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Étienne Cabet ( January 1, 1788, Dijon, Côte-d'Or – November 9, 1856) was a French philosopher and utopian socialist. He was the founder of the Icarian movement and led a group of emigrants to found a new society in the United States.

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, seeking political asylum. Influenced by Robert Owen, he wrote Voyage et aventures de lord William Carisdall en Icarie ("Travel and Adventures of Lord William Carisdall in Icaria") (1840), which depicted a utopia in which an elected government controlled all economic activity and supervised social affairs, the family remaining the only other independent unit. Icaria is the name of the fictional country and ideal society he describes.

In 1839, Cabet returned to France to advocate a communitarian social movement, for which he invented the term communisme.[1] Cabet's notion of a communal society influenced other socialist writers and philosophers, notably Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels [2] [3]. Some of these other writers ignored Cabet's Christian influences, as described in his book Vrai Christianisme (Real Christianity).

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 came 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 the following year. The last Icarian colony at Corning disbanded in 1898.


  1. ^ "CABET, Etienne (1788-1856) Fondateur du communisme en France". Recherches sur l’anarchisme. Retrieved 2007-02-27. 
  2. ^ "Engels To Marx". Retrieved 2007-06-05. 
  3. ^ "Engels To Étienne Cabet 5 April 1848". Retrieved 2007-06-05. 

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

Additions, corrections and discussions on this subject by users of the Classic Encyclopedia can be found on the discussion page

ETIENNE CABET (1788-1856), French communist, was born at Dijon in 1788, the son of a cooper. He chose the profession of advocate, without succeeding in it, but ere long became notable as the persevering apostle of republicanism and communism. He assisted in a secondary way in the revolution of 1830, and obtained the appointment of procureur-general in Corsica under the government of Louis Philippe; but was dismissed for his attack upon the conservatism of the government, in his Histoire de la revolution de 1830. Elected, notwith standing, to the chamber of deputies, he was prosecuted for his bitter criticism of the government, and obliged to go into exile in England in 1834, where he became an ardent disciple of Robert Owen. On the amnesty of 1839 he returned to France, and attracted some notice by the publication of a badly written and fiercely democratic history of the Revolution of 1789 (4 vols., 1840), and of a social romance, Voyage en Icarie, in which he set forth his peculiar views. These works met with some success among the radical working-men of Paris. Like Owen, he sought to realize his ideas in practice, and, pressed as well by his friends, he made arrangements for an experiment in communism on American soil. By negotiations in England favoured by Owen, he purchased a considerable tract of land on the Red river, Texas, and drew up an elaborate scheme for the intending colony, community of property being the distinctive, principle of the society. Accordingly in 1848 an expedition of 1500 "Icarians" sailed to America; but unexpected difficulties arose and the complaints of the disenchanted settlers soon reached Europe. Cabet, who had remained in France, had more than one judicial investigation to undergo in consequence, but was honourably acquitted. In 1849 he went out in person to America, but en his arrival, finding that the Mormons had been expelled from their city Nauvoo, in Illinois, he transferred his settlement thither. There, with the exception of a journey to France, where he returned to defend himself successfully before the tribunals, he remained, the dictator of his little society. In 1856, however, he was expelled and died the same year at St Louis.

See Communism. Also Felix Bonnaud, Cabet et son oeuvre, appel a tous les socialistes (Paris, 1900); J. Prudhommeaux, Icaria and its Founder, Etienne Cabet (Nimes, 1907).

Additions, corrections and discussions on this subject by users of the Classic Encyclopedia can be found on the discussion page

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