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Etienne Cabet

Born: 1788 in Dijon, Cote-d'Or, France
Died: 1856 in St. Louis, Missouri

Pen Name: None

Connection to Illinois: Cabet became the head of a small band of Icarians that moved northward along the Mississippi River to Nauvoo, Illinois, where they purchased twelve acres recently vacated by the Mormons in 1849. Cabet was unanimously elected leader, for a one-year term. The improved location enabled the experiment to develop into a successful agricultural community. Education and culture were highly valued by members. By 1855, the Nauvoo Icarian community had expanded to about 500 members with a solid agricultural base, as well as shops, three schools, flour and sawmills, a whiskey distillery, English and French newspapers, a 39 piece orchestra, choir, theater, hospital and the state's largest library (4000 volumes). With the exception of roughly two years, Cabet lived in Navou from 1847 - 1856, when he and 180 of his supporters left for Bremen, Missouri - just outside of St. Louis, Missouri.

Biography: Etienne Cabot was an interesting and colorful individual. In 1831, he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in France, but due to his bitter attacks on the government he was accused of treason in 1834 and fled to England, to look for political asylum but in 1839, Cabet returned to France to advocate a communitarian social movement, for which he invented the term communisme. Cabet's notion of a communal society influenced other socialist writers and philosophers, notably Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. In 1848, Cabet gave up on the notion of reforming French society. He led a group of followers from across France to the United States to organize an Icarian community. They went first to Texas, then moved to Nauvoo, Illinois to a site recently vacated by the Mormons. A new colony was established in 'Icaria, Iowa' (near what is now Corning, Iowa). After disputes within the Nauvoo community, Cabet was expelled and he went to St. Louis, Missouri in 1855, where he died shortly after.


Primary Literary Genre(s): History; Non-Fiction

Primary Audience(s): Adult readers


Selected Titles

  History and constitution of the Icarian Community /
ISBN: 0404107265 OCLC: New York :

AMS Press, New York : 1975.

Travels in Icaria /
ISBN: 0815630093 OCLC: Syracuse :

Syracuse University Press, Syracuse : 2003.

Radical in its day - and long overdue in English - this rare French classic traces the journey of fictional British Lord Carisdall to the exotic island nation of Icaria. To his delight, Carisdall discovers an ideal utopian democracy prospering amid peace and harmony. Devoid of competition or property, Icaria triumphs over the social evils of nineteenth-century capitalism. Carisdall's amazement is constant. Foreign affairs are conducted by the community. Money and domestic commerce do not exist. Everyone gives to and draws from the common pot in equal measure. No pastoral idyll, the narrative describes a modern machine-age economy with social policies - free education, equality for the sexes, strict family/moral ties - that reflect enlightenment. Crime here is a myth; arts and culture are treasured commodities. --Jacket.