The last community of Icarians, located a few miles outside
In 1820 Cabet moved to Paris, the political center of the French nation. There he continued to participate in secret revolutionary societies, at considerable personal risk. It ultimately took a decade for this underground political effort to bear fruit when in July 1830 revolution erupted seeking the fundamental change of the conservative regime which had gained power in the
Following his dismissal as Corsican Attorney-General, Cabet turned his hand to writing, authoring a four volume history of the
During his five years of English exile, Cabet dedicated himself to philosophical and economic study, carefully considering the relationship between political structures and economic welfare throughout history. Cabet's findings were later summarized thus by one of his acolytes:
Studying, pondering the history of all ages and countries, he at length arrived at the conclusion that mere political reforms are powerless to give to society the ... welfare which it obstinately seeks. ... He found at all epochs the same phenomena: society sundered in twain; on one side a minority, cruel, idle, arrogant, usurping exclusive enjoyment of the products of a majority, passive, toiling, ignorant, who remained wholly destitute. ... To change all this, to find the means of preventing one portion of humanity from being eternally the prey of the other — such was his desire, the goal of all his efforts.
Cabet turned to the idea of reorganization of society on a communal basis — known as "Communism" in the terminology of the day. His ideas for the modification of society closely paralleled those of a man he met in English exile,
In 1839, his five years' exile in England completed, Cabet returned to his native France. Upon his return he began writing a book to expound his economic and social ideas, following the example of
The result of Cabet's writing was published in 1840 as Voyage en Icarie (Voyage to Icaria). A rough translation by Cabet was serialized in Icarian periodicals of the 1850s; an additional translation by academic specialist Robert Sutton has been deposited with the Library of Congress, although it remains unpublished. a basic plot outline was published by Morris Hillquit in 1903:
Lord Carisdall, a young English nobleman, has by chance learned of the existence of a remote and isolated country known as Icaria. The unusual mode of life, habits, and form of government of the Icarians excite his lordship's curiosity, and he decides to visit their country. Voyage en Icarie purports to be a journal in which our traveler records his remarkable experiences and discoveries in the strange country.
The first part of the book contains a glowing account of the blessings of the cooperative system of industry of the Icarians, their varied occupations and accomplishments, comfortable mode of life, admirable system of education, high morality, political freedom, equality of sexes, and general happiness. The second part contains a history of Icaria. It appears that the social order of the country had been similar to that prevailing in the rest of the world, until 1782, when the great national hero, Icar, after a successful revolution, established the system of communism.
This recital gives Cabet the opportunity for a scathing criticism of the faults of the present social structure, and also to outline his favorite measures for the transition from that system to the new regime.
... The last part of the book is devoted to the history of development of the idea of communism, and contains a summary of the views of almost all known writers on the subject, from Plato down to the famous utopians of the early part of the 19th Century.
Although regarded today as a "plodding melodrama" in which the reader was inundated with "tedious details of incidental aspects of Icarian life," Cabet's book was well received by readers of his day, with the principles it outlined viewed by many as a blueprint for advancement from a disappointing present to a glorious future. Multiple editions of the book followed in quick succession and with public interest awakened Cabet quickly made the transition from author to builder of a practical movement to advance the communal ideas which he had expounded. In March 1841 Cabet launched a monthly magazine, Le Populaire, as well as an annual Icarian Almanac to help propagandize and organize the new political movement's supporters.
So-called "Icarianism" attracted numerous supporters in such French cities as
In May 1847, Cabet's organ Le Populaire carried a lengthy article entitled "Allons en Icarie" (Let Us Go to Icaria), detailing the proposal to establish an American colony based upon the Icarian political and economic ideals and calling for those committed to building an artisanal and agrarian community to volunteer. The wheels were thus set in motion for the formation of what was intended to be a prosperous and enviable collective entity.
Cabet believed that at least 10,000 or 20,000 working men would immediately enlist in the American colonization scheme, with the number soon swelling to a million skilled workers and artisans. Towns and huge cities bursting with industry would shortly follow, with accompanying schools and cultural facilities assuring the good life for a happy and fulfilled community. Announcement of the plan was met with enthusiasm, and offers of participation along with gifts of money, seeds, farm implements, clothing, books, and other valuable and useful items began to flow in.
Cabet gave himself the task of choosing a precise location for colonization. Cabet turned to his friend Robert Owen for advice, traveling to London in September 1847 to consult with his British co-thinker. Owen recommended colonization in the new American state of Texas, a location reckoned to possess vast tracts of unoccupied land which would be as inexpensive as it was plentiful. Cabet made contact with a Texas land agent, The Peters Company, which agreed to present to Owen title for 1 million acres of land so long as it was colonized by July 1, 1848.