Small Community Economics, 1943

Arthur E. Morgan, Small Community Economics. Yellow Springs, OH: Community Services, Inc. 1943

Arthur E. Morgan 1878-1975, born in Cincinnati, grew up in St. Cloud, MN. Engineer, Unitarian, President of Antioch College. 1st head of TVA in 1933, removed in 1938 for criticizing TVA’s direction. Utopian. Wrote bio of Edward Bellamy. Founded Community Service, Inc. in 1940.)

Morgan begins with foreword titled “What Is Rural Life?” He says that according to the USDA, there are “about 22,000,000 persons living on American farms.” (5) This is about 17 percent of the 1943 population, and Morgan goes on to say that the “better half of the farms” produce “90 per cent of all marketed farm produce.” If those farms would “increase their production by only 10 per cent, which seems entirely feasible, the rest could go out of business without reducing the total of American agricultural produce.”

Morgan disagrees with sociologists like T. Lynn Smith (President of the
Rural Sociological Society and author of The Sociology of Rural Life) who claim “farmer and countryman are almost synonymous terms.” (6) “Even in agricultural communities,” Morgan says, “the population of towns which directly serve surrounding farm areas is from a quarter to a half as great...Most of these village residents also are rural people. Then there are fishing towns, mining towns, railroad towns, summer resort towns, quarry towns, lumbering towns, hydro-electric power plant communities, textile mill towns, and oil well towns, all with their non-farm, rural populations. At the present moment probably about half of the rural population of America is non-farm population.”

In view of this “strikingly new picture of rural life,” Morgan calls for a balanced approach to rural community planning. The “dominant economic activity” should not be the area’s only economic activity, he says. (8) Rather, “Variety and range of economic activity” are keys to developing communities that can satisfy “the normal range of human needs.” (9) Although a “rural community is wise to produce a major part of its own food supply,” Morgan believes “producing crops for the general public seldom is profitable to the amateur.” (10) He concludes that “few American communities are more than fifty per cent self-sufficient by local production,” and urges rural communities to think about what they can produce for the outside market.

While parts of Morgan’s booklet seem to betray a slightly “New Deal” technocratic orientation, his suggestions generally make sense. And they’re directed at rural people, not at bureaucrats -- possibly a result of Morgan’s falling-out with TVA and its techno-bureaucracy. The guy makes sense, and he’s probably worth looking into a little more deeply, when I get around to writing about rural reformers and radicals.

1817 view of the revolutions

Manuel Palacio Fajardo, Outline of the Revolution in Spanish America (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1817)

Palacio outlines the organization of the territories of Spanish America before Napoleon’s overthrow of the Spanish monarchy. He gives special attention to Thomas Picton’s proclamation of 26 June 1797, which seemed to promise British aid to Spanish American independence. (16) In it, Henry Dundas (1
st Viscount Melville, according to the author “foreign minister to his Britannick Majesty,” but actually Home Secretary 1791-4 and War Secretary 1794-1801 under Pitt, elevated in 1802, impeached 1806 for misappropriation of public money) is quoted in a letter of 7 April 1797 “encouraging the inhabitants to resist the oppressive authority of their government…that they may be certain, that whenever they are in that disposition, they may receive at your hands all the succours to be expected from his Britannick Majesty, be it with forces, or with arms and ammunition to any extent; with the assurance, that the views of his Britannick Majesty go no further than to secure to them their independence, without pretending to any sovereignty over their country.” Of course, the Britannick Majesty in question was George III, so maybe the revolutionaries were naïve to believe too strongly in his desire to see colonies freed from their mother countries. By the time they got around to asking for such aid, Spain was no longer an enemy of Great Britain, but an ally in the war against Napoleon.

Palacio goes on to stress the loyalty of the Spanish Americans after the seizure of the Spanish throne. Their
juntas, he says, were temporary and were necessary to maintain order in light of the broken chain of command from the mother country. In any case, they were no different from the juntas of Seville or the other peninsular cities that had taken on self-government in the name of the king.

Palacio says the Americans regarded the establishment of the regency in Spain as an illegal act, and determined to govern themselves independently only after it was clear to them that the illegal Spanish government intended to make war on the “rebels” in America. He gives a detailed narrative of the revolutions up until 1817 (Bernardo O’Higgins is Supreme Commander in Chile at the close). I’ll need to come back to this, when I have a clearer sense of the actual timeline, to see how accurate this account is.

The message Palacio leaves his London readers with, is that the Spanish Americans, although generally unsatisfied with peninsular rule, would never have revolted when they did, except for the assurances of the British that they’d have aid and access to commerce. At the time of publication, they had seen neither (it would be another six years before the British government recognized Spanish American independence). In the final pages, “young General Mina” sails from Liverpool in May of 1816. He arrives in the United States in June, where he picks up not only more “musquets,” (343) but a number of officers who sail with him to the Gulf of Mexico. The United States government is no more enthusiastic about the revolution than Britain, but Palacio believes the people feel otherwise. (346) In the end, after describing unsuccessful missions to the governments of Britain, the U.S. and France (Bonaparte apparently promised his aid just before he was defeated at Leipsig), Palacio seems to be appealing to English-speaking public opinion for political or possibly direct support. It’ll be interesting to see if his book
attracted any attention or comment in London or North America.