Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Owen, Robert (1771-1858)
OWEN, ROBERT (1771–1858), socialist, born on 14 May 1771, at Newtown, Montgomeryshire, was son of Robert Owen, by his wife, Anne Williams. The father, a saddler and ironmonger, was postmaster of Newtown, then a country town of about a thousand inhabitants. Robert, youngest of seven children, was an active lad; he was the best runner and leaper among his companions, and afterwards became a good dancer. He was sent to a day school at a very early age. Soon afterwards, by hastily swallowing some scalding 'flummery'—a preparation of flour and milk—he injured his digestion for life. He says that consequent necessity of careful attention to diet had a great effect upon his character. He learnt all that his master could teach so quickly that when seven years old he was made 'usher.' He had a passion for reading, and books were lent to him by the clergyman, doctor, and lawyer. He read the ordinary standard literature, including 'Robinson Crusoe' and Richardson's novels, and believed every word to be true. He afterwards read histories, books of travel, and biography. Some methodist ladies lent him a number of religious books, and he says that the study of controversies convinced him before he was ten years old that there was 'something fundamentally wrong in all religions' (own Life, p. 4). This early passion for reading disappeared under the pressure of business, and in later life he read little except newspapers and statistical books. He acted as usher for two years, and then became assistant in a small shop of grocery and haberdashery. He became anxious to see the world, and was allowed, when he had completed his tenth year, to join his eldest brother William, then a saddler in London. After a short stay in London he was placed with McGuffog, an honest and shrewd Scotsman, who had been a pedlar, and had started a successful business in Stamford, Northamptonshire. McGuffog had become famous for the sale of the finer articles of female wear, and Owen became a good judge of different fabrics. His master was kind and considerate, and he was able to spend many hours before and after his day's work meditating and reading in Burleigh Park. Seneca was a favourite author. The McGuffogs belonged to different churches ; and Owen now developed his early scepticism, and reluctantly abandoned Christianity. He had, however, previously written a letter to Pitt, the prime minister, "suggesting measures for better observance of the Sabbath. The publication a few days later of a proclamation in that sense was supposed by the McGuffogs and himself to be a consequence, though he afterwards perceived that it could be only a coincidence.
Meanwhile Owen's ambition was confined to business. After four years at Stamford and a brief holiday he became assistant in a haberdasher's shop on old London Bridge, where he received: 25l. a year, besides board and lodging. His employers were kind, but the work so severe in the busy season that he had only five hours for sleep. He was glad to accept an offer of 40l. a year for a similar situation with a Mr. Satterfield in Manchester. At this time the cotton trade was in process of rapid development. Owen formed an acquaintance with a mechanic named Jones, who made wire bonnet-frames for Satterfield, and was anxious to make some of the new machinery for cotton spinning. Owen borrowed 100l. from his brother, and took a workshop with Jones, where they soon had forty men at work. Owen had to keep the boots, manage the men, and look as wise as he could till he had learnt his new business. Affairs prospered till a capitalist offered to buy him out. He was glad to set up for himself, took a room, and began spinning yarn, which he sold to the agent of some Glasgow manufacturers. He formed an alliance with two young Scotsmen, James McConnell and John Kennedy (1769-1855) [q. v.], afterwards successful cotton spinners, about 1790, and was soon clearing six pounds a week. A Mr. Drinkwater of Manchester required a manager for' a large business. Owen applied for the post, and, though he was younger and demanded a larger salary than other applicants, Drinkwater was pleased by his manner, and appointed him. He had now charge of a mill employing five hundred persons, and filled with machinery of which he knew little. Drinkwater left the whole business to him. He studied the arrangements carefully, and mastered them thoroughly in six weeks. He had, he says, by this time learnt his great principle— that, as character is made by circumstances, all anger is out of place. His management of the workmen was at any rate successful, and they were soon distinguished for sobriety and good order. The knowledge of fabrics acquired at McGuffog's stood him in good stead. The mill produced the finest kinds of yarn, the cotton being spun into 120 hanks to the pound. Owen increased this by 1792 to 250, and afterwards to 300, hanks to the pound. He was among the first to make use of the Sea Island cotton, none of the North American cotton having been used previously to 1791, in the new machinery. Owen's skill greatly increased the profits of the business, while his own mind was being impressed by the reflection that more attention was generally paid to the 'dead' than to the 'living machinery.' During the first year Drinkwater proposed a new agreement with him, which he gladly accepted. He was to have 400l. for the second year, 500l. in the third, and a partnership, with a quarter of the profits, in the fourth. He was becoming known in Manchester; he was on friendly terms with Dalton the chemist, and became a member of the 'Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester.' He still spoke, he says (ib. p. 31), an imperfect mixture of Welsh and English, but apparently made an impression upon more cultivated minds. He records a dispute with John Ferriar [q. v.], says that he had the best of the argument, though the worst of the rhetoric, in discussions with Coleridge, who visited Manchester (ib. p. 36), perhaps during his tour for starting the 'Watchman ;' and gained the name of the 'reasoning machine,' He was also intimate with Robert Fulton, who was in Manchester in 1794, and lent him money to carry out inventions connected with canal navigation (ib. pp. 64-70). Drinkwater desired to withdraw from the partnership agreement in consequence of some family arrangements, and offered to continue Owen as manager at any salary he chose to name. Owen at once gave up the agreement, but refused to remain as manager. He stayed for a year till Drinkwater could find a competent successor, and in 1794-5 formed the 'Chorlton Twist Company,' two old-established firms taking some part in the enterprise. Owen superintended the new mills which were built at Chorlton, and made the purchases. His business led him frequently to Glasgow. He there made the acquaintance of Anne Caroline Dale, daughter of David Dale [q. v.] Dale was the proprietor of mills at New Lanark on the falls of the Clyde, which he had started in 1785 in combination with Arkwright. Miss Dale immediately confided to a friend that she would never take any husband unless Owen were the man. Owen was diffident until the friend revealed the confidence to him. Miss Dale, when he ventured to speak, said that she must first obtain the consent of her father, to whom he was still unknown. The father, as a man of strong religious principles, was likely to be repelled by Owen's views. A happy thought suggested itself to Owen, that he should introduce himself by offering to buy the New Lanark mills. Owen, with the help of his partners, agreed to buy the mills for 60,000l., to be paid in twenty annual instalments. Dale took a liking to Owen in the course of their meetings, and after a time consented to accept the young man as his son-in-law. In spite of many discussions upon religious questions, Dale and Owen remained upon affectionate terms till Dale's death in 1806. Mrs. Owen also retained her early religious opinions, which her husband treated with tenderness.
Owen says that his property at this time was worth 3,000l. (ib. p. 55), but his income was rising rapidly. He had for two years occupied Greenheys at Manchester, the residence of De Quincey's father. He married Miss Dale on 30 Sept. 1799 ; and, leaving the Chorlton mills to his partners, undertook the 'government' of New Lanark about 1 Jan. 1800. The Chorlton mills were soon afterwards sold.
Owen now resolved to carry out the plans I suggested by his experience at Drinkwater's. His workmen and their families numbered about thirteen hundred, and there were four or five hundred pauper children. The men were given to drink and dishonesty ; and the children, chiefly sent from workhouses, though Dale had tried to provide for their comfort and instruction, were terribly overworked. Owen took no more pauper children, and began to improve the houses and machinery. The workmen disliked him as a foreigner and obstructed his plans. He won upon them by arranging stores at which good articles were sold for low prices, and still more by his conduct during the American embargo in 1806. He stopped the mills for four months, but paid the workmen their full wages, amounting to more than 7,000/. He was now able to introduce other measures for diminishing temptations to drink and checking pilferers. He was especially proud of a quaint arrangement for marking each man's conduct daily by a 'silent monitor,' a label coloured variously to indicate goodness and badness and placed opposite each man's post. He was anxious to apply his principles more thoroughly by forming the characters of his people from the first, and resolved to set up schools. He was still only a partner, with a ninth share of the profits and 1,000l. a year as manager. He calculated the outlay for a proposed school at 5,000l. besides an annual expense. The partners made some difficulties ; and, although they gave him a piece of plate with a flattering inscription, they hesitated to co-operate in his plans. He agreed to buy them out, the business being valued at 84,000l., and the profits during the ten years of the firm's existence having been 60,000l., after paying five per cent, on the capital. A new partnership was now formed, in which Owen had the largest of five unequal shares besides his 1,000l. a year. The new partners, however, objected to his measures, and it was finally decided that the works should be sold by auction. The partners spread discouraging accounts of the result of Owen's management, intending to buy the mills for a small sum. Owen meanwhile was tired of partners who looked merely to profit, and resolved to find men who would sympathise with his aims. He circulated a pamphlet, called 'A New View of Society' (revised by Francis Place, according to Mr. Holyoake's Life and Last Days, p. 18), describing his principles, and found ready support. He proposed to raise 130,000l. in ten shares, of which he held five himself; John Walker of Arno's Grove took three ; Joseph Foster of Bromley, William Allen [q. v.], Joseph Fox (a dentist), Michael Gibbs (afterwards lord mayor), and Jeremy Bentham had one share a piece. Owen proposed that five per cent, should be paid on capital, and the whole surplus devoted to general education and improvement of the labourer's condition. Owen returned to Glasgow for the auction with Allen, Foster, and Gibbs, and, after an exciting contest, the business was knocked down to him for 114,100l. The net profit of the four years' partnership had been 160,000l. Owen was enthusiastically received, apparently at the beginning of 1814, by his workmen upon his return, and had now for a time a free hand for his projects. The population was about two thousand five hundred (own Life, p. 130).
Owen's new school system was to provide his 'living machinery.' He had been interested in the plans of Bell and Lancaster, which caused most of the educational discussion of the day, and had subscribed to both committees. He presided at a public dinner given to Lancaster at Glasgow in 1812 and made an impressive speech (given in the Appendix to his Life). His system at New Lanark showed much sense and benevolence. There were schools for all the children under twelve, at which age they could enter the works. Owen, however, was especially proud of his infant school, where children were received as soon as they could walk. He claimed to be the founder of infant schools. His ' institution for the formation of character,' which included schools of three grades, was opened on 1 Jan. 1816. His first principle was that the children should never be beaten ; that they should always be addressed kindly, and instructed to make each other happy. He took for teacher of his infant school a man who could scarcelv read or write, but was patient and fond of children. He used to teach by objects, avoided overstrain, and thought that books should hardly be used for children under ten. Dancing, music, and drilling were an essential part of the system, and he declares that his school children were the 'happiest human beings he ever saw' (own Life, p. 135). His infant school was imitated by Lord Lansdowne, Brougham, and others, to whom he transferred his master in order to start a new school at Westminster. The New Lanark institutions had now become famous. Owen says (ib. p. 114) that during the ten years preceding 1824 the annual number of visitors was two thousand. He lived from 1808, with his family and Mrs. Owen's four sisters, at Braxfield House, previously occupied by the well-known judge [see Macqueen, Robert], and there received his distinguished guests. His acquaintances included many clergymen, from the Archbishop of Canterbury (Sutton) downwards ; Wilberforce, Clarkson, and other abolitionists ; Malthus, Mackintosh, and the utilitarian group — Bentham, James Mill, and Francis Place. Owen's views were at the time in favour of paternal government, and showed no democratic tendency. He was opposed to Malthusian views, in which he observes (ib. p. 104) that Mrs. Malthus agreed with him, and to the laissez-faire tendencies of the economists. The tory government were disposed to take him up. Lord Liverpool received him ; and Lord Sidmouth had his essays circulated by government in order to elicit comments from qualified people. J. Q. Adams, then United States minister in London, took copies for the United States ; the ambassadors of Austria and Prussia consulted him ; and he declares that Napoleon was converted at Elba by reading his essays, and would have applied their principles if the sovereigns of Europe had not interfered in 1815 (ib. iii. 202 ; an unpublished letter of Place, communicated by Mr. Graham Wallas, notices the despatch of a pamphlet to Elba). The Grandduke Nicholas (afterwards emperor of Russia) visited him at New Lanark, and offered, he says, to take two million of the ' surplus population 'of England and establish a Russian New Lanark under Owen (ib. p. 140). He became acquainted with the English royal family, and especially the Duke of Kent. Owen thus became a prophet. He attributed his remarkable successes at New Lanark, not to the singular combination of good business qualities with genuine benevolence and mild persistence which seems to have attracted all who met him, but to the abstract principle which he began to preach as a secret for reforming the world. This doctrine, which he never wearied of repeating, was that, as character is made by circumstances, men are therefore not responsible for their actions, and should be moulded into goodness instead of being punished. He began to preach this with apostolic fervour. His first public action, however, was more practical. He called a meeting of manufacturers at Glasgow in 1815, and proposed a petition for removing the tax upon the import of cotton. This was carried unanimously. He then proposed resolutions approving a measure for limiting the hours of children's labour in mills. No one would second them, but Owen went to London to lay his proposals before government. The first Sir Robert Peel undertook to bring before the House of Commons a measure founded upon them. Peel consented to the appointment of a committee to investigate the question of the employment of children in mills. The manufacturers of Glasgow endeavoured to injure Owen by charges, supported by the minister of Lanark, to the effect that he had used seditious language in his address on the institution for the formation of character. Sidmouth had already seen the address, and dismissed the charge as ridiculous. Owen attended the committee at every meeting for two sessions. He was disgusted by the concessions made by Peel to the manufacturers, and handed over his duty to Nathaniel Gould and Richard Oastler [q. v.]. The Factory Act of 1819 was the result of this agitation. Owen had proposed that no child under ten should be employed in any factory; that no child under eighteen should be worked for more than ten and a half hours; and that some schooling should be given, and a system of inspection provided (see Appendix in second volume of Life).
The distress which followed the peace led to the formation of a committee, under the presidency of Archbishop Sutton, for which Owen prepared a report, afterwards published, suggesting as the only remedy for the evils a system of educating and of 'villages of unity and co-operation' (own Life, p. 129). Sturges Bourne's committee on the poor law, then sitting, declined to examine him, and he decided to expound his views through the press. On 30 July 1817 he published a letter in the papers, followed by others on 9 and 10 Aug., announcing a meeting for 14 Aug. at the City of London Tavern. He circulated thirty thousand copies of these papers, besides other documents, at a cost of 4,000l. The mail-coaches were delayed twenty minutes beyond the hour of starting by his mass of papers. A crowded and successful meeting was held on the 14th, and adjourned to the 21st. Owen had been challenged to give his religious views. He had discovered that the religions of the world were the great obstacle to progress, and he resolved to announce this piece of news to the meeting, though expecting to be torn in pieces. He made the statement in the most dramatic fashion, and thereby, he thought, struck the death-blow of bigotry and superstition. A pause was followed by a few hisses, when an 'electric shock' seemed to pass through the audience, and a burst of 'heartfelt applause' drowned all dissent. Some 'political economists,' however, talked against time, and, to secure peace, Owen permitted his motion for appointing a committee to be negatived.
He declares that when the meeting met he was the most popular man of the day, and that the government was 'at his mercy' (Life. p. 158). Though allowance must be made for Owen's self-esteem, it is remarkable that after this declaration he retained so many supporters among the respectable. His simplicity seems to have disarmed antipathy. From this time he devoted himself to the propagation of his theories, and to schemes intended to give them effect. In the autumn he went abroad, with introductions to great men, including one from the Duke of Kent to the Duke of Orleans. He travelled with Professor Pictet of Geneva; they went to Paris with Cuvier, crossing the Channel in a French frigate. He was introduced to La Place, Alexander von Humboldt, and other distinguished men at Paris. He then went to Switzerland, where he saw Sismondi, visited Oberlin at Freiburg, Pestalozzi at Yverdun, and Fellenberg at Hofwyl. He visited Frankfort, where the Germanic diet was sitting, and afterwards Aix-la-Chapelle, to attend the congress of 1818. He saw many diplomatists, and presented papers to the Emperor Alexander, who treated him rather contemptuously. After another visit to Switzerland, he returned to England about the beginning of 1819. He offered himself in 1819 as a candidate for the Lanark burghs; but some of the electors were bribed in his absence, and he never entered parliament. His declaration of war against religion had alienated most of his supporters, and the newspapers had turned against him. A committee, however, was formed (26 June 1819) to carry out his plans, of which the Duke of Kent was president. The committee included not only high dignitaries, but such economists as Ricardo and Torrens. It failed, however, to raise 8,000l. out of the 60,000l. proposed, and was dissolved in December 1819 (documents in Appendix to Life, vol. ii.) The Duke of Kent died in January 1820. A meeting was soon afterwards held by the county of Lanark to consider the existing distress. Owen attended, and drew up a report (dated May 1820, and given in Life, vol. ii.)
Owen's political economy was heterodox and extremely crude. He held the common opinions about over-production and the bad effects of all machinery in displacing labour. He proposed to substitute the spade for the plough, and he announced the socialist doctrine that 'the natural standard of value' is 'human labour.' He advocated a scheme in which, as he says, he had been anticipated by John Bellers [q. v.], one of whose pamphlets he reprinted. He proposed to form village communities of two to three hundred families, partly on the New Lanark model, which were to be arranged round common buildings, and in which all labour was to be for the good of the community. Owen circulated the report at his own expense; it was translated into French and German, and proposals were made for carrying the scheme into effect. He first held that three-quarters of a million would be required, but consented at last to make a beginning with 50,000l. A. J. Hamilton offered a site at Motherwell, not far from Lanark. Owen subscribed 10,000l., but ultimately withdrew from the scheme in consequence of differences of opinion with other promoters. A community was started at Orbiston, near Motherwell, under themanagement of Abram Combe, brother of Andrew and George Combe [q. v.], who had visited New Lanark in 1820, and become an ardent disciple of Owen. Combe disapproved of the thoroughly communistic principles which were adopted in September 1826, after the scheme had been at work for a year. His death, on 27 Aug. 1827, grave a death-blow to the scheme, and the buildings were pulled down in 1828.
Owen also withdrew gradually from New Lanark. His associate Allen naturally objected to his anti-religious principles, and, as a quaker, to the singing, dancing, and military drill. Various disputes arose, and an agreement was made in January 1824 (given in New Existence, v. 201) which gave effect to some of Allen's views. Owen was discontented with the management, and finally withdrew in 1829. He now made a small settlement upon each of his children, and considered himself at liberty to spend the rest of his money upon his various projects.
Meanwhile Owen was energetically promulgating his doctrines. In 1821 he started a periodical called 'The Economist,' which ran for a year, and was followed by 'The Political Economist and Universal Philanthropist,' 1823, and 'The Advocate of the 'Working Classes,' 1827-7 (Holyoake, History of Co-operation, i. 108), more or less inspired by him. He visited Ireland in 1823, argued with professors at Maynooth, and held meetings at the Rotunda in Dublin (18 March, 12 and 19 April 1823), which resulted in the formation of the Hibernian Philanthropic Society. There was, however, a strong opposition, and these meetings, according to Mr. Holyoake (Life and Last Days, p. 8), 'sealed the fate of his social reform,' In 1824 Owen heard from an Englishman, who, after settling in America, had visited Braxfield, of an estate of 30,000 acres on the Wabash river, in the states of Illinois and Indiana. It belonged to a German colony who had emigrated from Würtemberg in 1804, under the guidance of a Lutheran teacher named Rapp. They combined business energy with peculiar religious views, and had prospered upon this land, to which they had given the name Harmony. They now wished to move on. Owen sailed in the autumn of 1824, and bought the village, with 20,000 acres, for 30,000l. in April 1825. On his way Owen was invited to give two addresses in the Hall of Representatives at Washington, which were attended by the president and other officials. He at once proceeded to Harmony, where nine hundred people soon assembled, and a provisional committee of management was appointed.
Owen returned to England in 1825, and made fresh journeys to 'New Harmony' at the end of the same year, and again in the winters of 1826–7 and 1827–8. A constitution was framed on 5 Feb. 1826 upon communist principles. Owen, though he had intended a longer period of probation, was asked to manage the affairs for a year. Communities sprang up in imitation at various laces, and several were grouped round New Harmony. A Mr. Maclure founded a school system on a large scale. Difficulties, however, soon arose. The heterogeneous collection of colonists gradually gave up their communism. Owen on his visits did his best to patch things up, and gave large sums of money. He found, however, that the communities had deserted his principles, and in 1828 had finally to break off his connection with the place, leaving the communities to do as they pleased. Owen had in one way or other spent upon this experiment over 40,000l. He had given to his sons Robert and William two shares in the New Lanark property, which they soon afterwards again made over to him when his funds ran low. Ultimately he settled upon them the New Harmony property, reserving for himself an annuity of 300l., which for many years was his only means of support. The rest had been spent on his various philanthropical enterprises and publications (R. D. Owen, Threading my Way, pp. 261-3).
While in England, in the following summer, Owen received an application from some persons to whom the Mexican government had granted lands in Texas to help him in colonising. He sailed on 22 Nov. 1828 with introductions to the Mexican authorities, and was received with high honours by the president, Victoria. He was told that congress would grant him a territory fifty leagues broad, stretching through 13½° of latitude. It was only necessary to change the law which made profession of Catholicism necessary in Mexican territory. In the winter, however, a new party came into power, and no more was heard of the grant to Owen. He returned by the United States, and held a public discussion at Cincinnati on 1 April 1829, dined with President Jackson and the secretary of state, Van Buren, and brought back pacific messages from them to the English foreign secretary, Lord Aberdeen, who gave him an interview.
Owen's schemes had failed, as might have been expected, even upon his own principles. He had laid the greatest stress at New Lanark upon the necessity of 'forming character* in infancy, and he might have inferred that miscellaneous collections of unprepared people would not have the necessary qualities for success in new undertakings. He now set about propagating his doctrine by lectures, and by promoting various associations. A 'London Co-operative Society' had been started in 1824, with rooms in Burton Street, Burton Crescent, where discussions were held, afterwards transferred to Chancery Lane (Holyoake, ii. 113). Here J. S. Mill and Charles Austen and others had hand-to-hand fights with the 'Owenites' (Mill, Autobiography, p. 123-6). The 'Co-operative Magazine' was started in January 1826, and gave accounts of the 'New Harmony' community. It was published during the next three years as a sixpenny monthly. In 1830 it gave way to the 'British Co-operator' and the 'Co-operative Miscellany, and other journals expounded Owen's theories (Holyoake, ii. 123, 136, 129). Many societies were started, and 'congresses' — the name is said to have been then first applied to such gatherings — were frequently held in 1829, and for some years later. Owen held meetings ; he gave Sunday lectures at the Mechanics' Institute in Southampton Buildings, until objections arose, and afterwards at the 'Institute of the Industrious Classes,' and in Burton Street. In 1832 he started a scheme which caused much excitement. He had published since 14 April 1832 a penny paper called ' The Crisis,' and in that periodical he announced in June the formation of an association to promote the exchange of all commodities upon the 'only equitable principle' of giving 'equal values of labour.' To carry out this, an 'Equitable Labour Exchange' was opened on 3 Sept. 1832 at a building in Gray's Inn Road, called the Bazaar. It had belonged to one Bromley, who had pressed Owen to use it for a new society, and Owen had thought it suitable for his experiment, which had already been partly set going elsewhere. Any goods might be deposited in it ; 'labour notes,' which had been elaborately contrived to avoid forgery, were given in exchange, and the goods deposited might be bought in the same currency. The system was exceedingly crude, and indeed scarcely intelligible. There was, however, a rush to the exchange. A large amount of deposits was made, and the example was imitated, especially at Birmingham. Difficulties soon arose. Bromley made exorbitant claims for rent, though Owen had understood that he had offered nis premises gratuitously. It was determined to move the exchange to Blackfriars. Bromley in January 1833 made a forcible entry into the premises, and Owen paid large sums to settle the matter. Bromley tried to appropriate the scheme himself, but soon failed. The exchange was moved to Charlotte Street, Fitzroy Square, where Owen, helped by his son Robert Dale Owen, continued to lecture for some time, and a new constitution was framed. It only survived for a short time ; Owen made up a deficiency of 2,600l., for which he held nimself to be morally, though he was not legally, responsible
Owen's activity continued for several years, and had a great effect in stimulating the co-operative movement in the country, though exciting comparatively little public interest, He took part in the co-operative congresses, of which seven met from 1830 to 1834, and in the succeeding 'socialist congresses,' of which there were fourteen from 1835 to 1846, and was frequently chairman (Holyoake, ii. 182-96 for a list of these congresses). He took the part of the Dorset labourers convicted in 1834, whose case caused much excitement at the time. The chief organ of the party was the 'New Moral World,' a weekly journal by Robert Owen and his disciples, which was continued from 1834 to 1841 . It called itself the organ of the 'Association of all Classes of all Nations,' and at a later period the 'Gazette of the Universal Community Society of Rational Religionists.' The early volumes contained many communications from Owen. A 'Book of the New Moral World' by Owen himself appeared in seven parts (with some changes of title) between 1826 and 1844. It contains some of the fullest statements of his doctrines. Owen's expectations became rasher and vaguer as his real influence declined. Mr. Holyoake gives an account of his activity as a travelling lecturer as late as 1838 fi. 102). He had, however, been nearly forgotten by the general public when, in 1840, he was presented to the queen by Lord Normanby, who was denounced on the occasion (24 Jan. 1840) by Bishop Philpotts in the House of Lords. The bishop had to admit that Owen's character was irreproachable, though his principles were abominable. Owen was after wards president of the short-lived community at Queenwood, Hampshire, but not an active member. From 1844 to 1847 he was again resident in America, and after his return published ' Revolution in Mind and Practice,' 1849, and 'Letters to the Human Race,' 1850. He spent many of his later years with a family at Sevenoaks.
Owen continued his appeals to the public in various forms, till his mind was evidently growing feeble. In November 1850 he began to publish a weekly 'Journal,' which lasted till the end of 1852. He petitioned parliament in 1851 for a committee to examine his schemes. During the same year he circulated tracts, translated into French and German, for distribution among visitors to the exhibition. He began to publish his 'Rational Quarterly* in June 1853, including letters to the Prince Consort and ministers. About the same time he proposed himself for election by any constituency which would elect him 'free of all trouble and expense.' He was converted to spiritualism by a medium in America about 1854, and in 1854 began the 'New Existence of Man upon Earth,' with an 'outline of his early life.' Eight parts of this appeared, and contain some documents in regard to his Irish experience and his disputes with Allen. It afterwards diverges into spiritualism, and gives communications from Franklin, Jefferson, the Duke of Kent, and some posthumous dramas by Shakespeare. Owen held meetings at St. Martin's Hall in 1855, where he announced the inauguration of the 'true millennial state of human existence,' and afterwards published a series of tracts called 'The Millennial Gazette.' His autobiography, a very interesting and clear account of his early life, appeared in 1857-8. In 1857 he convened a 'Congress of the Advanced Minds of the World,' He presented himself at an educational conference held at Willis's Rooms in June 1857 under the presidency of the Prince Consort ; and he appeared at the first two meetings of the Social Science Association held at Birmingham in October 1857 (where he read a paper), and at Liverpool in October 1858. Though very feeble, he was placed on the platform and introduced by his old friend Brougham to the meeting. He pronounced a few words, and was then carried to bed. After a fortnight's confinement he begged to be taken to his native place, Newtown. He went thither, made another journey to Liverpool, and finally returned to Newtown, and died there in the hotel on 17 Nov. 1858, in presence of his son, Robert Dale Owen. He was buried very simply in the grave of his parents in the ruins of St. Mary's, after the Anglican service had been performed at the new church. Many of his old friends and persons interested in socialism and co-operation attended the funeral. Mr. Holyoake soon afterwards delivered an eloquent oration upon him at a meeting at Rochdale, under the presidency of Mr. Jacob Bright.
He left three sons — Robert Dale, Daniel Dale, and David Dale Owen— the first of whom is separately noticed ; the other two became professors in American colleges.
Owens works have been mentioned above. The early 'New View of Society, or Essays on the Principle of the Formation of the Human Character,' originally published in 1813-16, is reprinted at the end of his 'Life,' and gives his essential views. The numerous periodicals which he wrote or inspired, and various unpublished addresses and discussions, contain little more than repetitions of the same theme. A list of the more important is given in Mr. Holyoake's 'Life and Last Days.' A drawing in crayons of Owen by S. B. and a medallion by Leverotti are in the National Portrait Gallery, London.
Owen may be described as one of those intolerable bores who are the salt of the earth. To the whigs and the political economists he appeared chiefly as a bore. Macaulay describes him (letter of 8 June 1831) at a fancy ball trying to convert Sheil to cooperation, and then proving to the catholic Mrs. Sheil that moral responsibility did not exist. Miss Martineau (Autobiogr. i. 230-3) describes his attempts to convert her in the same spirit ; and he seems to have been regarded in such circles as a social butt, whose absurdity was forgiven for his good humour (see Hazlitt, Table Talk, i. 73, 'Of People with One Idea' ; and for a characteristic criticism in 1816, Hazlitt, Political Essays, pp. 97-104). He was essentially a man of one idea ; that idea, too, was only partially right, and enforced less by argument than by incessant and monotonous repetition. Yet he will certainly be recognised as one of the most important figures in the social history of the time. His great business capacities enabled him to make an important stand against some of the evils produced by the unprecedented extension of the factory system. He was not in sympathy with any political party. Cobbett, who shared some of his views, treats him with contemptuous ridicule (Political Register, August 1817). Southey, while approving his social aims, was alienated by his religious teaching (see especially Southey, Colloquies, 1829, d. 62, where he is called the 'happiest, most beneficent, and most practical of all enthusiasts,' and pp. 132-47). Although Bentham was his partner and Ricardo joined his committee, his condemnation of the laissez-faire principle and his denunciations of competition made him the opponent of the utilitarians. In his later years his head seems to have been turned. His absorption in his idea led him to attribute to it a kind of magical efficacy, and his adventures in America showed a complete forgetfulness of all the businesslike precautions to which the success of New Lanark had been due. He had succeeded by training the young, and fancied that he could make a community by simply collecting an untrained mass of needy adventurers. Yet his influence upon the growth of co-operation in its subterranean period was enormous, and he sowed the seed of a harvest which has been reaped by his disciples.
Personally, according to Robert Dale Owen, who no doubt speaks the truth, he was most amiable. His ruling passion was benevolence; he was exceedingly fond of children; spent a fortune to promote the welfare of his race, and had a command of temper which enabled him to conciliate opponents. He had apparently all the obstinacy without the irritability generally attributed to his countrymen. His son says that he was so like Brougham in person that he might have been taken for him (R. D. Owen, Threading my Way, p. 180); but, with a vanity as great as Brougham's, he had what Brougham unfortunately wanted — the power of making even his vanity subsidiary to his principles.
[The Life of Robert Owen, written by himself, vol. i. 1857, gives the life down to 1820; a second volume, published in 1858, does not continue the narrative: it consists of an appendix giving some important documents. William Lucas Sargant's Robert Owen and his Philosophy, 1860, was written with information from Owen's friend and executor William Pare [q. v.] Sargant disapproved of Owen's 'philosophy,' but the book is careful and impartial. Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, by Lloyd Jones [q. v.], posthumous, adds little to the above; G. J. Holyoake's History of Co-operation in England, 2 vols. 1875, 1885, and Life and Last Days of Robert Owen, 1871. first published in 1859; Robert Dale Owen's Threading my Way, 1874; a Life published at Philadelphia in 1866, and A. J. Booth's Robert Owen, 1869, add no facts. The last collects some interesting notices of the co-operative movement. R. Owen and New Lanark, by a former teacher, 1839; Owen's account of the New Lanark schools in the Report upon Education in the Metropolis, presented to the House of Commons in 1816; see also Robert Dale Owen's Outline of the System of Education at New Lanark, 1821, and New Views of Mr. Owen of Lanark examined by H. G. MacNab [q. v.] The last gives an interesting report from a visitor. The various periodicals above noticed give a good deal of scattered autobiography, and incidental details of Owen's later activity; John Humphrey Noyes's History of American Socialisms, 1870, pp. 30-65, gives an account of the New Harmony experiment]