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ilian M. Snyder 
Robert P. Sutton 



of the 

Icarian Weekend in Nauvoo 

Lillian M. Snyder 

Robert P. Sutton 


Nauvoo, Illinois 
July 19 & 20, 1986 

The Symposium was made possible in part by a grant from the lUinois Humanities Council 
in cooperation with the National Endowment for the Humanities and by the Western Illinois 
University Foundation. 

Etienne Cabet 

Copyright © by Lillian M. Snyder & Robert P. Sutton, 1987 

All rights reserved. 

No part of this book may be reproduced 

in any form without written permission of the copyright holders. 

The ideas expressed in this monograph do not necessarily represent the 
view of either the Illinois Humanities Council or the National Endowment 
for the Humanities. 

1st Edition 

The artwork on the cover was done by Jeanette Criglor 

Printed in the United States of America by 
Yeast Printing, Inc. 
Macomb, Illinois 61455 




Lillian M. Snyder 


Charles T. Parish 


Jacques Ranciere 


Jules Renaud 



Lloyd W. Gundy 




Robert P. Sutton 


Wayne Wheeler 


Dale W. Ross 



Lillian M. Snyder 

During the course of his genealogical research, Lloyd Gundy found a 
journal of the voyage on which his ancestor, Jules Leon Cottet, traveled 
from Le Havre, France, to Nauvoo, Illinois, to join the Icarian Colony. 
The journal (author unknown) was published in French by Cabet and had 
been translated by Lloyd and Wilma Gundy. Subsequently it appeared 
in print in the 1986 issue of Western Illinois Regional Studies.^ 

The diary gave a detailed description of the daily life of a band of 51 
Icarians who left France on September first and arrived in Nauvoo on 
November sixth of that year. On board the ship the Icarians organized 
themselves to share the work, to handle dissension, and to aid other 
shipmates. Gundy's report of his research prompted the Descendants of 
the Icarians and other interested groups such as the Center for Icarian 
Studies at Western Illinois University to select the topic "Immigration of 
the Icarians" for a Symposium to be offered in July, 1986 at the site of 
the Icarian Colony at Nauvoo. The project also received the enthusiastic 
support from the Center for Icarian Investigations at the University of 
Nebraska, Omaha. 

About the same time I received a brochure from Jane Hood, the Director 
of Grants at the Illinois Humanities Council, in which she requested 
proposals on the topic "The Peopling of Illinois." She explained that the 
Council had adopted a six-year emphasis on the theme "Inventing Illinois" 
to encourage IlUnoisans to look for the "interaction between peoples and 
places emphasizing their different values, customs and histories." The 
brochure pointed out, in Miss Hood's words, "that lUinois has been shaped 
in rich and complicated ways by peoples who settled her land and 
populated her cities— in ways that are truly characterized more accurately 
as a 'cauldron of values' than as a 'melting pot.' " "While census figures, 
demographic profiles, and population projections are important," she 
explained, "an exploration of the values and cultural heritage of Illinois' 
people is essential to understanding our state." 

The Illinois Humanities Council recognized that the waves of some 500 
mostly French-born emigrants who came at one time or another to Nauvoo 
between 1848 and J 860 left a unique cultural contribution to the Prairie 
State, a heritage with which more lUinoisans should be better acquainted 
and should be more fully appreciative. The Council, accordingly, award- 
ed a grant to cover partially the expenses of speakers and to publish an 
account of the proceedings of the Symposium. 

At the Symposium, held at Nauvoo on July 19 and 20, 1986, Charles 
T. Parish, Moderator of the program, introduced the Symposium by 
dealing with the topic "Who Were the Icarians?" His presentation was 
followed by Professor Jacques Rancier of the University of Paris, France, 
who spoke on "Why Did the Icarians Leave France?" Jules Renaud, a 
native of Keokuk, Iowa and now living in Alexandria, Virginia, gave an 
account of "Icarian Migrations from Europe to Illinois" based upon his 
findings in the Ship Manifest Lists of the National Archives in Washington, 
D.C. Gundy then read his report on "Glimpses of the Immigration of 
the French Icarians to America, 1854." The three papers were critiqued 
by Dr. Robert P. Sutton, Director of the Center for Icarian Studies, Dr. 
Wayne Wheeler of the Institute for Icarian Investigations, and Dale W. 
Ross, an Icarian Descendant, of Sunnyvale, California. 

The French Counsul, Max De Calbiac, in commemoration of the 100th 
anniversary of the gift of the Statue of Liberty to the United States, 
concluded the Symposium that evening with a cogent summation of the 
entire weekend. He noted that the Statue of Liberty was a symbol of 
freedom and a remembrance of the binding American relations which go 
back over 300 years. Both countries, he said, cherish the same values of 
liberty. He pointed out that equality and fraternity symbolized in the logo 
of the Descendants of the Icarians are symbols of the two nations. He 
suggested that such a commemoration of Cabet and the Icarians was an 
auspicious occasion to remember the importance of the goal of equality 
in both of our societies. "It is not an easy task," he said "and it is far 
easier to succeed in liberty." The challenges facing Cabet find his followers 
almost a century and a half ago, he concluded, are the same challenges 
facing us today. 


' Lloyd Gundy, Wilma Gundy, and Robert P. Sutton, "An Icarian Embarkation: LeHavre 
to Nauvoo, 1854 (Macomb, Illinois: Western Illinois Regional Studies, Vol. 9, No. 1, Spring, 
1986), pages 19-33. 

See also, Etienne Cabet, Prospectus de la Colonie Icarienne (Paris: by Cabet, 1855). 

2 "Inventing Illinois, the IHC Program 1985-1991" Humanities A Publication of the Illinois 
Humanities Council, Vol. 7, No. 1, Winter 1986. 


Charles T. Parish 

The founder of the Icarians was Etienne Cabet, author of the best selUng 
Travels in Icaria, first pubhshed in France in 1840. Cabet himself, born 
in 1788, was a precocious youth who taught mathematics in high school 
and at the age of twenty-one earned a Doctor of Jurisprudence at the 
University of Dijon. Throughout his Ufe he was involved with writings 
and activities to bring about hberty, equahty, and fraternity. 

After a study of the history of the French Revolution and the rise and 
fall of nations, Cabet set forth his views of how a correct social organization 
of a humanistic society could bring about peace, brotherhood and justice 
for all mankind. His central idea was to build a society of complete equaUty 
without either property or money. Every citizen in Icaria, in Cabet's plan, 
had equal access to the performing arts, museums, and education. In Icaria 
there were public hospitals, libraries, recreational facilities, and gardens. 

Cabet's followers by 1848 finally insisted that his ideas be put into 
practice not in his native France but in the United States. The First 
Advance Party of Icarians left Le Havre on February third to establish 
the first community in Texas. The initial location proved disastrous. So 
they chose Nauvoo as the permanent site of their colony. A group of 180 
Icarians arrived in Illinois on March 15, 1849. At Nauvoo they built a 
model of their ideal society. Children both boys and girls, were given a 
free education in science, mathematics, geography, history, literature, and 
the arts. Every Sunday afternoon they gathered in their "cours Icarien" 
to discuss matters of love, brotherhood, and beauty. Sunday evenings the 
Icarian orchestra performed regular concerts. Each month, a theatrical 
play was given in the dining hall. All members, young and old, borrowed 
books from the Icarian library of over 5,000 volumes— the largest in the 
state at the time.' Its newspaper, the Colonie Icarienne published detailed 
accounts of their new life in Illinois. The Icarian community, first began 
in the Prairie State, reestablished itself again and again over the next fifty 
years— in St. Louis, in Corning, Iowa and in Cloverdale, California. 

The Icarians were mostly French although a number of them were from 
other European countries. Nevertheless, most were from the middle class. 
Many were, by and large, educated. Some were craftsmen. A few were 
rich, others quite poor. Each applicant, regardless of status or wealth, had 
to have his "entry money" to join the community and his steerage money 
to pay for the passage to America. Naturally there were factions, squables, 
and differences of opinion but all embraced common goals. 

What were these goals that caused the Icarians to emigrate to Illinois? 
There were three goals. The first goal was liberty. They felt that each 
person should be able to have individual freedom of thought and of 
expression. The second goal was equality. They felt that each person was 
equal, yet different, and could bring to the community according to their 
own particular gifts (one a doctor, one a farmer, one a cabinetmaker, one 
a tailor, for example) but that each stood equal as a person in the society. 
The third, and perhaps most important, was fraternity. They felt that 
people would receive according to their needs and give according to their 
talents. This was the ultimate purpose of the "Community of Goods" as 
they termed their Icaria. 

We have a lot to learn from these Icarians. They developed a pure 
repubhcan form of government. They endured tough economic and 
political times. They survived internal difficulties and dissensions. They 
championed education and the arts. At Nauvoo they laid the foundation 
for the longest-lived, non-religious communal experiment in humanistic 
living in American history. 


Albert Shaw reported that "a library of five or 6,000 volumes, chiefly standard French 
works, seems to be much patronized . . . ." Albert Shaw, Icaria (New York: G.P. 
Putnam's— Sons, 1884) p. 51. See also Jules Prudhommeaux, Icarie et son Fondateur Etienne 
Cabet (Philadelphic, reprint: Porcupine Press, 1972) p. 292. 


Jacques Ranciere 

Why did they leave? At first the answer might seem obvious: they left 
to found Icaria, to implement a plan of social organization about which 
they had been amply instructed through the words and writings of Cabet. 

However, the obviousness of this answer comes up against several 
problems. What exactly does it mean to found Icaria? In Cabet' s view the 
ideal proposed by the Voyage en Icarie is that of a communist country that 
would take perhaps fifty years to build as the consequence of a democratic 
revolution which would, after a long period of transition, result in 
communism. Cabet is against the projects of partial colonization proposed 
by the Fourierists and other schools. He accepts only those small 
communities of "devotees" who join together for the purposes of 
communist propaganda. 

Now in 1847 the project for the departure for Icaria acquires a 
completely different meaning. It is a question of going to found a people 
and Cabet confides to a correspondent that he thinks he will be able to 
count on 100,000 men. This project of massive emigration will itself be 
ruined by the 1848 revolution in France. But the departure for Icaria then 
takes on two contradictory aspects. On the one hand, it takes on the 
character of an exodus of persecuted believers: ' 'As we can no longer live 
here," wrote Cabet at the time, "let us leave for Icaria." But, on the other 
hand, Icaria cannot be founded by a band of runaways, by men driven 
solely by their material interest. Those who would go to found Icaria 
should be "workers full of courage, intelligence and education," "an elite" 
chosen as were the first Christians. Icaria is thus two things at once— a 
land of exile for men whose situation has become unbearable in France 
and a sacrifice to be realized by devoted men. 

This ambiguity encounters an ambiguity concerning the moral and social 
identity of the Icarians. In order that devotion and not self-interest should 
be the motivating force for the departure for Icaria, Cabet especially fixed 
high financial conditions. The contribution of 600 francs per person which 

was required of each participant, represented, even for a skilled worker, 
six months wages. The communist volunteer had therefore to be a worker 
of some means. But the dividing line set out in this way is not a stable 
one. As well as the fluctuations in work and the economic situation, the 
social situation of the militant communists depended on the political 
situation and on the very consequences of their involvement. Among 
communists we fairly frequently come across workers who earn a good 
living— shopkeepers, small businessmen. It is not poverty that drove them 
to communism, but rather it was their communism which frequently 
reduced them to poverty, by turning away their customers or their orders. 
"In the past," writes an Icarian tailor from the provinces, "I employed 
six workers, not counting my work and that of my wife. Today I have 
hardly enough work for myself." Paradoxically, the Republic that everyone 
had been yearning for reinforced this threat. Besides the loss of business 
the communists would become the favorite scapegoats against whom the 
popular demonstrations of Spring 1848 would be organized or directed. 
Thus a worker of means and a disinterested militant of 1847 could in 1848 
become a ruined and hunted man, driven by necessity towards a promised 
land which was at the same time a land of exile. 

This instability of social positions warns us against analyses which would 
link the Icarian Utopia or other such doctrines to one particular material 
condition, more or less disadvantaged or to a job sector, more or less 
technically advanced or economically threatened. Undoubtedly 
Christopher Johnson, in his book Utopian Communism in France, rightly 
pointed out the preponderance amongst Icarians, as in all anti- 
establishment movements of the time, of two trades— tailors and 
shoemakers. He suggested that their commitment could be explained by 
the conscientiousness of highly skilled workers, proud of their skills, but 
threatened by modern methods of manufacturing. Personally I have a 
different explanation. These are in fact the most common trades. That 
is to say that one finds here the greatest number of people not having 
been able to afford a more expensive apprenticeship and for whom it is 
either a temporary, a secondary or a fall-back trade. The apprenticeship 
is limited, the pay, for the most part mediocre and uncertain, the seasonal 
unemployment and the turn-over very high. It can be said that the 
circulation of ideas follows the mobiUty of the people. It is here that one 
finds the greatest number of those whose intellectual aspirations cannot 

be satisfied within the professional framework and who are looking for 
something else. It is more a breeding ground for new ideas and strong 
personalities than professional groups highly structured by an ideology 
rooted in their professions. 

Thus the Icarians are not first and foremost the representatives of a 
particular social group but individuals who are looking for a way out of 
the routine and repressiveness of the old society. Thus it was that the 
shoemaker of Orsay, Pierre-Jean Vallet, started his militant career by 
reforming his village carnival. He substituted the pranks and nasty games 
which consisted of showering passersby with excrement with a superb 
procession of carnival floats. To his shoemaking occupation he added all 
kinds of activities which were at the same time lucrative, entertaining 
and educative: rabbit breeding for the market, a bath house, cheap boat 
rides on a small lake, an assortment of fancy dress costumes and a library 
of 1,200 volimies, the care of which was added to the functions of postman 
and town crier. It is as a result of this "moral reform" of his village that 
he conceived the ideal of a moral and egalitarian republic, summed up 
thus by his son: "Establish a society where reason and awareness reign. 
Without kings or priests, the only 'nobility' that of the heart, without 
poverty or riches." Like Vallet, but often in a more dramatic way, the 
Icarians are generally individuals who suffer less from their material 
condition than from their attitude towards a world corrupted by wealth 
and inequality. "Though still young, I had been crushed by that selfish 
society and I desired death as the only remedy for my torment," wrote 
a typefounder from Lyon. This same theme is found in a respected 
shopkeeper from Nancy: "Your idea to realize Icaria gives me new life, 
for death is preferable to hfe in today's wretched society. Though my 
establishment is well patronized and I have numerous customers, I long 
for nothing more than the moment when we will leave for Icaria." And 
a mirror manufacturer from Perigueux also states: "Many of us here are 
not living. We are weary of seeing so much absurd prejudice in the 19th 
century. But our courage revives us and gives us the certitude of a better 
future. Not that we are unhappy; on the contrary, we consider ourselves 
amongst the privileged." Almost everywhere, in Paris as in the provincal 
towns, small or large, industrial or not, one finds those individuals who 
have distanced themselves from the logic of economic reproduction and 
the intellectual and moral attitudes that it engenders. They conceive the 

community above all in the form of those small circles of brethren where 
one comes together, amongst those who have "seen the light," in order 
to share their opinions, to educate themselves or to sing out their faith: 
a sort of Sunday communism that many would remember with nostalgia 
when they found themselves at the plough in Icaria under the critical eye 
of those whose ideas they had so recently shared. 

It also means that the precision of the doctrines and the plans of 
organization that they adopted counted for less than the means these 
provided them with to begin a new way of life through ideas and actions. 
Many of these emancipated workers can simultaneously or successively 
claim to draw on several doctrines more or less hostile to each other. One 
Icarian presents himself as a former St. Simonian, another a former 
Phalansterian or disciple of Swedenborg. Many are former revolutionaries, 
members of secret republican societies that Cabet converted to the way 
of non-violence. In these diverse theories they are above all searching for 
something which replies to their primary concern— that of a new moral 
world founded on social equality— an equality that is neither mere poHtical 
equality nor economic levelling out. The Icarians, like others who reject 
the status quo of their time, complain less of economic exploitation than 
of social discrimination, of the contempt in which they are held. They 
wish to be recognized as men with a right to be full members of society, 
in all the domains of social life, from work relations to the relations of 
everyday life or of the intellectual world. They would have a society 
without arrogance or servility. Equality is above all a question of 
recognition which expresses itself in language, in behaviour and in 
appearance. It is also for this reason that workers in the clothing trade 
are often in the front line. Those trades where one works directly "for 
the bourgeois" are contact areas bearing contradictory results: it is in this 
way that the ideas and the issues which rock society from above reach 
the working classes. It is here too that the question of appearance and 
of dignity are most deeply experienced. 

This means that behind the adhesion to the Icarian doctrine lies a more 
fundamental Utopia which is none other than the Republic itself. For those 
rebels and dreamers who are subjected to the bourgeois monarchy of 
Louis-Philippe and the reign of what was then called "material interest," 
the Republic is not only a political form, it is an idea of the new humanity 

freed from the selfish preoccupation of material interests and caste 
differences. It identifies itself with what was then called emancipation; 
the acknowledgment and the establishment of the rights and capacities 
of every human being. These give to the different and rival socialist 
theories the colours of that fundamental Utopia. Hence the paradox of the 
Icarian emigration: it is in fact the Parisian Revolution of 1848 and the 
blossoming of the republican Utopia which, as it were, nipped it in the 
bud. The first vanguard left for Texas on February 3rd, 1848. On the 24th 
the Parisian Revolution brutally revealed the fragihty of the Icarian 
decision: for the majority, Icaria was only the dream which brightened 
up the colourless nature of the monarchical society. It is the Republic at 
hand rather than the far off lands of Texas which realizes the egalitarian 
dream. Cabet himself declared at the time "I have often said that 
Communism and Republic were one and the same thing." Naturally he 
had never before pronounced such a heresy. But he was led to this point 
by a public for whom this heresy perhaps had always been the deepest 

We know what the consequences were: Instead of the 100,000 men 
hoped for in 1847, only a few groups of a dozen militants would leave, 
taking the risk of going to distant parts in search of that union of dream 
and reahty which was being reahzed in France itself . In what state of mind 
did they nevertheless decide to leave? As an example, let us Hsten to the 
farewell that the Icarians addressed to their brethren on leaving Bordeaux 
on May 19th, 1848, those brethren who would continue the fight to 
consolidate the Republic here in France. "We leave full of joy for we go 
to estabhsh the kingdom of God on earth, to put into practice the three 
regenerative principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity that the France 
of the Republic inscribed on all its monuments; and full of hope because 
we believe that the entente cordiale between all soldiers of the democracy, 
the politicians, the socialists and the communists, will see to it that these 
three liberating words will be engraved in all our hearts as they are on 
our monuments. Then, and only then, will you have true social Republic, 
that Republic beloved of the poor and of those who suffer. And we, in 
establishing it in all its purity on the virgin soil of Texas, will help you 
to prove to all classes and all races that the practical brotherhood which 
our dear and venerated father, the successor to the works of Christ, always 
preached, is not an empty ideal." 


Thus a single idea, the social republic, defines a sharing of tasks between 
the old and the new world. In France, most of the groups would, through 
the impure struggle of the old society, look to consolidate that Republic 
from which the universal communism of the future would establish itself. 
In America the pioneers would establish an example of the pure Republic 
of the future. They would help those continuing the struggle in the old 
world by supporting their discourse and their action with practical 
demonstration. They would show that communism is possible even with 
men formed by— or rather deformed by— the old society. The Icarians of 
Nantes, in response, explained to their comrades who were leaving France 
what the nature of this demonstration should be: "You have to prove to 
the world man's innate goodness, the absurdity of that terrible blasphemy 
on which an entire religious system is constructed, man born to crime. You 
have to prove that religion can exist without priests and without the 
cancerous presence of prostitution; that ownership can and must exist 
without being a cause of misery and ignorance . . . that finally good and 
evil are social realities and not providential ones; that, from now on, man 
can and must entirely do away with evil." Before smiling at this optimism, 
it is necessary to point out the fact that these are the words of those who 
are not leaving, of those who prefer to savour at home the days of the 
Republic and the Icarian Sundays, to dream of the America of others. 

Those who leave often have more divided opinions. We too often give 
to naive enthusiasm the attribute of militant activism. This is to forget 
that the most determined militant is also he who is the most weary of 
a world in which he perceives less the material hardship than the moral 
corruption; a man who dedicates himself with all the more obstinacy 
because he is less sure of being rewarded in return; who would provoke 
a moral revolution in men made slaves to material interests, but who 
knows that the promise of tangible material results is often the only way 
of advancing the diffusion of his ideal. This pessimism can be felt in the 
motivations that the Icarians of Lyon expose to those who criticize their 
departure: "The time when the apostles converted entire towns by their 
words is passed. Our century, like Saint Thomas, asks for miracles; Well! 
at our risk and peril we are going to prepare one." This sentiment is taken 
to its climax by the man who would be in turn the most demanding of 
Cabet's Heutenants and the architect of his downfall, the jeweler Jules 
Prudent. In 1851, while he was managing the colony in Cabet's absence, 


he wrote to Beluze, the head of the Icarian bureau in Paris which organized 
the departures for Icaria: "It is a fact that dominates our epoch: everything 
has become material: faith, hope, Hberty, equahty, fraternity or love of 
one's neighbour .... The attitudes of Society are formulated in the mind 
as coldly as a mathematical question, we have arrived at a state of 
individual, sensual happiness while waiting for the inoculation of collective 
happiness .... The task that we have taken upon ourselves is immense." 
This pessimistic report to a world waiting for material miracles is reflected 
in a mistrust of those coming to join the Icarian colony, always suspected 
in Prudent's eyes and by purists like himself of coming to enjoy the 
benefits of Icaria and not to found it. Thus he never ceases in his attempt 
to make admissions more difficult, to put the determination of new arrivals 
to the test, and to hasten the departure of the Nauvoo Colony for the virgin 
lands of Iowa, to a place where the settlers would be obliged to "burn 
their boats," a place which would no longer hold out the possibility of 
travelling between the Old World and the New, but also, within the new 
American world, between communism and an individualism which 
displays its seductions at the very gates of the colony. 

For the ambiguity of the Icarian dream which keeps with ease one foot 
in each world is added to the ambiguity of the place where Icaria is to 
be built. The America of 1850 is two things at the same time: the virgin 
land where it is hoped to create a new moral world, but also the country 
where land is to be taken, gold and fortune for the unassuaged greed of 
the old European society. In 1850, ships set out from Le Havre in two 
opposing directions. Those of the builders of Icaria and those of the 
Californian gold diggers. An article in the Populaire dwells on this 
coincidence of the opposing factors. There are two major types of men: 
the Californians, that is, in general "men of arrogance and vanity," "brutes 
with a human face," the "hungry pleasure seekers," persons "corrupted 
and degraded by the influence of the privileged;" and the Icarians that 
one finds "everywhere where all men as God's children and consequently 
as workers are sovereign in the full sense of the term." But this opposition 
contrasted by the Icarian journalist in Paris is immediately challenged by 
the first lieutenant of Icaria. In contrast Prudent lays stress on the 
ambiguity of the new world." This, he says attracts "all those irresolute 
men who only consider the realization of communism from a single 
standpoint, that of their future. Such men are constantly swayed by 


uncertainty; their diseased imagination is always looking for a refuge 
against misery, and as a result, they clutch at any straws, now one, now 
another. "America," he continues, "lends itself wonderfully to this 
deceptive illusion— like the wolf which leaves its prey for a shadow— 
until the day when the sad reality awakens you more despairing than ever. 
And so you resume your worker's chains and consider yourself fortunate." 

This bitter judgment is without doubt a simplification. It is less a question 
of an illusion of the weak minded as an ambiguous reahty which presents 
itself to those whose attitudes are themselves ambiguous. In reading the 
letters which were written by those newly arrived to their brethren in 
France to encourage them to join them, one notices the superposing of 
two arguments. On the one hand, they urge them to work for and to 
sacrifice themselves to the foundation of Icaria in the desert: on the other 
hand, they describe a country where the life is easy and where the earth 
yields almost without effort. "The land," writes one, "is so fertile that 
it is hardly even necessary to turn the soil." "The idle American, assures 
a second, works barely three or four hours a day for six months of the 
year and rests the other six." And yet another writes: "There are no 
beggars in America; the Americans are almost all owners." 

A strange argument from the pen of a communist writing to another 
communist. Obviously there is a certain cunning in these naivities; the 
Icarian settlers would like the Sunday communists to come and set their 
hand to the plough. And with this end in mind they do not hesitate to 
paint in glowing terms the marvels of the owner's paradise, even if it 
means they will, on arrival, find the real Icarian labours somewhat rude 
and will be accused of coming with intention of "enjoying themselves" 
and not of founding the community. One often hears talk in the 
community of pleasure seekers and of deserters, of traitors and of false 
Icarians. It would be truer to say that the land where communism is to 
be built strangely resembles the land of individualism and that the Icarian 
emigrants have a double identity: they are workers and they are 
communists. The real problem is to be communist workers. Here again, 
the problem is easy to resolve in Paris and in Le Populaire. "In all 
humanity" one reads, "one can only come across Workers, Brothers, or 
Thieves. The Worker and the Brother will always agree amongst 
themselves well enough to form but a single family; but the Thief will 


always remain outside .... Our Brotherly community, in expulsing from 
its midst the idlers, is only expulsing thieves." But those in America realize 
that the denounciation of the "thieves" is a means of avoiding the 
fundamental question: can one be certain that brothers and workers are 
made to get on? Is it even certain, in the same individual, that the brotherly 
communist is in harmony with the emigrant worker? Icarian communism 
was for these men, above all a means of escape from the brutality of work 
relationships, to get away from the selfish world of material survival. They 
were brothers outside their work and the one identity helped them to put 
up with the other. But it is another thing to be all day and every day, 
workers and brothers at the same time. An old Icarian who decided, after 
ten years hesitation, to rejoin the Cheltenham colony, sadly confided in 
his friend Beluze: "My dear friend Beluze, a year ago we were together. 
I was happy and at peace with myself, surrounded by friends who I loved, 
sustained by the principle of love and fraternity for which I have sacrificed 
everything." What he had found in the Community on the other hand 
was the permanent division between the workers who accused the others 
of being idlers and the brothers who accused the former of their lack of 
brotherly love. 

This mutual distrust exacerbated the dual motivations of each side. The 
communists, pure and strict, who accused the others of being idlers come 
to profit from the American way of life instead of to found Icaria, find 
themselves justified by the moral weakness of the others which led them 
to return to their individualist ways and to take their chance in the new 
American world, without for all that giving up the communist dream. Thus 
we see multiply, in New Orleans, Saint Louis and everywhere where the 
Icarian group has left behind those combatants disappointed by the 
community, what could be called solitary communists, Icarians who call 
themselves "Communists but not from Nauvoo." Such was the case of 
Bourgeois who had taken part in the disastrous undertaking of the first 
Icarian colonization in Texas. He did not follow his brethren into their 
retreat but stayed in Texas "waiting for the Community to firmly establish 
itself somewhere." He had not the courage to begin again at Nauvoo 
because he had "given of his best to receive only ingratitude." "But," 
he said "It is of no matter: It may be a feature of human nature that all 
men are not made to Hve in a community. It is none the less true that 
real happiness can only be found within the Community." While waiting 


for this improbable community to become a reality, he describes, 
undoubtedly somewhat romantically, his life in Texas: a sort of Robinson 
Crusoe island where money had disappeared, where at the same time one 
could enjoy the most unrestricted liberty, the advantages of solidarity and 
the beautiful Icarian dream. "Here payments are mostly made in kind. 
Grains, pigs, cows, chickens, butter, eggs etc. are exchanged .... which 
means that I am more often paid in goods than in money .... I am not 
a hunter, but my nearest neighbour satisfies my needs in meat and game 
.... Fishing also provides me with abundant resources. I have not to go 
farther than half a league and then a couple of hours fishing with my line 
in order to provide myself with a good provision of fish at each time .... 
Such is my position, such is the life that I lead. I come and go when and 
where it pleases me. The httle work that I have does not prevent me from 
being free: all things considered, in one year I have only two days work 
per week." I could be said that this is a strange ideal for a communist. 
But forty years later, Bougeois, having become a shopkeeper in Dallas, 
would still be a communist, corresponding with his brethren of the 
Corning community and promising to go and visit them in Icaria. 

Why did they leave France? It could be answered that they never 
completely left. They took with them all the complexity of the democratic 
and French socialist dream of the time. Their communism was an ideology 
of emancipated workers, of men who rebelled against a world where the 
egoism of the rich and the disdain of the powerful would not recognize 
the individual rights of the proletariat to enjoy an individual life to the 
full. This desire for emancipation, this desire for complete individuaUty 
for all, was paradoxically sought after through the form of the ideal of 
the community of work and brotherhood. More or less obscurely they 
felt that the world of work forceably led to egoism, but that this was 
compensated for by the dream of brotherly love. They carried this 
contradiction with them. It was not entirely an illusion. In Icaria the work 
was rude and often not very brotherly. But in the Icarian assembly, each 
man had the right to speak and to take part in the legislative process. Cabet 
is, I believe, the only leader of a Utopian community whom we have ever 
seen overthrown by universal suffrage. The foundation of communism 
was also that access to the public platform which goes hand in hand with 
the modern development of the life of the individual. Their dream is 
diametrically opposed to the rules that made a success of certain emigrant 


communities; religious faith, absolute obedience, and sexual restriction. 
Their communism was a dream of men who wanted to keep a foot in each 
world. Even in the midst of defeat, they succeeded rather well. 



Jules Renaud 

My search for information about the Icarian migrations resuhed from 
the habit of my father, Emile F. Renaud of saving photographs, news 
clippings and other records of our family history. He was born and lived 
for 76 years at 103 High Street in Keokuk, Iowa. He continued as an 
optometrist until he retired in 1947 and, with my mother Eleanor Renaud, 
moved to Fort CoUins, Colorado, where my family and I were living. 

With their furniture and other belongings, my parents brought to 
Colorado two trunks full of photographs, clippings and other items of 
family interest. 

My father died a few years later in Fort Collins. We moved to 
Albuquerque, New Mexico and in 1953 I was transferred to Washington, 
D.C. and the trunks of photos went along with us. Finally, in the past 
five years, since I retired, I have been able to go through the material and 
learn more about the Icarians. I mention this because I think it illustrates 
one of the problems we have these days when so many of us are on the 
move so much that many of our family records get lost. Ours could have, 
but I am glad we were able to hold on to them as my wife and I lived 
in over 20 different homes. 

It was not until the nineteen fifties that I learned more about the Icarians 
from our daughter. One of her high school assignments, in Virginia, was 
to prepare a report on her family history, back to the first emigrant from 
overseas. Fortunately, we were living just 12 miles from the Library of 
Congress in Washington, so we were soon able to find out more about 
the Icarians. 

After my retirement, I began a more detailed search. 

I am not a professional genealogist, but I am curious about my ancestors, 
and being located close to the National Archives, the Library of Congress 
and the DAR libraries, it seemed a shame not to search out new material 


and prepare a short family history. 

One of the first things I found was my lack of knowledge about the 
migration of the Icarians from Europe to Nauvoo. How did it happen? 
How did they get here, by train, by boat, or ox team, or did they walk? 

A faded newsclipping told me of an interview in 1901 by a Keokuk 
newspaper reporter with my grandfather, Jules Renaud and my 
grandmother, Amanda Couloy Renaud. 

The mention of Texas in this clipping gave me the first clue that the 
Icarians emigrated to Nauvoo via Texas and New Orleans— at least the 
first groups followed this route. I then visited the National Archives and 
found that they have microfilm records of the passenger lists of all ships 
arriving in New Orleans from 1820 to 1900. However, I did not know 
the exact dates of the Icarian emigration except that it was around 1848, 
and I found that during that year nearly two hundred thousand British 
alone emigrated to the United States. 

In looking through my father's trunk, I found the Jules Prudhommeaux's 
book about the Icarians, all in French, of which I understand very little. 
However, on page 238 I found a listing of the Icarian migrations with the 
dates of the departures from France, usually from LeHavre. Also, a list 
of the number of emigrants on each ship and name of the leader of each 
group. This list totaled 485 including 259 men, 125 women and 101 

Departs pour le Texas (1847-1848) 


Des Departs 




2 dec. 1847 

Premiere Commission 



3 fevr. 1848 

Premiere Avant-garde 



3 hyub 1848 

Deuxieme Avant-garde 


Farvart jeune 

12 aout, 1848 

Commission des Cinq 


Caudron aine 

28 sept. 1848 

Troisieme Avant-garde 



25 oct. 1848 

Depart par Bordeaux 



2 nov. 1848 

Premier grand depart 



12 nov. 1848 

Deuxieme grand depart 



21 nov. 1848 

Troisieme grand depart 



18 dec. 1848 

Quatrieme grand depart . . . 


259 hommes 



125 femmes 

Admis a la Nouvelle-Orleans 


101 enfants 



However, having the departure date did not give me the date of their 
arrival in New Orleans or the name of the ship. A little scanning of the 
Archives microfilms showed there to be— in some cases— as many as ten 
ships per day arriving in New Orleans from Europe with up to 3,000 
passengers. Also, weather and wind delayed some ships so the passage 
time varied widely. However, I did learn that the first Icarian group of 
69 young men, led by M. Gouhenant, left LeHavre February 3, 1848, after 
a trip of 52 days from LeHavre and the captain had listed 69 mens names 
in a group and indicated they were Icarians— "Followers of Cabet." So 
I had a nucleus of Icarian family names, but to my sad concern, no mention 
of my grandfather. I thought this was strange. He had told the Keokuk 
newspaper reporter that he was with the first group in Texas. So, I went 
back and reread the clipping. What it actually said was the first settlement' 
was in northern Texas. He did not actually say he was with them. But, 
further on he did say "We went back to New Orleans." This sent me back 
to the Icarian book and I noticed there were two "avant guarde partes" — 
two advance parties— with the second having left LeHavre on June 3 1848, 
and, there in perfect alphabetical order in the Captain's own handwriting 


was the name of Jules Renaud. Also, to further confirm it, the Icarian 
leader was Pierre Favard, who I know was a close personal friend of my 
grandfather. There were also other well known names of Icarian families. 

I decided to continue my search for additional ships and passenger lists. 
But I did not have enough names of Icarian emigrants to be able to select 
them from the ship's passenger lists which usually totaled two to three 
hundred names. Which were Icarians? And which were not? I was pretty 
well stymied. I was able to pin down the names of most of the first ten 
ships, but on these I could not pick out the Icarians. A list of 276 names 
of Icarians Hving in Nauvoo on June 1, 1850 from the federal census was 
useful but there was no information about when they had arrived. ^ 

However, a second list prepared by Mary H. Siegfried in 1961 gave the 
names of members of the Icarian commune as listed in the naturalization 
application records of Hancock County, Illinois. After each name was the 
birthdate, where born, when the person had applied for U.S. citizenship, 
but most important to me, the dates of emigration from Europe and the 
arrival date in New Orleans or in New York City.^ This gave me two dates, 
leaving and arriving, which made it easier to find the names of the ships 
matching these dates. 

This still did not tell me who were the Icarians on board, but again, the 
habits of sea captains helped. In his report for customs purposes, the 
Captain would almost always list groups of passengers alphabetically. If 
there were no groups traveling together, all passengers would be listed 
alphabetically. By knowing many of the prominent Icarian names from 
the naturalization Ust, I could usually backtrack and find the Icarian group 
on each ship. This is not an absolutely accurate method, but it worked 
well for me. By marking the names of the ships alongside families on the 
census list of 1850, I found another interesting thing. All but one of the 
first ten houses in Nauvoo visited by the census taker were occupied by 
men and their families who came over on the ship "ROME." Then the 
next few houses by those who traveled on the "HANNIBAL." These 
included the single men's bunkhouse where my grandfather and 25 other 
men lived, plus a few from the ship "VICTORIA" which arrived in New 
Orleans November 24, 1848. 


Later on, for example, two houses on the census list included 30 names 
found on the passenger list for the "BRUNSWICK" which arrived 
December 7, 1848. Going back and forth between these lists and spending 
considerable time reading microfilms at the National Archives, I have 
located many of the Icarian emigrants who arrived in 1848-49 and 1850. 
But not all, as some came through New York City. 

You may be interested to know that those who came through New York 
City would usually go across New York State to Lake Erie, take a boat 
down the Ohio river to Cape Girardeau, then by packet up the river to 
St. Louis and Nauvoo. Again, these listings are not absolutely accurate 
as the data I have collected is not complete, but I believe it will give the 
future Icarian history scholars a few more dates and other data with which 
to work. 

As a sidelight, we should remember that many emigrants did not make 
it. A Nauvoo, paper printed during the Icarian occupation tells of the 
steamboat, "JOHN ADAMS" which had sunk a week earlier near Cairo, 
Illinois. The report said 120 emigrants drowned, but that no ships officers 
or cabin passengers were lost. 

After a while, I found I was developing too many different lists of 
emigrees to keep them straight in my mind. So I started a card file 
alphabetically by the name of the emigrant Icarian for the period 1848 
to 18^6. I have put on the card only the information I have developed 
about that name. 

This is not a complete history of these emigrants, but may be useful 
to future researchers. 

So, to sum up what I have learned about our Icarian ancestors. In 
comparison with the histories of other socialistic enterprises, the Icarian 
story is a peculiarly romantic and interesting one. Icaria's illustrative value 
is far out of proportion to its membership, wealth or success. Most of the 
Utopian societies had a religious basis rather than a socialistic origin. Their 
socialism was incidential to their religious creeds. They believed 
themselves to be favored with a special or divine revelation. Their 
governments were therefore theocratic. Icaria, however, was an attempt 


to realize the rational, democratic beliefs of the Utopian philosophers. 
Icaria's difficulties were political, not religious. 

As Thomas Rees said, "Icaria in Illinois finally demonstrated that a truly 
altruistic society, where man must work, not for his own advancement, 
but for the common good of all, is destined to be a failure until man has 
reached a much higher plane of self sacrifice than existed then, or now."'^ 


' Jules Prudhommeaux, Icarie et son Fondateur Etienne Cabet (Paris; Edouard Cornely et 
Cie, 1907), page 238. 

^ 1850 Federal Population Census Schedule of Hancock County, Illinois taken as of June 
1, 1850 by Wesley Williams, Assistant Marshall. 

3 Names of members of the Icarian Commune, listed in the naturalization records of 
Hancock County, Illinois, Books 1, 2, and 3. Compiled for the Nauvoo Historial Society 
by Mary H. Siegfried, 1961-62. 

* Thomas Rees, "Nauvoo, Illinois Under Mormon and Icarian Occupation, ' ' Journal ofUlinois 
State Historical Society, Vol. 21, No. 4 (January 1929) pp. 514-521. pp. 506-524. 




Lloyd W. Gundy 

Why Did They Come? 

The number of French immigrants to the United States historically has 
been low compared to that from other European countries. One writer 
accounts for this by suggesting there was less pressure from population 
growth in the home country. 

The revolution had changed the social organization of 
agriculture; . . .' there was plenty of fertile land to which a free 
peasantry could feel attached. Any surplus of country people 
could be absorbed in industry, in towns, or in North Africa . . . 
Few Frenchmen left French territory altogether . . . Evidently 
the political upheavals of the century had little effect on 
emigration: perhaps institutions offered the discontented 
opportunities for change at home.^ 

The Icarians would have taken exception to that last sentence. They 
saw the situation from an entirely different perspective as the masthead 
on their newspaper, Le Populaire, whose editor was Etienne Cabet, 

Work diminishes and unemployment increases, salary 
declines and the price of rents are raised. All careers are 
obstructed; the struggle extends its ravages: families multiply 
and solid firms collapse; bread is lacking for the lowest classes; 
the future is uncertain and dreadful, in great disarray. That is 
the evil. 

What is the cause? It is the extension of industry, the 
multiplication of machines, the vices of social organization 
based on individualism or selfishness. 

The remedy, according to us Icarians, cannot be found 


without a better organization of work in . . . Fraternity, 
Equality, Liberty and Unity. Although we seek nothing but 
justice, order and the goodwill of all . . . some hinder us, some 
slander us, so that the establishment of our Community will 
always be more difficult and slow in France than in a new 

In this situation, to enjoy our natural rights and the benefits 
of nature, we Icarians . . . emigrate to America in order to 
establish our Icarian Community. ^ 

Parenthetically, we do not intend to indicate that Icarian immigration 
was entirely French in nature. In July, 1854, 405 people resided in the 
colonies at Nauvoo and in Iowa. There were 65 Germans, 6 Swiss, 3 
Italians, 3 Spanish, 1 each from Sweden, England and the United States, 
and 325 French. 

Preparations For The Trip 

Many preparations were necessary in order to leave one's country 
forever. There was the past to clear up, the present to look after, and the 
future to prepare for. A pamphlet was prepared to aid the Icarians in this 

A prospective immigrant must know how to read and write and sign 
his name since he would have forms and documents to read and sign along 
the way. He also had to be familiar with Icarian literature. 

A person wishing to go must be committed to the Icarian philosophy. 
For example, he must renounce private ownership of property. Money, 
jewels, clothing, tools, weapons, etc. must be surrendered to the Colony 
as a whole. He must forego anger and resentment; be prepared for 
privation and fatigue; be devoted to his wife, children and Humanity. He 

consent to that which the Community completely arranges 
for the children . . . from their birth, without doubt, the mother 
will have the right to suckle her child; but all questions which 
concern the physical, intellectual and moral education of the 


child belong to the Community. ^ 

There were many tangible steps to be taken. He must have a clothing 
outfit sufficient for two years. He must be able to pay for his voyage to 
Nauvoo and contribute at least $60 to the Community per adult, and $30 
for each child under ten. One must have a birth certificate, passport, record 
of military discharge. If he was a worker he needed to have his written 
record of employment, which all workers were required by the 
government to keep, signed by his patron and witnessed by the police 
commissioner or mayor. 

Finally, all things being in readiness, there was a rendezvous at Paris 
with other companions to be. The emigres signed a promise that their 
intention was to go directly to Nauvoo, not stopping at New Orleans or 
St. Louis; that they fulfilled all conditions for admission to the Colony; 
that they had the necessary money and clothing outfit. If the departing 
group was about 30 in number, or more, they organized a formal system 
of management, otherwise they traveled as individuals, not segregated 
on board ship and not having a contract with the Captain for certain group 
benefits. They were to take along provisions for 70 days, purchasing at 
Paris such things as prunes, jams, cheese and tea; at Le Havre, wine, salt, 
sugar, coffee, meat and bread. At all times they had to be vigilant not to 
get cheated; merchants were known to sell short weights and spoiled 

Final Moments In France 

The first group sent to America left Paris for Le Havre on January 29, 
1848, amid the cheers and well wishes of a crowd gathered at the railroad 
station to bid them goodbye. Monsieur Cabet accompanied them as far 
as the port of Le Havre, where they spent a few days in final preparations 
for the voyage. During the night of February 2, Cabet, who was called 
a forcible and eloquent orator by a contemporary, ■* addressed those who 
would leave and led them in taking an Icarian vow. 

Do you persist in declaring that you know perfectly the 
system, doctrine and principles of the Icarian Community? 
Do you adopt, above all, the principle of Fraternity and 



Are you resolved to endure all weariness and privation, to 
brave all danger, in the general and common interest? 

Is your acceptance, in your eyes, a genuine choice? 

Do you vow to put yourself under control of the Director, 
as I vow to consecrate all my existence to the realization of the 
Community based on Fraternity?^ 

In his account of the evening, Cabet says that "each question was 
received with a religious silence, and responded to with unanimous cries 
in the middle of raptures of enthusiasm." There must have been no sleep 
for the people involved since it was two the next morning when this scene 
took place. At 3 A.M. they went aboard the ship Rome, which took them 
to America. 

This first group of Icarians, all men, called the "Premiere Avant-Garde," 
arrived March 27, 1848. The next three departures were also composed 
entirely of men, followed by five more that year with men, women and 

The Voyage 

Thus began the flow of Icarian emigration from France. Other groups 
followed, first to Nauvoo, later to Cheltenham; some by way of New York, 
others through New Orleans. I have chosen to highlight four journeys, 
the first being that of M. Cabet. 

The trip of Cabet himself differed from that of most other Icarian 
voyages.^ He apparently traveled with only one other person; he made 
the crossing on a steam powered vessel; and he left in a hurry without 
much advance planning. He set out from Paris precipitously on December 
13, 1848, for two reasons. First, the Icarians already in America were in 
dire straits and needed his help. Second, in late November the National 
Guard raided the offices of his newspaper and found some guns deposited 
there. Cabet was sentenced to prison for this and expected to be taken 
any day. He had to forego the pleasure of having what he would have 
said heard by twenty thousand Icarians. He hurried to Boulogne where, 
on December 14, he missed a boat to England by three minutes. He 


caught the next one at 3 A.M. the next day. Making his way through Dover 
and across England to Liverpool, he embarked for New York on the 16th 
aboard the steamship Europa. 

Sidewheel paddle steamers had been making the Atlantic crossing since 
1843 in a faster time than sailing vessels. These steamers were equipped 
with masts on which sail could be hoisted to furnish additional power 
in case of favorable winds. The Europa, 251 feet long, 1825 tons, was 
equipped with two engines totaling 2000 horsepower. She was operated 
by the Cunard Line as a mail packet with an average speed of 10.5 knots. 
Second class passage cost seventy dollars.^ 

With contrary winds and rough seas all the way, the voyage was not 
pleasant. As the ship wallowed through the waves, water was dashed 
across the deck, and people going to the dining room, or to their bunks, 
were in water up to the knees. Many passengers were understandably 
seasick as the ship powered its way through rain, snow, sleet, hail, and 
even a hurricane. Having been unable to make reservations in advance, 
Cabet found himself installed in the bow, a most undesireable location, 
"where the movements of the vessel are felt the most." 

After passing by way of Hahfax, where mail was delivered, the Europa 
arrived at New York, December 31, 1848, after a voyage of 15 days. The 
city presented a spectacle of "snow, cold and sleds, as in a city of Russia." 

The next day after Cabet had left Paris, the Paris office received some 
important letters from America addressed to him. The letters were copied 
and sent to him at Liverpool in care of "some vessel which is leaving for 
New York." They were put in a sack with other mail at Liverpool and 
made the crossing, as Cabet says, "beside me without my being able to 
suspect it." The letters finally reached his hands in New York. 

There was an unwelcome delay to the trip in New York caused by a 
shortage of transportation. Gold fever had gripped the East and passenger 
bookings for sailing ships, steamships, steamboats, railroads and 
stagecoaches were not available. Cabet was finally able to leave on January 
7, 1849, probably taking the railroad overland and boats on the Ohio and 
Mississippi down to New Orleans. 


One well documented voyage was that of the American sailing ship, 
Ashland,'wh\ch departed Le Havre on September 1, 1854. It was a three- 
masted vessel of 100 tons, commanded by Captain Edward Stone. Fifty- 
one Icarians were among the 186 passengers on board together with a 
cargo of 350 cases of sardines, 236 barrels of herring, and 300 baskets 
of champagne.^ 

As the Ashland was preparing to leave, the wife of M. Mercadier, who 
could not bear the thought of leaving, broke away from her husband and 
disembarked. Mercadier himself, a lawyer and secretary of the departing 
group, later wrote that his courage and resolution never left him and he 
was more than ever convinced to be a good Icarian and a useful member 
of the Colony. In 1856, he, and a minority of the members of Nauvoo, 
went with Cabet to St. Louis where he became president of the 
Cheltenham-Sulphur Springs Colony. He later became a successful 
merchant of the city.^ 

While the ship was leaving, the Icarians left the top deck and descended 
stairs into the between-decks where they were quartered for the next 54 
days. Here they united in singing which helped them deal with the 
emotions of departure. i° 

In the between-decks— the deck between the top deck and the hold, 
sometimes called "steerage,"— one side was lined with bunks for men and 
boys; the other side had bunks for women and girls. The Icarians screened 
off each area by the hanging of mattress ticking and sheets. Down the 
middle ran a large table with benches to sit on. It was a forbidding prospect 
to live here for most of two months, the only natural light coming through 
a hatch for stairs to the top deck, and ventilation very poor at its best. 
It was suffocating in tropical heat and must have had a terrible odor. Small 
wonder that most immigrants mention seasickness as one of the first 
experiences on board. We find this graphic description in the Journal of 
Health kept by the Icarians on board the Ashland: 

Seasickness proceeds from rolling of the ship, a rolling which 
produces a void in the chest and stomach, and which renders 
the head heavy, and the sick ones insensible to everything . . . 
The women are not more subject to it than men; the nursing 


mothers little or none; the small children not the least in the 

Generally speaking, the Icarians kept to themselves on these voyages. 
On the Ashland they occupied the rear third of the between-decks and 
were separated from the other passengers by a board railing. They had 
their own kitchen, group administration, and their own activities. All the 
passengers, however, mingled on the top deck and most were sympathetic 
to the Icarians, but one man, a sort of tragi-comic figure, roused their ire. 

... it is a Frenchman, a Parisian, a man having expansive 
notions, although superficial, speaking several languages, and 
discussing on every point. ^^ 

One Icarian, Vaudran, with whom this man was friendly, ultimately 
deserted the group upon arrival, taking his family with him. 

Early in the morning of October 24, following an expectant night, "the 
hospitable soil of the American Republic" came into view. The ship halted 
at a point called the "Balizes," at the mouth of the Mississippi, to take on 
a customs agent and a doctor, then proceeded up the Mississippi with the 
help of a steam tugboat to the "beautiful port of New Orleans." 

This tugboat, the Mary Kingsland, had a greater claim to fame, however, 
working the same waters in early November, 1847, she steamed north 
to New Orleans with General Zachary Taylor on board who was returning 
from the Mexican War. "Old Rough and Ready" went to his home in Baton 
Rouge where he remained for more than a year until taking office as 12th 
president of the United States. ^^ 

Sometime in late 1848, or early in 1849, then President-elect Taylor met 
with the Icarians at New Orleans. He advised them not to pursue any 
further efforts in Texas, but, instead, to settle in the North. ^^^ 

Immigration After 1856 

That part of the Colony at Nauvoo which broke away and went to St. 
Louis continued to encourage immigration. A party of seven men and two 


women answering the call embarked at Le Havre, September 4, 1857, 
aboard {he Johannisberg. They were 63 days enroute to New Orleans, a 
somewhat slow passage. Being small in number, the group decided not 
to elect a president, considering only a treasurer and secretary to be 
necessary. They were unable to reserve a segregated area for themselves 
and were intermingled with the other 300 passengers. They did, however, 
manage their own kitchen. 

Generally, on immigrant voyages, the ship's master provided water for 
the passengers, but they had to supply their own provisions. On board 
the Johannisberg, after 30 days at sea, potatoes that were stored in the 
damp, dark hold began to rot. After 50 days, rationing was necessary, with 
only ham, rice and biscuits being left in good supply to the Icarians. Their 
cook must have been a genius for their journal says he found "the means 
to reconcile our appetites with the exigencies of our situation." Biscuits 
and flour were enough to permit selling some to other passengers who 
ran out of food. 

The weather enroute was changeable, alternating between storms and 
dead calm. One such weather shift occurred in early October. 

The evening of the 7th, we are surprised by a rather violent 
squall, rain falls in torrents and the wind blows with a crash 
in our sails. It is a veritable tempest. The cries of the officers 
and of the sailors who pass each other in the darkness to work 
the rigging, the roaring of the waves which break themselves 
on the sides of the ship, all is tumult, and all the thundering 
gives to the scene a solemn and majestic work. We contemplate 
avidly that magnificent and terrible spectacle. But soon the sails 
sails are taken in and after some hours, the tempest completely 
subsides. ^^ 

Fire on board a wooden vessel at sea is terrifying. On the morning of 
October 29, a cry of Fire! Fire! produced a scene of scrambling panic. A 
potful of grease on the cookstove ignited, and the flames spread throughout 
the kitchen area. Calm under stress (the word used is sang-froid], the sailors 
ran to the pumps and soon extinguished the blaze. 


Another scene of human interest occured three days later. The sea was 
smooth, the wind mostly calm, when an American sailing ship pulled close 
enough to permit the Captains to talk with each other by the use of 

Finally, the Johannisberg came to the Balizes where she was taken in 
tow, together with two other vessels, by the towboat, St. Charles. They 
docked at New Orleans on the 6th of November. 

In point of time, the next departure from France was on February 22, 
1858.^^ Having received a royal sendoff by 400 people at the railroad 
station in Paris, eight Icarians boarded the train for Le Havre, where they 
went aboard the Kate Dyer, a three-masted vessel of 1300 tons, the master 
being Captain Dyer. After a few days at sea the first storm hit, very violent 
in nature, at four in the morning. As the crew swarmed into the rigging 
to furl the sails, six sails were torn to shreds. One sailor was wound up 
in the ropes and crushed against the frame of the foresail. People who 
were not braced in position in the between-decks could not stay upright. 
Trunks were thrown about. Pieces of pottery and glass were broken with 
a crash. Afterward, some sails "resembled lint," and they had to be 
manufactured anew, while others could be repaired. 

A few days later, a French passenger was walking around the ship when 
suddenly he was knocked down by the Captain. He did not speak English 
so the Captain could not communicate to him the reason for this action. 
Later, after discussion, the Icarians decided the incident was due to some 
noise made by the Frenchman in front of the cabin where the injured sailor 
lay. No ill will resulted because, later on, the Icarians were able to bake 
bread in the Captain's cabin. 

Thefts were numerous on these journeys and the voyage of the 
Johannisberg was no exception. One passenger, who had lost two watches, 
complained to the Captain. A subsequent search found them, but not the 
culprit, in a hideaway in the stern of the ship, together with eight keys 
belonging to one of the Icarians. Later, some trunks were stolen at New 
Orleans, and three more trunks disappeared off the steamboat deck on 
which the Icarians went to St. Louis. 


Of course there were many other voyages, but we make one final 
observation here. One reads of a group departing France in July, 1859, 
that when they reached New York, they had a very poor meal at a hotel 
for which they were "fleeced" of $1.40 each. This group traveled from 
New York to St. Louis (and Cheltenham-Sulphur Springs) on several 
railroads and boats. Having to pay a high transport cost, and being charged 
$50.00 for excess baggage, they were forced to sell 30 gallons of wine and 
a trunk of table service.'^ 

Health Care Enroute 

Before departure, the Icarians would lay in a supply of medicines to 
call upon to combat seasickness as well as dysentery, fever and 
convulsions, contusions, burns, constipation and even yellow fever. These 
therapeutic preparations belonged to one of three classes: the Raspail 
system, the Leroy system and the homeopathis system. A passenger might 
have experience along these lines and so would be put in charge. 

To elaborate upon the first system. In the nineteenth century, Monsieur 
Raspail, a French politician, scientist and pharmacologist, had developed 
a pharmacopoeia based on the use of camphor and other medicinal herbs 
and plants.'^ These were recommended for migraine, toothache, cough, 
cold, asthma, whooping cough, heartburn, rheumatism and skin diseases. 
He opened a clinic to treat the poor and made known some of his formulas 
which any practitioner in the provinces could use. Even as late at 1968 
there was a Pharmacie Raspail in Paris, and camphor, of course, is still 
in use by modern medicine. Raspail also published a health manual which 
was used by the Icarians. Coincidentally, in June, 1847, Etienne Cabet 
sent an acquaintance to Raspail for consultation, and both Raspail and 
Cabet were posed as candidates for President of France in 1848. 

Many of the drugs used in the mid-nineteenth century had a scientific 
foundation. For example, wintergreen oil for arthritis, witch-hazel, tincture 
of Arnica for compresses and mustard plasters were known and used. The 
practice of homeopathy, however, seemed to have no basis in scientific 
fact. Part of the procedure involved mixing certain liquid preparations, 
shaking them, and the molecules thus vibrated supposedly produced 
material having magical properties.!^ 


To date, I have been unable to find information about the Leroy system. 

The Icarian medical history produced some happy events, as well as 
some abysmally dark moments. On the one hand, on board the Ashland, 
an infant was restored to health whose lips were "already faded by the 
icy countenance of death," and a case of dysentery was cured. At the end 
of the journey, this entry appears in the Journal of Health: 

Our health has been good, graced by the practice of 
cleanliness, joined to it the hygenic prescriptions. We do not 
have any death to regret. As to illnesses, the care and 
medications given and distributed with devotion and 
intelligence made them disappear without recurrence. ^o 

On the other hand, there were the ravages of cholera. The 280 Icarians 
who, with Cabet, made the 1300 mile trip up the Mississippi to Nauvoo 
in March, 1849, traveled in the midst of a cholera epidemic which gripped 
the entire trans-Mississippi basin. New Orleans reported many deaths, 
200 on one day, 100 on another. Farther south, Brownsville, Texas was 
said to have lost one half of its population. Boats on the inland waterways 
were stopped by the illness of their crews. The disease unhappily made 
its effects known among the Icarians. One is saddened to read the detailed 
medical report of deaths which took 5 people on the river and 18 more 
at Nauvoo prior to April 17. Cholera was the cause of death in at least 
fifteen of the cases. ^i 

The enlistment of professional medical people seemed to be a constant 
problem. For example, when the first Avant-Garde arrived in New 
Orleans, Dr. LeClerc promptly deserted it, taking his surgical tools and 
four other Icarians with him. 22 Dr. Roveira, although incompetent, 
remained with the group during the summer in Texas, only to die by his 
own hand after they had been forced back to New Orleans. One doctor 
in the colony at Nauvoo left after a term of one year, taking two orderlies 
with him, and another doctor lasted only four months. 

New Orleans and the Mississippi 

We have already noted how New York appeared to Cabet like a city 


in Russia. The immigrants' impression of New Orleans was mixed. The 
Ashland group saw it as a "beautiful port." Another man, Pierre Roux, 
thought it was a busy commercial city, where "one day one sank to the 
eyes in mud, the next day one is blinded by dust."^^ Auguste Roine wrote 
home that one December 10, 1848, he saw five ships arrive, each having 
300-350 immigrant passengers, and a group of 1000 Irish milling about 
on the quai.2'^ The city completely put off Monsieur Prudent who said 
"New Orleans is the most disgusting and coarse city that it is possible 
to see . . . imagine a large Bohemia where all is a resume of the word 
'dollar.' "25 

The Mississippi was admired. "Wide as an arm of the sea, profound 
as the ocean, it justifies its reputation and one understands why the Indians 
named it 'the Father of Waters.' " 

In spite of some members being sick to the death on board the Marshal 
Ney, Cabet, with the group of 280 in March, 1849, commented: 

We took joy at the magnificient spectacle of the superb 
Mississippi, always bordered by forests, and nearly always 
flooded, . . . Many times we spent the evening in a vocal and 
instrumental concert during which, by a fine moonlight, the 
Mississippi could be surprised to hear our Icarian songs. ^^ 

There were painful moments on the river as well. The steamboat. City 
of Memphis, carrying the 1858 group who came over on the Kate Dyer, 
collided with another boat descending the river, apparently without serious 
damage as they proceeded after a few hours. We have already mentioned 
the terrible cholera deaths on the river in March, 1849. 

"Je Suis Citoyen Americain" 

Many of the Icarians, having established themselves in the United States, 
and with the passing of the years, took steps to become naturalized citizens. 
According to Cabet, sixty-three of those who arrived with the original 
group declared their intention at Carthage, the county seat, on July 30, 
1852. Twenty-nine received their citizenship papers in October of 1854, 
including Cabet. 2'' 


An examination of the record leads one to speculate about loose 
application of the naturalization procedure on the part of county officials. 
Rule one was that the candidate must be three years in continuous 
residence in the U.S. before declaring his intention to become naturalized. 
On July 30, 1852, some were permitted to declare who had been residents 
for only a few months. Indeed, Hancock county records of Cabet himself 
show that he swore on his declaration that he had, ever since his first 
arrival, remained within the limits of the United States. Two citizens, at 
the time of his naturalization, October 9, 1854, swore that Cabet had been 
a resident for at least five years. In point of fact, he left the United States 
in May of 1851, and returned June 30, 1852, an absence of over a year. 

But this is not to detract from the good intentions in the hearts and minds 
of those who undertook to become American citizens. To lift a quotation 
from Nordhoff, " 'Please deal gently and cautiously with Icaria ... It, 
and it alone, represents in America a great idea— rational, democratic 
communism.' "^s 


1 Philip Taylor, The Distant Magnet: European Immigration to the U.S.A. (New York: Harper 
and Row, 1971), page 47. 

^ Le Populaire, September 2, 1849. 

^ Cabet, Prospectus de la Colonie Icarienne (Paris: by the author, 1855), page 23. 

* Emile Vallet, Communism: History of the Experiment at Nauvoo of the Icarian Settlement 
(Nauvoo, Illinois: The Nauvoo Rustler, sans date), page 19. 

5 For the complete version see "Celebration du lO'^ Anniversaire," Nouvelle Revue 
Icarienne, February 15, 1858, page r. 

* "Voyage de M. Cabet," Le Populaire, February 18, 1849, page 1. 

' F. Lawrence Babcock, Spanning the Atlantic (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1931), page 90. 

* Cabet, Prospectus, pages 47-63; U.S. National Archives, Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving 
at New Orleans, 1820-1875; Nevi) Orleans Bee, October 25, 1854, classified section, "Marine 

^ Jules Prudhommeaux, Icarie et son Fondateur Etienne Cabet (Paris: Edouard Cornely et 
Cie, 1907), page 469. Reprinted by Porcupine Press, Inc., Philadelphia, 1972. 


'0 The Icarians had a repertoire of songs and during the Ashland voyage a singing teacher 
gave lessons to occupy the children. A verse from one of these songs, called the Icarian 
Departure Song, went as follows: 

Rise O Worker stooped in the dust, 

The hour of awakening has rung. 
On the American shore watch the banner 

of the holy Community wave. 
No more depravity, no more suffering, 

No more crimes, no more pains. 
Majestic Equality marches forward; 

Proletarian, dry your tears, 
Let us found our Icaria, 

Soldiers of the Brotherhood, 
Let us found in Icaria 

Humanity's happiness. 

-from Prudhommeaux, page 611. 

" Colony Icarienne, November 29, 1854, page 1, ff. 

'^ Cabet, Prospectus, page 55. 

'3 Brainerd Dyer, Zachary Taylor (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1946), 
page 253. 

'* Ou le Communisme peut-il s' etablir?, Le Populaire, April 15, 1849, page 3. 

'5 "Journal de Voyage," Nouvelle Revue Icarienne, December 1, 1857, page 2. 

'* "Depart du 22 Fevrier, ' ibid., June 1, 1858, page 1. 

" "Depart de Juillet, 1859," ibid., October 1, 1859, page 3. 

'* Dora B. Weiner, Raspail: Scientist and Reformer (New York: Columbia University Press, 
1968), pages 135-163. 

" For information in this paragraph I am indebted to Albert Kalisker, Ph.D., of Wheatridge, 

^ Colonie Icarienne, November 29, 1854, page 1, ff. 

^' "Etat des Icariens morts . . . etc.," Le Populaire, July 1, 1849, page 3. Some authors such 
as Gallaher, Cohen and Shaw inaccurately say 20 died between New Orleans and Nauvoo. 
Rees states the deaths were kept secret so prospective members would not be discouraged. 
This does not seem to be the case, since the above reports of deaths were written up 
on later than April 17 for publication. 

" This defection left 64 people who made the trek into Texas, not 69 as sometimes stated. 
See "Etat de la 1 Avant-Garde au 1 mars, 1849," ibid., page 2. 


" Sherman B. Barnes, "An Icarian in Nauvoo," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, 
XXXIV (June, 1941), page 236. 

2* "Extrait dune lettre de Roine Auguste," Le Populaire, February 18, 1849, page 2. 

25 "Lettre de Prudent a son ami Ar-," ibid., February 18, 1849, page 2. 

" "Lettre de M. Cabet," ibid.. May 20, 1849, page 1. 

" "Naturalization des Icariens," colonic Icarienne, October 18, 1854, page 1. 

28 Charles Nordhoff, The Communistic Societies of the United States (New York: Schocken 
Books, 1875), second printing, 1966, page 339. 



Robert P. Sutton 

Each of the three fine papers read this afternoon stress, in their own 
way, the unique circumstances which compelled Europeans in the 1850s 
to settle at the Nauvoo Icaria. The reasons for the embarkation were 
varied— economic, ideological, and political— but all of the immigrants, 
being Icarian converts, had a common eschatology. Icarians, it seems, 
believed that salvation lay in a community based upon the brotherhood 
of man created in America. The initial feeling about the actual founding 
of Icaria was intense and, like so many earlier expectations of a New 
Jerusalem, was short lived. 

Professor Ranciere's paper, evidence of thorough research in original 
sources in European libraries, details the inescapable frustrations which 
the Icarians felt toward life as it was. "Death is preferable to life," one 
of them lamented, "in today's wretched society." And, since they 
perceived their world as being so wretched it was, in fact, totally miserable 
for them. In addition to being miserable, Ranciere sees the Icarians as 
being torn, emotionally, by a series of contradictions within themselves 
as Icarians versus Frenchmen. On one hand, they stressed middle class 
"cohesiveness" yet were outlandish elitists in their perception of 
themselves as Icarians: most of the middle class could not hope to qualify 
for admission to their community. They condemned materialism (as 
opposed to spiritual values) yet had to tackle the nuts and bolts problems 
of running a new community in America. They embraced the community 
based on the brotherhood of mankind but were, as it turned out, prideful 
individualists. They were, as a group, urban idealists— even Cabet's Voyage 
en Icahe was cast entirely in an urban setting— yet had to face the realities 
of an agrarian environment in Illinois. They posed as Rationalists but at 
the core, I believe, were emotional Romantics. Hence, because of these 
dichotomies in their background and make-up Icarians were predestined, 
in their community at Nauvoo, to failure. 

Mr. Renaud shows, by exhaustive research in the National Archives 
spanning a decade of continuous excavation, that indeed, Icarians 


embarked from divergent geographical backgrounds and practiced 
different occupations. The Manifest Lists are a gold mine of hard data 
which reinforces, on this side of the Atlantic, Professor Ranciere's 
investigations. Mr. Renaud is, in my opinion, a paragon of the historian 
as detective. Here is a scholar who, bit by bit, painstakingly reconstructs 
the picture of Icarian immigration. Moreover, Renaud's data, added to 
some work I have done in the Illinois Census, add another insight into 
the Icarians at Nauvoo. Despite their disparate origins, once in Illinois 
they lived in an ethnic ghetto within the city of Nauvoo itself. During the 
1850s the Icarians counted only 25 percent of the total Nauvoo population 
and while they were there they kept to themselves politically, and above 
all, culturally. 

Mr. and Mrs. Gundy have focused upon the ship crossings to America. 
The Gundys, too, see severe contradictions in the Icarians on the trans- 
Atlantic steamers. Icarians insisted upon complete dedication to the needs 
of the community yet at the same time stressed unquestioned obedience 
to the leaders of the group. They felt themselves a model of universal 
brotherhood but appeared reluctant to welcome with enthusiasm any new 
members encountered on the trip. The Gundys' research provides new 
glimpses into hitherto neglected aspects of the Icarian immigration: Cabet's 
hasty departure from France and his frustrations in getting from New York 
to New Orleans. The Gundy's investigations, like that of Ranciere and 
Renaud, are thorough and accurate. 

In all, the portrait of the Icarian immigration given by these three 
scholars is one of latter-day Puritans. Like their seventeenth-century 
predecessors to a New Zion in Massachusetts Bay, these nineteenth- 
century dissenters from the orthodoxy of Industrial Capitalism set out on 
a clearly defined series of steps to erect a model society on earth and, 
by example, to show others divine will in human action. They believed 
in a moral emancipation, first, in renouncing the sins of capitalism, money 
and property. Then, through participation in an errand into the wilderness 
of frontier America they expected from the start to find in their new life 
a spiritual regeneration. Finally, there was salvation itself in living together 
where each would give according to his ability and would receive 
according to his needs. "In one word," Cabet wrote in the first chapter 


of the Voyage en Icarie, "Icaria is truly a second Promised Land, an Eden, 
and Elysium, a new Earthly Paradise." His followers believed him. 



Wayne Wheeler 

America, the land of the future, was also the land of individual 
materialism and egalitarian communalism. 

These are basic truths that Cabet and the Icarians shared by vision and 
experience with their contemporary, Alexis de Tocqueville. It was to 
America that both Cabet and Tocqueville looked in their attempts to bring 
intellectual and political order to the great upheavals of their time. It was 
to America that both traveled, Cabet to construct what he hoped would 
become a model for the future, Tocqueville to understand the great 
democratic experiment from which the future would be constructed. 

In their performance on the stage of history, the Icarians attempted to 
enact a medieval script, written from the Christianity of St. Thomas More 
but inappropriate except as it was to be re-written by events and 
experience. Cabet's Icaria promised both a familiar, closed, and finite 
community and its opposite, an opportunity for a new life of full belonging 
and total access. His optimistic vision offered hope to those who were 
dispossessed and declassed and seeking freedom from the uncertainty and 
injury inflicted by the transition to the new era. 

The vision was fraught with paradox. On the one hand, it promised the 
destruction of the routines and repressions of community. On the other 
hand, it promised the retention of community. It promised both the 
belongingness of community and unrestricted opportunity for the 
development of personal ambition. 

Tocqueville recognized the irony. Democratic America was redefining 
liberty and freedom in terms of material well-being, or the expectation 
of it, for those who by ambition and talent would exploit nature and their 
fellow man. This was the juncture at which the medieval world was 
destroyed and the modern world was constructed. America, the land of 
the future, would become the anti-utopian community in which all citizens 
were at once alike in their thinking, behavior, and aspirations, equal 


individuals unfree in their brotherhood. 

Tocqueville's sense of the irony of history enabled him to foretell these 
developments. Cabet's romantic ideology prevented him from coming to 
terms with them. Tocqueville, the analyst, saw the inherent paradox in 
a society whose orderliness depended on egaUtarian suppression of dissent 
and the restriction of personal hberty. Cabet's Utopia depended on that 
suppression and restriction. 

The great upheavals of the early 19th century and the visions they 
generated, properly understood, foreshadowed the future of humankind 
in modern society. Tocqueville the scientific pessimist set down his 
observations; Cabet the romantic optimist set down his dreams. It was 
America, the great experiment in Utopian realism, that appealed to the 
many levels and divisions in French society. Each group saw what it 
needed to see. 

In the end, in America, as Tocqueville anticipated, the social 
republicanism of Cabet, like all gardens, contained the seeds of its own 
distruction. Equality became personal action without personal 
responsibility. The abundance of resources redefined liberty and 
channeled personal talent and initiative into material well-being and 
personal indulgence. Good will and moral community were not sufficient 
to mitigate against new opportunities for greed in the mass society. The 
latter years of the 20th century seem destined to prove both Cabet and 
Tocqueville, the two 19th century visionaries, correct. 



Dale W. Ross 

Early Life Influences 

Armel Alexis was born on December 15, 1813 into the family of the 
blacksmith Claude Armel Marchand and his wife Helene (Le Gal) in the 
small town of Ploermel in Brittany (see map, next page).^ 

It was a large family, with five other brothers and one sister. The 
blacksmith father worked in the shop on the lower floor of the home. The 
upper floor, where the family lived, consisted of only one room; all the 
beds were arranged like those of a ship's forecastle (a portend of Armel's 
later voyage from France on the ship, Rome?]. Most nights, the children 
fell asleep to the song of their father's anvil— as he fashioned horseshoes, 
nails and other hardware. Claude Armel was a man of small stature but 
skilled in his craft to the point that plenty of work came his way, and 
he even employed an assistant. 

The family's life was spartan in every way. The home had barely enough 
space for such a large family, and their meals were meager too. In fact, 
the daily fare prepared by their mother Helene was usually buckwheat 
cakes and clabbered milk. 

In such simple surroundings, one can imagine a young Armel Alexis 
frequently dreaming of other worlds far away to the worlds of— ideas and 
literature, not hammers and anvils;— cities and civilization, not a small 
country town. 

Armel Alexis' mother Helene died while he was a boy, and his father 
remarried. The hard blacksmith's life must also have taken an early toll 
on his diminutive father, Claude Armel, for he died in 1829 at age 45. 
Armel Alexis was only 16 years old when his father died. Both parents 
had been lost before he was barely an adult; Armel Alexis would have 
to make what he could of his own life. 


BRITTANY • Rennes 
• Ploermel 






Armel's boyhood days from 1813 to 1830 coincided with France's 
restoration of the Bourbon monarchy and France's return to conservatism. 

The Bourbons (Louis XVIII during 1814-24 and Charles X during 
1824-30) came back to power after the most tumultuous time in French 
history. The 25-year period ending in 1814 included the French Revolution, 


the Reign of Terror, and the Napoleonic empire. 

Rising from the ashes of the Napoleonic wars, the Bourbon restoration 
met with the acceptance of the allies who had fought Napoleon. 
Consequently the 1814 Treaty of Paris allowed France to retain its natural 
borders and to even recover some of her colonies. 

However, Napoleon escaped from Elba in early 1815, pushed the 
monarchy aside, and rallied the French for one last "Hundred Days" war 
campaign. The Hundred Days ended in June when Napoleon was defeated 
at Waterloo and later imprisoned by the British on the isle of St. Helena. 
A second Peace of Paris in November of 1815 was harsher on France. 
An indemnity was imposed and foreign troops were to occupy French 
territory until it was paid. 

Louis XVIII came back into rule under a constitutional monarchy. 
However, the constitution was not a covenant between ruler and people; 
it was a charter granted by the sovereign. In fact, the charter was dated 
"the ninteenth year of our reign"— as if the years of the French Republic 
and the Napoleonic Empire had never existed! France returned to rule 
by a conservative government, one influenced heavily by royalists and 
the Catholic church. 

But these were times in which the political winds were blowing with 
Hberalism, not conservatism. The industrial revolution was maturing in 
France, and as it did, it created large classes of workers in cities such as 
Paris. University students were also a force for liberalism. 

Upon Louis XVIII's death in 1824, his brother came to the throne as 
Charles X. During Charles' reign, the forces of liberalism and conservatism 
collided. Liberals gained a majority in the Chamber, and between 1827 
and 1830 the Chamber was constantly at odds with Charles X and his 
ministers. Finally, in May of 1830 Charles dissolved the Chamber, muzzled 
the press, and altered the electoral law to stretch his powers. These actions 
were too much for gagged journalists, university students, and the 
workingmen of Paris. In July, three days of street fighting in Paris toppled 
Charles X's government and sent him into exile. Liberalism had prevailed. 


The events of 1814-1830 had such an enormous effect on all of France 
that Armel Alexis Marchand could hardly have been unaffected. The 
events of the time showed that France had moved all over the political 
spectrum in a single hfetime. He probably sensed early that almost any 
political turnabout was possible. And, the fact that Armel Alexis came 
from the working class must have had its imprint too. He had seen his 
family's struggle and seen both parents die before he was 16 years old. 
He knew, first hand, that the life of the French working class was not good. 

In the early 1830's Armel Alexis finished his secondary education at 
the College Royal-Communal de Vannes, at Vannes, a city in Brittany near 
his hometown of Ploermel (see earlier map). 

He was a good student. In particular, he excelled in mathematics; among 
papers he carried with him (even to America) is one document signed by 
the Principal of the College de Vannes awarding him "le Prix d' Excellence" 
in mathematics for the 1st academic semester of 1834-35. 

Armel Alexis' education must have stimulated a need to seek work other 
than the hard manual labor that was the way of life in Brittany. So he 
moved to Paris in the early 1840's. Brittany could support rural or seafaring 
occupations; a city like Paris was the place for an eager young man. 

Parisian Influences 

Armel Alexis Marchand came to Paris sometime after completing his 
education. There he worked as a legal clerk for barrister employers. 

He was apparently a good employee; one barrister provided a written 
commendation in January 1843, and another gave him one in January 

That Armel Alexis worked for the legal profession may do much to 
explain his later connections to the Icarian cause. 

First of all, the founder of the Icarian movement himself, Etienne Cabet, 
was a barrister and served in public legal capacities. In fact, in 1830 on 
the threshold of the formulation of his Utopian concepts, Cabet was 


Prosecutor-General for Corsica. Cabet had friends and associates in the 
legal profession; undoubtedly this network of contacts later aided his 
organization of the Icarian movement. 

Secondly, the legal profession was one in which political independence 
was possible. This independence allowed freedom of discussion about a 
variety of political and legal systems— other than that of the ruling 

Thirdly, because a liberal education at the university normally ended 
with the study of law, thousands of university students had legal training. 
The result was that the legal profession of France was vastly overcrowded 
in the 1840's. Young barristers or would-be barristers without clients, 
living from hand to mouth by private tutoring or literacy hack work, were 
a principal ingredient of the "intellectual proletariat." Young legal 
professionals espoused the causes of republicanism or even utopianism. 
Many of these young men were probably friends and associates of Armel 

In the late 1840's people could finally meet and form associations 
without restrictions. Hundreds of clubs or associations formed in Paris. 
Many young men's clubs were created— often around a political or social 
theme. One can imagine dozens of young men, like Armel Alexis, crowding 
small halls. The clamor of frenzied discussion and debate must have 
heightened the exitement of their cause. 

Perhaps Armel Alexis joined a club of Utopians. In this environment, 
it's quite likely they debated the political and social implications of Cabet' s 

The Unsuitable Reign of King Louis Phillipe 

After the 1830 exile of Charles X, the last of the Bourbons, new 
leadership was needed. Such senior statesmen as Lafayette and Tallyrand 
lent their support to a new constitutional monarchy under the Orlean king, 
Louis Phillipe. Louis Phillipe was installed not as king of France, but as 
"king of the French." And the national flag once again became the tricolor 
flag of the French Revolution. 


The new government set about coming to terms with the problems of 
developing French industry and the country's transport system. And, via 
the diplomatic skills of Tallyrand, France cultivated cordial foreign 
relations with its European neighbors— especially England. Domestic 
reconcilation with the Bonapartists was fulfilled too; the statue of Napolean 
was restored on top of the Vendome column, the Arch de Triumph was 
completed, and Napolean was put to final rest in the domed tomb of the 

But beneath these successes of the new regime, key issues remained 
unaddressed— namely, the issues of parliamentary electoral reform and 
male suffrage (voting rights were restricted to only heavy taxpayers). 
Liberals, Utopians, and other factions all promoted their visions of a more 
participative government. 

In 1830, at the start of Louis Phillipe's regime, Etienne Cabet was 
actually part of the regime! He had been appointed Prosecutor-General 
of Corsica. But he quickly became disappointed with the regime and 
became active in the liberal opposition. Because of his blind attacks on 
powerful vested interests in Corsica, he was dismissed from his position. 
But he went on to be elected a deputy for Dijon, and used his new position 
to demand a true republic, with votes, educations, and a decent living 
for the masses. His newspaper, Le Populaire, was distributed to the working 
classes. His actions repeatedly got him arrested and finally, in 1835 he 
was forced into exile in England. There, in 1840, he first published his 
famous Utopian work. Voyage en Icarie. 

1839 was the beginning of greater political strife in Paris. On May 12, 
1839, a secret Society of the Seasons, which supported the working class, 
seized portions of Paris in an attempted coup. But, by nightfall of the same 
day, they were routed and the coup against Louis Phillipe failed. Armel 
Alexis' brothers Gabriel and Julien and a comrade they called Citizen 
Dorgal were arrested in the aftermath of the attempted coup. Although 
there is no record of an arrest, it's likely that Armel Alexis also participated 
in the attempted coup. 


Throughout the 1840s, Cabet's vision of Icaria fired the imagination of 
thousands of French. Armel Alexis Marchand was one of those people, 
and he responded by helping to organize the Icarian movement in Paris. 

By 1848, the calls for reform were taking the form of organized political 
campaigns. The campaigns had spread to all parts of the country and to 
all classes. But the government did not allow political meetings. Banquets 
were allowed however, and a great banquet in Paris on February 2, 1848 
served as the event that began the toppling of Louis Phillipe. Someone 
panicked, shots were fired and the banquet turned into a riot. Barricades 
were put up throughout Paris, and street fighting began. Within the week, 
the National Guard had turned against Louis Phillipe and he fled to 
England in exile. 

To America 

By the late 1840s thousands of French called themselves Icarians. So, 
in 1847, Cabet had sufficient support to announce a plan to establish an 
Icarian colony. Armel Alexis Marchand was one of the first Icarians to 
volunteer to leave France to found the first Icarian colony, in America. 
Because of its principles of personal and poHtical freedom, America would 
be the ideal place to put Icarianism to work. 

Armel Alexis and the other first Icarians were probably forced to hurry 
their departure by certain events of January, 1848. By that time, the 
government of Louis Phillipe was wary of all communist or socialist 
movements— including that of the Icarians. Increasingly the government 
looked upon them as a terrifying menace. 

The catalyzing event for hastening the Icarians' departure from France 
may have been the article carried in the liberal Journal des debats on 
January 20, 1848. The article was headlined "The Communists are about 
to Rise" and warned that 30,000 communists were ready to take arms 
to overthrow the government. No doubt this article made both the Icarians 
and the government of Louis Phillipe fearful of one another. It appears 
that the Icarians waited no longer and immediately made way for Le 
Havre, where they boarded the Rome for America. 


The original group of Icarians had already set sail as the final events 
of February 1848 ended the monarchy and sent Louise Phillipe into exile. 

When Armel Alexis Marchand fled, with the other Icarians, for 
America— he left two brothers, Gabriel and Julien, in Paris. They had been 
involved in the attempted coup of 1839, and now they were to be involved 
in another larger Parisian uprising. In June of 1848, 100,000 unemployed 
workers and sympathizers barricaded the streets and workers fought the 
bourgeoise. Workers fought shopkeepers and landlords. In the end, the 
workers paid a price; 11,000 of them were imprisoned or deported and 
another 1,500 shot without a trial. Civil liberties, such as the right to form 
organizations, to strike, and freedom of speech were ended. 

Armel Alexis' brother Julien and his comrade. Citizen Dorgal, were 
among those deported. They were both deported to Africa (to a place called 
Lambessa). It was not until 1855 that they were allowed to return to 

Armel Alexis had a long journey ahead of him, and an unsettled France 
was left behind. 

' Author's note: Armel Alexis Marchand was the author's great-great grandfather. He 
was among the original group of Icarians who left Le Havre on February 3, 1848 for 
America. He was active in the Icarian community in Nauvoo, and later was president 
of the Iowa Icarian community for most of its existence. The information here is drawn 
principally from a letter from Armel Alexis' brother Gabriel who, with the rest of Armel 
Alexis' family, stayed in France. Gabriel Marchand's letter was headlined "Souvenirs, 
Necrologique, Chronologique, Genealogique, Historique, etc. etc. etc. ..." dated le 1 
Decembre 1881, and sent from Rue de Belleville 38, Paris. It updates Armel Alexis on 
the family in France. In the process, it tells much about Armel Alexis' past. Information 
in the letter was corroborated with family records and the author's correspondence and 
conversations with his late cousin Ernest Marchand, a grandson of Armel Alexis Marchand. 
Historical background material was obtained from: Albert Guerrard, France, a Modem 
History, University of Michigan Press, 1959; and Theodore Zeldin, France 1848-1945, Vol. 
1, Oxford University press, 1973.