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La Reunion, a French Settlement in Texas

La Reunion, a French Settlement in Texas
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Title: La Reunion, a French Settlement in Texas
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La Réunion, a French Settlement in Texas

Charles Fourier.

Charles Francois Fourier was born in Besançon,France, in 1722. His teachings and writings inspiredVictor Prosper Considerant to attempt the establishmentof La Réunion, a French Colony in Texas.

LA RÉUNION,
a French Settlement in Texas

by
William J. Hammond, Ph.D.
and
Margaret F. Hammond, M.A.

Royal Publishing Company
Dallas, Texas

i

Copyright 1958
by
William J. Hammond

Printed in the United States of America
by
Royal Publishing Company

ii

“The Supreme law is liberty and reciprocal adaptation.”Considerant, The Great West, 40.

“We desire the free and spontaneous unison of human forces.”Considerant, The Great West, 47.

“Les principes de liberté, de justice, et d’unité”Considerant, Au Texas, 2 ed., 199.

iii

PREFACE

In presenting this brief history of La Réunion, werealize that the story may appear too long for such aseemingly unimportant event in our state history, butto those who are doing research work, especially yearshence, the details can not be too numerous. Even nowgreat difficulties present themselves in tracing down thematerials that are now in existence.

Extensive quotations have been used throughout themonograph, too extensive in fact, but the production ofthese documents in full rather than in part may be justifiedon the basis of making them available to studentsof Texas History. Additional material has been givenin the appendix where it was deemed too long to includesuch materials in the story, and it is thus given as amere narrative of facts of one of the great romanticattempts to settle Texas and the Southwest. We haveavoided complicating the story by not discussing socialismper se, dealing with its connection with La Réuniononly when necessary for an understanding of the activitiesof the colonists.

We wish to express our thanks to the librarians ofthe Public Library in Fort Worth, the Texas UniversityLibrary, and Congressional Library for the loan of books,and especially to Mrs. Bertie Mothershead, formerlibrarian at Texas Christian University for her co-operationand helpfulness.

The Authors

iv

CONTENTS

Introduction 9
Chapter I Founders of the Colony 17
Chapter II Au Texas 35
Chapter III The Society 47
Chapter IV Attitude of Texans toward the Colony 63
Chapter V The Immigrants 85
Chapter VI La Réunion, the Colony 95
Chapter VII The Breakup 107
The Appendix 117
 A. Partial list of the Settlers 117
 B. Plan of the Phalanstery 126
 C. Acts Incorporating the Colony 127
 D. Letters of Introduction 130
References 133
Bibliography 147
9

INTRODUCTION
SOCIALISM CROSSES THE ATLANTIC

The last half of the eighteenth century was a periodof awakening for the masses of western Europe; revolutionthundered in Paris and reverberated throughout allEurope. Thrones tottered and fell; others rose to taketheir places. Republics were created by the revolutionsovernight to live and thrive only during the predominanceof the French Revolution, and then fade into thekingdoms from whence they had emerged. Peoples wereled to believe that the day of Utopia had arrived andthey turned upon their masters and oppressors to destroythem, and then, in return, were led to the battlefieldsand slaughtered for the whimsical desire for glory of theman who rode the waves of emotional fanaticism topower. Out of the mad chaos created by such desiresand emotions a new system of economic hope wascreated. French dreamers and intellectuals had seen, ina short time of twenty-five years, the ultimate hopes of anation rise to exalted heights in a sort of religious fanaticismand then plunge to depths of despair. A culture orcivilization in which such a catastrophe as that couldhappen, so the philosophers thought, must be faulty beyondrepair. Some of these philosophers surrendered todiscouragement and pessimism while others sought torebuild and reconstruct the crumbling ruins of the past.Claude-Henri Saint Simon, Louis Blanc, FrançoisFourier, Pierre Proudhon, Karl Marx, Robert Owen,10Charles Kingsley, Saint Jean-Baptiste La Salle, FredericEngels, and Johann Rodbertus were some of the mostprominent socialists and thinkers who attempted to finda solution to the economic ills of Europe and to guaranteean equitable distribution of wealth to the masses ofthe people.[1]

This new system became known as socialism and wasa middle class movement which developed out of theshattered eighteenth century era. Side by side withsocialism developed communism, a doctrine developedout of the working class needs which, it was thought bysome, neither socialism nor capitalism could satisfy.Socialism, as maintained by nineteenth century philosophers,stemmed not only from the old totalitarian doctrineof the Greek city-state but from the old conceptof a universal pattern of cultural religion and economicsof the medieval period. The philosophers were onlysubstituting economics for medieval religion in the newsocial theory. The spirit of co-operative good, of theoreticalequality and ultimate perfection of society are commonto both Utopian socialism and religion. The socialistsvisualized a world of productivity sufficient to abolishpoverty and furnish abundance to those who worked.The problem, as they understood it, was to prevent theconcentration of enormous wealth in the hands of a fewindividuals by which those who possess wealth deprivethe masses of equitable distribution of goods. This concentrationcould be prevented, so thought the socialist,if production and distribution could remain in controlof the people who produced the materials. The socialistdreamed of an economy in which there would be a socialdevelopment along with the economic but in which allinequality and special privilege would be eliminated from11both political and economic life. One writer has definedsocialism as:

A socialized industry is one in which the materialinstruments of production are owned by a public authorityor voluntary association and operated, not witha view to profit by sale to other people, but for thedirect service of those whom the authority or associationrepresents. A socialized system is one the mainpart of whose productive resources are engaged insocialized industries.[2]

Over against the socialist theory was the pragmatictheory of capitalism already operating in many parts ofEurope and America. The same writer defines capitalismas:

A capitalist industry is one in which the materialinstruments of production are owned or hired byprivate persons and are operated at their orders with aview to selling at a profit the goods or services that theyhelp to produce. A capitalist economy, or capitalistsystem, is one the main part of whose productive resourcesis engaged in capitalist industries.[3]

Out of the socialist movement there developed threedifferent types: first, socialism as represented by theUtopian idealism which is apparently impractical butwhich doesn’t encourage hostility between classes,groups or individuals; second, Marxian socialism whichtheoretically conceives of a classless society and whichrecognizes a ceaseless war between the so-called privilegedand the underprivileged; and third, liberal socialismwhich involves the gradual socialization of all meansof production and distribution by permitting it to remaindefinitely in the hands of the producer and consumerthrough governmental agencies or co-operating groups.[4]This latter type of socialism is the kind that many governments12of the world are adopting today by the procedureof the established political parties in those statesacquiring what appears to them as the practical socialistdoctrines as new platforms and policies. These conceptionsof socialism are tenets of early socialism and notof the many varieties operating under the name at thepresent time.

It is Utopian socialism rather than Marxian whichdeveloped into a strong movement in Europe during thenineteenth century but failed to materialize as a successfulmovement. This failure to gain immediate successwas accepted by the leaders of socialism as a weaknessof society instead of lack of merit in socialism, and thefailure was explained as due to the inherent conditionsof a traditionally bound European culture. Therefore,success, so the leaders thought, required only the transferof their efforts to new lands where traditions had notyet been so thoroughly established. America was one ofthese new lands where Utopias could be built in the vastspaces beyond the frontiers. And so these dreamersturned their eyes toward the United States as a placewhere doctrines could be established and success couldbe achieved. However, neither here nor in Europe hasthe Utopian dream approached realization.

Robert Owen was one of the Utopian socialists whocrossed the Atlantic to the United States seeking toescape the inheritance of European culture so that hecould develop his socialism in a new world. Owen wasthe son of a saddler, well-educated, religious, and thoroughlytrained in business. He organized New Harmonyin the United States, an undertaking which cost himthree to five years of his life and four-fifths of his fortune.Another settlement similar to New Harmony, located13near Glasgow, Scotland, was attempted by him but alsofailed. Perhaps due to his eminent success in businessin the British Isles, Owen was received by Americanleaders with more public acclaim than any other socialist.However, due to rash unorthodox religious statementsand his temporary denouncement of marriage, he soonbecame unpopular in the United States as well as in theBritish Isles.

Owen was absolutely opposed to violence of any kindand was extremely favorable to recognition of the valueof capital. He withdrew from the labor movementafter the leaders had violated his doctrine expressed inhis Address to the Workman, namely, that all workersmust renounce hatred and violence directed against thecapitalist or ruling class.[5]

While Owen failed to establish a Utopia in Europeor America, he did have great influence as stated byone writer:

And yet, despite his errors in judgment and thefailure of many of his plans, the great-hearted andlovable cotton manufacturer and communist did exert aprofound influence on the social thinking of the world.His indictment of the present order of society for itswaste, its injustices, its tragedy of unemployment; hisemphasis on social happiness as the ideal of human progress;his insistence that character was profoundly influencedby social environment; his urgent plea that allco-operate for the common welfare in the productionand distribution of wealth, all these left their imprinton future generations. And his life of untiring devotionand sacrifice proved one of the great sources of inspirationto those who followed later in the socialist, co-operative,and trade union movements, as well as thosewho worked in behalf of child training, of labor legislation,of prison reform, and of similar causes.[6]

14

Another class of socialists found in the United Stateswho came from across the Atlantic consisted of variousreligious groups. New Harmony itself had been originallycreated and founded by the Rappists and later purchasedby Owen.

Fourier was to France what Owen was to England.There is a great difference between the position of menlike Owen and Fourier and the one assumed by thosewho accepted Karl Marx, whose doctrines are best representedby Wilhelm Weitling. The communism of thefirst group was merely the communal possession of goodsproduced by communal effort with no thought of classconflict or the confiscation of goods produced by othermeans. This group sought to deny hostility and hatredbetween classes saying that the wealthy had the samedesire to create a perfect society as did those who laboredfor a living. Marx held to the view that constant conflictbetween classes was fundamental.

Frederick Engels in evaluating the Utopian socialistwrote:

To all these Socialism is the expression of absolutetruth, reason, and justice, and has only to be discernedto conquer all the world by virtue of its own power.[7]

Marxian socialism, on the other hand, is in direct contrastto the Utopian. He says:

From this time forward Socialism was no longer anaccidental discovery of this or that ingenious brain, butthe necessary outcome of the struggle between two historicallydeveloped classes—the proletariat and thebourgeoisie.[8]

Thus, it came about that the United States wasfortunate in receiving whatever socialistic contributions15it has received from the English and French Utopiansocialism of reason rather than from the ruthless Marxiansocialism of conflict which never has had any greatinfluence in the United States.[9] All the colonies establishedby the followers of Fourier and Owen have disappeared.La Réunion, a French colony in Texas, furnishesa splendid opportunity to analyze the reasons forthese failures.

16

Bust of Victor Considerant erected in his native village of Salins, France. From Maurice Commanget, Victor Considerant, sa Vie, son Oeuvre, 1929, Paris France.

17

CHAPTER I
FOUNDERS OF THE COLONY

La Réunion, a French settlement in Texas,

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