ALTERNATIVE AMERICA: Henry, George, Edward Bellamy, Henry Demarest Lloyd and the Adversary Tradition by John L. Thomas

ALTERNATIVE AMERICA: Henry, George, Edward Bellamy, Henry Demarest Lloyd and the Adversary Tradition

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Prof. Thomas (History, Brown) has managed to make three interesting figures dull, without improving our understanding of them or what they represent. Henry George (1839-97), Edward Bellamy (1850-98), and the lesser-known Henry Demarest Lloyd (1847-1903) were the visionary authors of three big books. (Lloyd's is Wealth Against Commonwealth, an attack on monopolies,) What they had in common, in addition--a rejection of American materialism and a belief in the efficacy of spiritual values--they shared with many contemporaries. To this, Thomas has nothing to add in relating the (oft-told) stories of their lives. George, a down-and-out newspaperman in San Francisco, decided that progress and poverty were two sides of the same dollar: the increasing value of land went hand-in-hand with the decreasing value of labor. His simple solution was a single tax on land that would result in abundance for all. This appealing idea led to creation of the Union Labor party, which George headed (in 1886 he came in second in a run for N.Y. mayor, beating out TR). Bellamy was more a fanatic. Tucked away in Chicopee Falls, Mass., writing editorials for the Springfield Union, Bellamy envisioned a society espousing his Religion of Solidarity--thus prefiguring later ideas of scientific management (and giving rise to self-styled Nationalists who organized into collectivist clubs but shunned politics). Lloyd, a Chicago Tribune reporter, first hit it big with a muckraking article on Standard Oil. Along with Jane Addams, Florence Kelley, Eugene Debs, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, he was one of the religiously-inspired Midwesterners who gave birth to Progressivism. When his book, extending the attack on Standard Oil, didn't result in public action, Lloyd was puzzled: he was a man who believed in facts. Curiously, Thomas' interweaving of the lives of the three accentuates the differences among them. Otherwise, his interpretations are unremarkable, as is his prose. (""George,"" he writes, ""was a meticulous craftsman who polished his chiseled blocks of argument carefully before arranging them on a solid foundation."") The book has little to offer beyond its title.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1983
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press