- Man is the creature of circumstances.
- "The Philanthropist".
- As there are a very great variety of religious sects in the world (and which are probably adapted to different constitutions under different circumstances, seeing there are many good and conscientious characters in each), it is particularly recommended, as a means of uniting the inhabitants of the village into one family, that while each faithfully adheres to the principles which he most approves, at the same time all shall think charitably of their neighbours respecting their religious opinions, and not presumptuously suppose that theirs alone are right.
- "Rules and Regulations for the Inhabitants of New Lanark" (1800).
- My friends, I tell you that hitherto you have been prevented from even knowing what happiness really is, solely in consequence of the errors — gross errors — that have been combined with the fundamental notions of every religion that has hitherto been taught to men. And, in consequence, they have made man the most inconsistent, and the most miserable being in existence. By the errors of these systems he has been made a weak, imbecile animal; a furious bigot and fanatic or a miserable hypocrite; and should these qualities be carried, not only into the projected villages, but into Paradise itself, a Paradise would no longer be found!
- Statement (21 August 1817), as quoted by Jim Herrick, in "Bradlaugh and Secularism: 'The Province of the Real'" (1990).
- I was forced, through seeing the error of their foundation, to abandon all belief in every religion which had been taught to man. But my religious feelings were immediately replaced by the spirit of universal charity — not for a sect, or a party, or for a country or a colour — but for the human race, and with a real and ardent desire to do good.
- Life of Robert Owen (1857) his autobiography, as quoted by Jim Herrick, in "Bradlaugh and Secularism: 'The Province of the Real'" (1990).
- The working classes may be injuriously degraded and oppressed in three ways:
1st — When they are neglected in infancy
2nd — When they are overworked by their employer, and are thus rendered incompetent from ignorance to make a good use of high wages when they can procure them.
3rd — When they are paid low wages for their labour
- Two Memorials on Behalf of the Working Classes (1818).
- Eight hours daily labour is enough for any human being, and under proper arrangements sufficient to afford an ample supply of food, raiment and shelter, or the necessaries and comforts of life, and for the remainder of his time, every person is entitled to education, recreation and sleep.
- "Foundation Axioms" of Society for Promoting National Regeneration (1833).
- The lowest stage of humanity is experienced when the individual must labour for a small pittance of wages from others.
- Paper Dedicated to the Governments of Great Britain, Austria, Russia, France, Prussia and the United States of America (1841).
- Is it not the interest of the human race, that every one should be so taught and placed, that he would find his highest enjoyment to arise from the continued practice of doing all in his power to promote the well-being, and happiness, of every man, woman, and child, without regard to their class, sect, party, country or colour?
- Paper Dedicated to the Governments of Great Britain, Austria, Russia, France, Prussia and the United States of America (1841) 17th of "20 Questions to the Human Race".
- It is therefore, the interest of all, that every one, from birth, should be well educated, physically and mentally, that society may be improved in its character, — that everyone should be beneficially employed, physically and mentally, that the greatest amount of wealth may be created, and knowledge attained, — that everyone should be placed in the midst of those external circumstances that will produce the greatest number of pleasurable sensations, through the longest life, that man may be made truly intelligent, moral and happy, and be thus prepared to enter upon the coming Millennium.
- A Development of the Principles & Plans on which to establish self-supporting Home Colonies (1841).
- My life was not useless; I gave important truths to the world, and it was only for want of understanding that they were disregarded. I have been ahead of my time.
- Deathbed statement (November 1858), in response to a church minister who asked if he regretted wasting his life on fruitless projects; as quoted in Harold Hill : A People's History (2004).
A New View of Society (1813-1816) Edit
- A New View of Society, Or, Essays on the Principle of the Formation of the Human Character, and the Application of the Principle to Practice
- Happily for poor traduced and degraded human nature, the principle for which we now content will speedily divest it of all the ridiculous and absurd mystery with which it has been hitherto enveloped by the ignorance of preceding times: and all the ‘’complicated’’ and ‘’counteracting’’ motives for good conduct, which have been multiplied almost to infinity, will be reduced to ‘’one single principle of action’’, which, by its evident operation and sufficiency, shall render this intricate system ‘’unnecessary’’, and ultimately supersede it in all parts of the earth. That principle is THE HAPPINESS OF SELF CLEARLY UNDERSTOOD AND UNIFORMLY PRACTICED; WHICH CAN ONLY BE ATTAINED BY CONDUCT THAT MUST PROMOTE THE HAPPINESS OF THE COMMUNITY.
- Essay First, The Formation of Human Character.
- The errors of the times of superstition and bigotry still hold some sway, and compel those who wish to preserve a regard to their respectability in society to an over strained demeanor; and this demeanor sometimes degenerates into hypocrisy, and is often the cause of great inconsistency. It is destructive of every open, honest, generous, and manly feeling. It disgusts many, and drives them to the opposite extreme. It is sometimes the cause of insanity. It is founded in ignorance.
While erroneous customs prevail in any country, it would evince an ignorance of human nature in any individual to offend against them, until he has convinced the community of their error.
- Essay Third.
- The will of man has no power whatever over his opinions; he must, and ever did, and ever will, believe what has been, is, or may be impressed on his mind by his predecessors, and the circumstances which surround him.
- The end of government is to make the governed and the governors happy. That government then is thebest, which in practice produces the greatest happiness to the greatest number; including those who govern, and those who obey.
- Essay Fourth, The Principles of the Former Essays Applied to Government.
- Train any population rationally, and they will be rational. Furnish honest and useful employments to those so trained, and such employments they will greatly prefer to dishonest or injurious occupations. It is beyond all calculation the interest of every government to provide that training and that employment; and to provide both is easily practicable.
- All the measures now proposed are only a compromise with the errors of the present systems; but as these errors now almost universally exist, and must be overcome solely by the force of reason; and as reason, to effect the most beneficial purposes, makes her advance by slow degrees, and progressively substantiates one truth of high import after another, it will be evident, to minds of comprehensive and accurate thought, that by these and similar compromises alone can success be rationally expected in practice. For such compromises bring truth and error before the public; and whenever they are fairly exhibited together, truth must ultimately prevail.
- It is confidently expected that the period is at hand, when man, through ignorance, shall not much longer inflict unnecessary misery on man; because the mass of mankind will become enlightened, and will clearly discern that by so acting they will inevitably create misery to themselves. As soon as the public mind shall be sufficiently prepared to receive it, the practical detail of this system shall be fully developed. For the extensive knowledge of the facts which present themselves on the globe, makes it evident to those whose reasoning faculties have not been entirely paralysed, that all mankind firmly believe, that everybody except themselves has been grievously deceived in his fundamental principles; and feel the utmost astonishment that the nations of the world could embrace such gross inconsistencies for divine or political truths. Most persons are now also prepared to understand, that these weaknesses are firmly and conscientiously fixed in the minds of millions, who, when born, possessed equal faculties with themselves. And although they plainly discern in others what they deem inconceivable aberrations of the mental powers, yet, in despite of such facts, they are taught to believe that they themselves could not have been so deceived; and this impression is made upon the infant mind with the greatest ease, whether it be to create followers of the most ignorant, or of the most enlightened systems.
- All that is now requisite, previous to withdrawing the last mental bandage by which hitherto the human race has been kept in darkness and misery, is, by calm and patient reasoning to tranquillize the public mind, and thus prevent the evil effects which otherwise might arise from the too sudden prospect of freely enjoying rational liberty of mind. To withdraw that bandage without danger, reason must be judiciously applied to lead men of every sect (for all have been in part abused to reflect that if untold myriads of beings, formed like themselves, have been so grossly deceived as they believe them to have been, what power in nature was there to prevent them from being equally deceived? Such reflections, steadily pursued by those who are anxious to follow the plain and simple path of reason, will soon make it obvious that the inconsistencies which they behold in all other sects out of their own pale, are precisely similar to those which all other sects can readily discover within that pale. It is not, however, to be imagined, that this free and open exposure of the gross errors in which the existing generation has been instructed, should be forthwith palatable to the world; it would be contrary to reason to form any such expectations. Yet, as evil exists, and as man cannot be rational, nor of course happy, until the cause of it shall be removed; the writer, like a physician who feels the deepest interest in the welfare of his patient, has hitherto administered of this unpalatable restorative the smallest quantity which he deemed sufficient for the purpose. He now waits to see the effects which that may produce. Should the application not prove of sufficient strength to remove the mental disorder, he promises that it shall be increased, until sound health to the public mind be firmly and permanently established.
Address to the Inhabitants of New Lanark (1816) Edit
- "Address to the Inhabitants of New Lanark" at the opening of the Institute for the Formation of Character (1 January, 1816)
- What ideas individuals may attach to the term "Millennium" I know not; but I know that society may be formed so as to exist without crime, without poverty, with health greatly improved, with little, if any misery, and with intelligence and happiness increased a hundredfold; and no obstacle whatsoever intervenes at this moment except ignorance to prevent such a state of society from becoming universal.
- The Institution has been devised to afford the means of receiving your children at an early age, almost as soon as they can walk. By this means many of you, mothers and families, will be able to earn a better maintenance or support for your children; you will have less care and anxiety about them, while the children will be prevented from acquiring any bad habits. and gradually prepared to learn the best.
- They would receive the same care and attention as those who belong to the establishment. Nor will there be any distinction made between the children of those parents who are deemed the worst, and of those who may be esteemed the best members of society: indeed I would prefer to receive the offspring of the worst, if they shall be sent at an early age; because they really require more of our care and pity and by well-training these, society will be more essentially benefited than if the like attention were paid to those whose parents are educating them in comparatively good habits.
- On educating children of the poor, and of neighboring communities.
- Believe me, my friends, you are yet very deficient with regard to the best modes of training your children, or of arranging your domestic concerns.
The Social System (1826) Edit
- The Social System — Constitution, Laws, and Regulations of a Community (1826) [written in 1821, published in 1826]
- There is but one mode by which man can possess in perpetuity all the happiness which his nature is capable of enjoying, — that is by the union and co-operation of all for the benefit of each.
Union and co-operation in war obviously increase the power of the individual a thousand fold. Is there the shadow of a reason why they should not produce equal effects in peace; why the principle of co-operation should not give to men the same superior powers, and advantages, (and much greater) in the creation, preservation, distribution and enjoyment of wealth?
- In advanced age, and in cases of disability from accident, natural infirmity or any other cause, the individual shall be supported by the colony, and receive every comfort which kindness can administer.
- To train and educate the rising generation will at all times be the first object of society, to which every other will be subordinate.
The Book of the New Moral World then he died (1836-1844) Edit
- Published as The Book of the New Moral World, in 7 volumes 1836-1844; published as one volume in 1845.
- The advanced members of the medical profession know that the health of society is not to be obtained or maintained by medicines; — that it is far better, far more easy and far wiser, to adopt substantive measures to prevent disease of body or mind, than to allow substantive measure to remain continually to generate causes to produce physical and mental disorders.
- 3rd Part.
- To preserve permanent good health, the state of mind must be taken into consideration.
- 3rd Part.
- It is the interest of the individual and of all society, that he should be made, at the earliest period, to understand his own construction, the proper use of its parts, and how to keep them at all times in a state of health; and especially that he should be taught to observe the varied effects of different kinds of food, and different quantities, upon his own constitution. He should be taught the general and individual laws of health, thus early, that he may know how to prevent the approach of disease. And the knowledge of the particular diet best suited to his constitution, is one of the most essential laws of health.
- 3rd Part.
- Where are these rational practices to be taught and acquired? Not within the four walls of a bare building, in which formality predominates... But in the nursery, play-ground, fields, gardens, workshops, manufactures, museums and class-rooms. …The facts collected from all these sources will be concentrated, explained, discussed, made obvious to all, and shown in their direct application to practice in all the business of life.
- 3rd Part.
- The advantage of pure, and the disadvantage of impure air are experienced each time we breathe, and all who understand the causes of disease know that an impure atmosphere is most unfavourable to the enjoyment of health, and an efficient cause to shorten human existence within the natural life of man. It is therefore most desirable that decisive measures should be devised and generally adopted to ensure to all a pure atmosphere, in which to live during their lives.
- 3rd Part.
- Women will be no longer made the slaves of, or dependent upon men ... They will be equal in education, rights, privileges and personal liberty.
- Sixth Part.
Quotes about Robert Owen Edit
- There is a class of minds, of which I consider Robert Owen and Fanny Wright as specimens, who, while wanting in that fine mental balance called common sense, are supplied with a large amount of enthusiasm. Such a combination, if united with a contemplative turn of mind and lively imagination, often leads to that mysticism whose votaries reside in a world of imagination and feeling. But when united to an active and fearless temperament, and under certain influences, it tends to that practical Atheism, which is exhibited in the projects and visionary efforts of Owen and Fanny Wright. … Robert Owen and his followers proceed on a principle which, if carried out, would banish gravitation and destroy fire and water, on account of the incidental evils they involve. They spend their time and breath in collecting and portraying the evil passions, persecutions, and contentions engendered by religion, the injurious action of law, the evils attending the marriage relation, and the family state, and on account of these incidental evils would labor to banish all the blessings secured by these healthful and indispensable institutions. If they should proceed still farther in carrying out their principles, they would be seen roaming through the world, boasting of their superior wisdom while destroying fire with water, and water with fire, as mischievous principles no longer to be tolerated. I have never seen or heard of any thing attempted by persons who have claims to rationality and to an enlightened education, that to me seemed more like the wild vagaries of lunacy than the establishment of Robert Owen at New Harmony. To collect together a company of persons of all varieties of age, taste, habits, and preconceived opinions, and teach them that there is no God, no future state, no retributions after death, no revealed standard of right and wrong, and no free agency; that the laws that secure private property are a nuisance, that religion is a curse, that marriage is a vexatious restraint, that the family state is needless and unwise, and then to expect such a community to dwell together in harmony, and practice upon the rules of benevolence, what can be conceived more childish or improbable, by any person who has seen the world or known any thing of human nature! And yet such is the plan and expectation of the leaders of practical Atheism.
- Thou needest to be very right, Robert, for thou art very positive.
- Advice to Owen by David Dale, father of Owen's wife, Caroline.
- At this juncture, there came forward as a reformer a manufacturer 29-years-old – a man of almost sublime, childlike simplicity of character, and at the same time one of the few born leaders of men. Robert Owen had adopted the teaching of the materialistic philosophers: that man’s character is the product, on the one hand, of heredity; on the other, of the environment of the individual during his lifetime, and especially during his period of development. In the industrial revolution most of his class saw only chaos and confusion, and the opportunity of fishing in these troubled waters and making large fortunes quickly. He saw in it the opportunity of putting into practice his favorite theory, and so of bringing order out of chaos. ...The newly-created gigantic productive forces, hitherto used only to enrich individuals and to enslave the masses, offered to Owen the foundations for a reconstruction of society; they were destined, as the common property of all, to be worked for the common good of all.
- Friedrich Engels. Socialism, Utopian and Scientific (1901).
- No leader ever took so little care as Mr, Owen in guarding his own reputation. He scarcely protested when others attached his name to schemes which were not his.
- George Holyoake in: The History of Co-operation in England (1875; 1902).
- It is said by parrot-minded critics that Owen was "a man of one idea," whereas he was a man of more ideas than any public man England knew in his day. … The truth is he succeeded in more things than any public man ever undertook. If he made more promises than he fulfilled, he fulfilled more than any other public man ever made.
- George Holyoake. Dedicatory address at the unveiling of a monument for Owen's grave, Newtown, Wales (12 July 1902).
- He cared for no cause that reason could not win. There never was a more cautious innovator, a more practical dreamer, or a more reasoning revolutionist.
- George Holyoake. Dedicatory address at the unveiling of a monument for Owen's grave, Newtown, Wales (12 July 1902).
- Thanks to the doctrine of national environment which Owen was the first to preach — Knowledge is greater; Life is longer; Health is surer...
- I think that everyone who is compelled to look closely into the problem of popular education, must be led to Owen's conclusions that the infants' school is, so to speak, the key of the position. Robert Owen, discerned this great fact, and had the courage and patience to work out his theory into a practical reality. That is his claim — if he had no other — to the enduring gratitude of the people.
- T. H. Huxley in 1871, as quoted in The Nation Vol. 75 (14 August 1902), p. 131.
- He organised infants schools. He secured the reduction of the hours of labour for women and children in factories. He was a liberal supporter of the earliest efforts to obtain national education. He laboured to promote international arbitration. He was one of the foremost Britons who taught men to aspire to a higher social state by reconciling the interests of capital and labour. He spent his life and a large fortune in seeking to improve his fellowmen by giving them education, self-reliance, and moral worth. His life was sanctified by human affection and lofty effort.
- Epitaph on the Owen Memorial in Kensal Green Cemetery, London, England.
- The modern history of Europe is littered with the projects of the politics of Rationalism. The most sublime of these is, perhaps, that of Robert Owen for 'a world convention to emancipate the human race from ignorance, poverty, division, sin and misery' - so sublime that even a Rationalist (but without much justification) might think it eccentric. But not less characteristic are the diligent search of the present generation for an innocuous power which may safely be made so great as to be able to control all other powers in the human world, and the common disposition to believe that political machinery can take the place of moral and political education.
- Michael Oakeshott, "Rationalism in Politics" (1947), published in Rationalism in Politics and other essays (1962).
- I would class Owen in a triad as one of the three men who have in this generation given an impulse to the moral world, Clarkson and Dr. Bell are the other two.
- Robert Southey, as quoted in The History of Co-operation in England : The Pioneer Period (1975).
- I have always looked upon Owen as my first teacher in the philosophy of human nature and my first guide through the labyrinth of social science. He influenced my character more than I then knew, and now that I have read his life and most of his great works, I am fully convinced that he was the greatest of social reformers and the real founder of Modern Socialism.
- Alfred Russel Wallace, My Life, Volume One (1905); reprinted in Andrew Berry (ed.) Infinite Tropics: An Alfred Russel Wallace Anthology Verso Books (2002).
See also Edit
- Memorial dedication (1902) by George Holyoake