community of property adopted in the days of the apostles, and wherein the simple object sought is to approximate, so far as human imperfections may allow, to the fulfillment of the will of God, by the exercise of those affections and the practice of those virtues which are essential to the happiness of man in time and throughout eternity:
"And whereas it is necessary to the good order and well-being of the said association that the conditions of membership should be clearly understood, and that the rights, privileges, and duties of every individual therein should be so defined as to prevent mistake or disappointment, on the one hand, and contention or disagreement on the other;
"Therefore be it known to all whom it may concern that we, the undersigned, citizens of the County of Beaver, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, do severally and distinctly, each for himself, covenant, grant, and agree, to and with the said George Rapp and his associates, as follows, viz.:
"ARTICLE I. We, the undersigned, for ourselves, our heirs, executors, and administrators, do hereby give, grant, and forever convey to the said George Rapp and his associates, and to their heirs and assigns, all our property, real, personal, and mixed, whether it be lands and tenements, goods and chattels, money or debts due to us, jointly or severally, in possession, in remainder, or in reversion or expectancy, whatsoever and where so ever, without evasion, qualification, or reserve, as a free gift or donation, for the benefit and use of the said association or community; and we do hereby bind ourselves, our heirs, executors, and administrators, to do all such other acts as may be necessary to vest a perfect title to the same in the said association, and to place the said property at the full disposal of the superintendent of the said community without delay.
"ARTICLE II. We do further covenant and agree to and with the said George Rapp and his associates, that we will severally submit faithfully to the laws and regulations of said community, and will at all times manifest a ready and cheerful obedience toward those who are or may be appointed as superintendents thereof, holding ourselves bound to promote the interest and welfare of the said community, not only by the labor of our own hands, but also by that of our children, our families, and all others who now are or hereafter may be under our control.
"ARTICLE III. If contrary to our expectation it should so happen that we could not render the faithful obedience aforesaid, and should be induced from that or any other cause to withdraw from the said association, then and in such case we do expressly covenant and agree to and with the said George Rapp and his associates that we never will claim or demand, either for ourselves, our children, or for any one belonging to us, directly or indirectly, any compensation, wages, or reward whatever for our or their labor or services rendered to the said community, or to any member thereof; but whatever we or our families jointly or severally shall or may do, all shall be held and considered as a voluntary service for our brethren.
"ARTICLE IV. In consideration of the premises, the said George Rapp and his associates do, by these presents, adopt the undersigned jointly and severally as members of the said community, whereby each of them obtains the privilege of being present at every religious meeting, and of receiving not only for themselves, but also for their children and families, all such instructions in church and school as may be reasonably required, both for their temporal good and for their eternal felicity.
"ARTICLE V. The said George Rapp and his associates further agree
to supply the undersigned severally with all the necessaries of life, as clothing, meat, drink, lodging, etc., for themselves and their families. And this provision is not limited to their days of health and strength; but when any of them shall become sick, infirm, or otherwise unfit for labor, the same support and maintenance shall be allowed as before, together with such medicine, care, attendance, and consolation as their situation may reasonably demand. And if at any time after they have become members of the association, the father or mother of a family should die or be otherwise separated from the community, and should leave their family behind, such family shall not be left orphans or destitute, but shall partake of the same rights and maintenance as before, so long as they remain in the association, as well in sickness as in health, and to such extent as their circumstances may require.
"ARTICLE VI. And if it should so happen as above mentioned that any of the undersigned should violate his or their agreement, and would or could not submit to the laws and regulations of the church or the community, and for that or any other cause should withdraw from the association, then the said George Rapp and his associates agree to refund to him or them the value of all such property as he or they may have brought into the community, in compliance with the first article of this agreement, the said value to be refunded without interest, in one, two, or three annual installments, as the said George Rapp and his associates shall determine. And if the person or persons so withdrawing themselves were poor, and brought nothing into the community, notwithstanding they depart openly and regularly, they shall receive a donation in money, according to the length of their stay and to their conduct, and to such amount as their necessities may require, in the judgment of the superintendents of the association."
In 1818, as before mentioned, a book in which was recorded the amount of property contributed by each member to the general fund was destroyed. In 1836 a change was made in the formal constitution or agreement above quoted, in the following words:
1st. The sixth article [in regard to refunding] is entirely annulled and made void, as if it had never existed, all others to remain in full force as heretofore. 2d. All the property of the society, real, personal, and mixed, in law or equity, and howsoever contributed or acquired, shall be
deemed, now and forever, joint and indivisible stock. Each individual is to be considered to have finally and irrevocably parted with all his former contributions, whether in lands, goods, money, or labor, and the same rule shall apply to all future contributions, whatever they may be. 3d. Should any individual withdraw from the society or depart this life, neither he, in the one case, nor his representatives in the other, shall be entitled to demand an account of said contributions, or to claim any thing from the society as a matter of right. But it shall be left altogether to the discretion of the superintendent to decide whether any, and, if any, what allowance shall be made to such member or his representatives as a donation."
These amendments were signed by three hundred and ninety-one members, being all who then constituted the society. No other changes have been made; but on the death of Father Rapp, on the 7th of August, 1847, the whole society signed the constitution again, and put in office two trustees and seven elders, to perform all the duties and assume all the authority which Father Rapp had relinquished with his life.
Under this simple constitution the Harmony Society has flourished for sixty-nine years; nor has its life been threatened by disagreements, except in the case of the Count de Leon's intrigue. It has suffered three or four lawsuits from members who had left it; but in every case the courts have decided for the society, after elaborate, and in some cases long-continued trials. It has always lived in peace and friendship with its neighbors.
Its real estate and other property was, from the foundation until his death in 1834, held in the name of Frederick (Reichert) Rapp, who was an excellent business man, and conducted all its dealings with the outside world, and had charge of its temporalities generally; the elder Rapp avoiding for himself all general business. Upon Frederick's death the society formally and unanimously imposed upon Father Rapp the care of the temporal as well as the spiritual affairs of the little commonwealth, placing in his name the title to all their property.
[paragraph continues] But, as he did not wish to let temporal concerns interfere with his spiritual functions, and as besides he was then growing old, being in 1834 seventy-seven years of age, he appointed as his helpers and subagents two members, R. L. Bäker and J. Henrici, the latter of whom is still, with Mr. Jonathan Lenz, the head of the society, Mr. Bäker having died some years ago.
The theological belief of the Harmony Society naturally crystallized under the preaching and during the life of Father Rapp. It has some features of German mysticism, grafted upon a practical application of the Christian doctrine and theory.
At the foundation of all lies a strong determination to make the preparation of their souls or spirits for the future life the pre-eminent business of life, and to obey in the strictest and most literal manner what they believe to be the will of God as revealed and declared by Jesus Christ. In the following paragraphs I give a brief summary of what may be called their creed:
I. They hold that Adam was created "in the likeness of God;" that he was a dual being, containing within his own person both the sexual elements, reading literally, in confirmation of this, the text (Gen. i. 26, 27): "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and let them have dominion;" and, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them;" which they hold to denote that both the Creator and the first created were of this dual nature. They believe that had Adam been content to remain in his original state, he would have increased without the help of a female, bringing forth new beings like himself to replenish the earth.
II. But Adam fell into discontent; and God separated from his body the female part, and gave it him according to his desire; and therein they believe consisted the fall of man.
III. From this they deduce that the celibate state is more
pleasing to God; that in the renewed world man will be restored to the dual Godlike and Adamic condition; and,
IV. They hold that the coming of Christ and the renovation of the world are near at hand. This nearness of the millennium is a cardinal point of doctrine with them; and Father Rapp firmly believed that he would live to see the wished-for reappearance of Christ in the heavens, and that he would be permitted to present his company of believers to the Saviour whom they endeavored to please with their lives. So vivid was this belief in him, that it lead some of his followers to fondly fancy that Father Rapp would not die before Christ's coming; and there is a touching story of the old man, that when he felt death upon him, at the age of ninety, he said, "If I did not know that the dear Lord meant I should present you all to him, I should think my last moments come." These were indeed his last words. To be in constant readiness for the reappearance of Christ is one of the aims of the society; nor have its members ever faltered in the faith that this great event is near at hand.
V. Jesus they hold to have been born "in the likeness of the Father"—that is to say, a dual being, as Adam before the fall.
VI. They hold that Jesus taught and commanded a community of goods; and refer to the example of the early Christians as proof.
VII. They believe in the ultimate redemption and salvation of all mankind; but hold that only those who follow the celibate life, and otherwise conform to what they understand to be the commandments of Jesus, will come at once into the bright and glorious company of Christ and his companions; that offenders will undergo a probation for purification.
VIII. They reject and detest what is commonly called "Spiritualism."
As the practical application to their daily lives of the religious faith which I have concisely stated, Father Rapp
taught humility, simplicity in living, self-sacrifice, love to your neighbor, regular and persevering industry, prayer and self-examination.
In the admission of new members, they exact a complete confession of sins to one of the elders of the society, as being a wholesome and necessary part of true repentance, requisite to secure the forgiveness of God.
On Sunday two services are held, besides a Sunday-school for the children; and the preacher, who is the head of the society, does not stand up when delivering his discourse, but sits at a table on a platform. The church has two doors, and the men enter at one, the women at the other, each sex occupying one end of the building by itself; the pulpit being in the middle, and opposite a raised and enclosed space wherein sit the elders and the choir.
They observe as holy days Christmas, Good Friday and Easter, and Pentecost; and three great festivals of their own—the 15th of February, which is the anniversary of their foundation; Harvest-Home, in the autumn; and an annual Lord's Supper in October. On these festival occasions they assemble in a great hall; and there, after singing and addresses, a feast is served, there being an elaborate kitchen adjacent to the hall on purpose for the preparation of these feasts, while in the cellars of the same building are stores of wine of different ages and kinds.
They live well; all of them eat meat, and but a few abstain from pork. They rise between five and six, according to the season of the year; eat a light breakfast between six and seven; have a lunch at nine; dinner at twelve; an afternoon lunch, called "vesper brodt" at three; to which, when they have labored hard in the fields, they add wine or cider; supper between six and seven; and they go to bed by nine o'clock.
Father Rapp taught that every one ought to labor with his hands, and at agricultural labor where this was possible. He
was himself fond of out-door employments, and liked to be in the fields, helping the plowmen or harvesters. The women attend to the housekeeping; and as this is simple and quickly done, they are fond of working in the gardens attached to the houses. In the old times, women as well as men labored in the fields in harvest time, or at other times when work was pressing; and the younger women still follow this habit, which was probably brought over from Germany.
Each household consists of men and women to the number of from four to eight, and usually in equal numbers. The houses have but one entrance door from the street. They carpet their floors, and generally deny themselves no comforts compatible with simplicity of life.
Father Rapp taught them to love music and flowers; almost all the people can read music, and there are but few who have not learned to play upon some instrument. In their worship they use instrumental music; and it forms an important part in their feasts. They do not practice dancing, to which they have always felt opposed. As they study plainness of dress, they use no jewelry.
They once had a museum, which has been sold. Father Rapp's house contains a number of pictures, among them a fine copy of Benjamin West's "Christ Healing the Sick;" the church and assembly hall have no works of art. The people read the newspapers; and those who wish for books have them, there being a library; but "the Bible is the book chiefly read among us," I was told.
Father Rapp taught that it was advisable for the society to make all it could for itself; and he had an intelligent appreciation of the value of labor-saving machinery. Economy has therefore complete and well furnished shops of various kinds. Its steam laundry is admirably contrived; and its slaughter-house, with piggery and soap-boiling house near by; its machine shop, with a cider-boiler annexed; its saw-mill, wagon
shop, blacksmith shop, tannery, carpenter's shop, bakery, vinegar factory (where much cider is utilized), hattery, tailor's and shoemaker's shops, tin shop, saddlery shop, and weaver's shop, show how various were and are the industries followed here, and how completely furnished the society was, from within, for all the wants of daily life. I saw even a shop for the repair of clocks and watches, and a barber's shop; the barber serving the aged and sick, and being otherwise foreman of the tailor's shop.
In this long list I have not specified the brewery, grist-mill, a large granary, a cotton and a woolen mill; nor the two great cellars full of fine wine casks, which would make a Californian envious, so well-built are they.
There is also a school, and the Harmony people have always kept up a good school for the children in their charge. They aim to give each child an elementary education, and afterwards a trade; and as the boys learn also agricultural labors of different kinds, they are generally self-helpful when they pass into the world. The instruction is in German and English; and the small girls and boys whom I examined wrote very well.
Each family cooks for itself. There were formerly bake-ovens in every block, one being used by several families; but there is now a general bakery, whence all carry bread in indefinite and unlimited supplies. Milk, too, is brought to the houses, and from what each household receives, it saves the cream for butter. When the butcher kills a beef, a little boy is sent around the village, who knocks at each window and cries out "Sollt fleisch holen"—"Come and get meat"—and the butcher serves to each household sufficient for its wants. Other supplies for the household are dealt out from the general storehouse at stated periods; but if any one needs more, he has only to apply. Tea is not generally used.
Clothing is given out as it is needed by each person; and I was told that the tailor usually keeps his eye upon the people's
coats and trousers, the shoemaker upon their shoes, and so on; each counting it a matter of honor or pride that the brethren shall be decently and comfortably clad.
"As each labors for all, and as the interest of one is the interest of all, there is no occasion for selfishness, and no room for waste. We were brought up to be economical; to waste is a sin; we live simply; and each has enough, all that he can eat and wear, and no man can use more than that." This was the simple explanation I received from a Harmonist, when I wondered whether some family or person would not be wasteful or greedy.
In the season, all the people who are not too old labor more or less in the fields and orchards. This is their habit, and is thought healthful to body and soul.
The Harmonists have usually attained a hale and happy old age. I had access to no mortuary records, and there are no monuments in the cemetery, but a great part of the people have lived to be seventy and over; and they die without fear, trusting that they are the chosen people of the Lord.
Such is Economy at this time. Its large factories are closed, for its people are too few to man them; and the members think it wiser and more comfortable for themselves to employ labor at a distance from their own town. They are pecuniarily interested in coal-mines, in saw-mills, and oil-wells; and they control manufactories at Beaver Falls—notably a cutlery shop, the largest in the United States, and one of the largest in the world, where of late they have begun to employ two hundred Chinese; and it is creditable to the Harmony people that they look after the intellectual and spiritual welfare of these strangers as but too few employers do.
"Is there any monument to Father Rapp?" I asked; and the old man to whom I put the question said, quietly, "Yes, all that you see here, around us."
His body lies in a grave undistinguishable from others
surrounding it. There is no portrait of him—for he always refused to sit for one. But his memory is most tenderly and reverently cherished by his followers and survivors. From a number of persons I gathered the following personal details, which give a picture of the man: He was nearly if not quite six feet high; well-built, with blue eyes, a somewhat stately walk, and a full beard, which he was the first in the society to wear. He was extremely industrious, and never wasted even a minute; knew admirably how to use every spare moment. He was cheerful, kindly, talkative; plain-spoken when he had to find fault; not very enthusiastic, but somewhat dry and very practical. In his earlier years, in Germany, he was witty; and to the last he was ready and apt in speech. His conversation centered always upon religion and the conduct of life; and no matter with whom he was speaking, or what was the character of the person, Rapp knew very well how to lead the talk to these topics.
The young people were very fond of him. "He was a man before whom no evil could stand." "When I met him in the street, if I had a bad thought in my head, it flew away." He was constantly in the fields or in the factories, cheering, encouraging, or advising the people. "He knew every thing—how to do it, what was the best way." "Ah, he was a man; he told us what to do, and how to be good." In his spare moments he studied botany, geology, astronomy, mechanics. "He was never idle, not even a quarter of an hour." He believed much in work; thought hard field-work a good cure for spiritual as well as bodily diseases. He was an "extraordinarily eloquent preacher;" and it is a singular fact that, dying at the great age of ninety, he preached in the church twice but two Sundays before his death; and on the Sunday before he died addressed his people from the window of his sick-room. He was "a good man, with true, honest eyes." He "always labored against selfishness, and to serve the brethren and the
Lord." He appears to have abhorred ostentation and needless forms and ceremonies, for he sat while preaching; never prescribed any uniform dress or peculiar form of speech; and neither in their worship nor in their daily lives taught the people to make merely formal differences between themselves and the world at large. That he did not feel the necessity of such outward protests against "the world," and relied for the bond of union in the community so entirely upon the effect of his teachings, seems to me one of the surest and most significant proofs of his real power.
Such is the report of their founder and guide from the older men now living, who knew him well. That he was a man of great force and high character it seems to be impossible to doubt. It has often been reported that he was tyrannical and self-seeking; and that he chose his people from among the most ignorant, in order to rule them. But the present members of the Harmony Society cannot be called ignorant: they are a simple and pious people, but not incapable of taking care of their own interests; and their opinion of their founder is probably the correct one. Their love and reverence for him, their recital of his goodness, of his abilities, and of his intercourse with them, are the best testimony as to his character; and their continuance in the course he laid out for them, for more than a quarter of a century since his death, shows that not only did his teaching and life inspire confidence, but also that his training bore wholesome fruit in them.
He made religion the most important interest in the lives of his followers. Not only did he preach on Sundays, but he admonished, encouraged, reproved, and advised constantly during the week; he divided the people into companies or classes, who met on week-day evenings for mutual counsel in religious matters, and with these he constantly met; he visited the sick; he buried the dead—with great plainness and lack of ceremony. He taught that they ought to purify the body, and he
was himself a model of plain and somewhat rigid and practical living, and of self-abnegation; and I think no thoughtful man can hear his story from the older members of the society who were brought up under his rule, and consider the history of Economy, and the present daily life of its people, without conceiving a great respect for Father Rapp's powers and for the use he made of them.
Pecuniarily Rapp's experiment has been an extraordinary success. The society is now reported to be worth from two to three millions of dollars. By an investigation into all its affairs and interests, made in the Pennsylvania courts in 1854, by reason of a suit brought by a seceding member, it was shown to be worth at that time over a million. In these days of defaulting bank officers and numerous breaches of trust, it is a singular commentary upon the communal system to know that the society has never required from its chiefs any report upon their administration of the finances. The investigation in the courts was the first insight they had since their foundation into the management of their affairs by Rapp and his successors; and there the utmost efforts of opposing lawyers, among whom, by the way, was Edwin M. Stanton, afterward Secretary of War, failed to discover the least maladministration or misappropriation of funds by the rulers; and proved the integrity of all who had managed their extensive and complicated business from the beginning.
As Father Rapp grew older, his influence over his people became absolute. His long life among them bore fruit in an unwavering confidence in his sound judgment and unselfish devotion. He appears to have led them in right paths; for, though probably few will be found to subscribe to their peculiar religious tenets, all their neighbors hold them in the highest esteem, as just, honest, kindly, charitable, patriotic; good citizens, though they do not vote; careful of their servants and laborers; fair and liberal in their dealings with the world.
Of Economy as it now is, what I have written gives a sufficiently precise view. The great factories are closed, and the people live quietly in their pretty and simple homes. The energies put in motion by their large capital are to be found at a distance from their village. Their means give employment to many hundreds of people in different parts of Western Pennsylvania; and wherever I have come upon their traces, I have found the "Economites," as they are commonly called, highly spoken of. They have not sought to accumulate wealth; but their reluctance to enter into new enterprises has probably made them in the long run only more successful, for it has made them prudent; and they have not been tempted to work on credit; while their command of ready money has opened to them the best opportunities.
The present managers or trustees ("verwalter") are Jacob Henrici and Jonathan Lenz. The first, who is also the religious head, being in this respect the successor of R. L. Bäker, who was the successor of Father Rapp, is a German by birth, and a man of culture and of deep piety. He was educated to be a teacher; and entered the Harmony Society in 1826, a year after its removal to Economy. Rapp appears to have appreciated from the first his gentle spirit, piety, and sincere devotion to the community, as well as the importance of his culture and talents. He lived long in the house with Father Rapp, and was his intimate and confidant. Upon Frederick Rapp's death, Father Rapp appointed Bäker and Henrici to attend to the temporal concerns with which he was then charged; and upon the Elder Rapp's death, these two were chosen to take his place. When Mr. Bäker died, Mr. Henrici was chosen to fill his place, and he selected Mr. Lenz to be his coadjutor.
Mr. Lenz was born in the society in 1807, and has lived in it all his life. He also is a man of some culture, of gentle and pleasant manners, and an excellent business man.
Both are aged, Henrici being seventy, and Lenz sixty-seven.
[paragraph continues] Both are tall, firmly built, and fine-looking men, with a peculiarly gentle and lovable expression of face. They live together in the house built for Father Rapp, where also live several of the older members, among them Miss Gertrude Rapp, a granddaughter of the founder, a charming old lady, with a very bright, intelligent face. All these old people are so well preserved, and have so free and wholesome an air, that intercourse with them is not a slight argument to the visitor in favor of their simple manner of life.
There is a council of seven persons, from among whom the trustees are chosen.
It is a curious fact that among the hired people of the society, living in Economy, are a number whom they adopted as children and brought up, and who conform their lives in all respects, even to the celibate condition, to the rules of the society, but prefer to labor for wages rather than become members.
The society does not seek new members, though I am told it would not refuse any who seemed to have a true vocation. As to its future, little is said. The people look for the coming of the Lord; they await the appearance of Christ in the heavens; and their chief aim is to be ready for this great event, when they expect to be summoned to Palestine, to be joined to the great crowd of the elect. Naturally there are not wanting, among their neighbors in Pittsburgh, people who are tormented with curiosity to know what is to become of the large property of the Harmonists when these old people finally, in the course of nature, pass away. "The Lord will show us a way," is the answer at Economy to such inquiries. "We have not trusted him in vain so far; we trust him still. He will give us a sign."