II. The Early Organization

"Till we have built Jerusalem"

By 1832, Ashton's ambitions had turned from research into action.  With a group of fellow laborers (including his brother, Whiteley) Ashton founded the Social Co-Operative Community, soon renamed the Manchester Social Community Company (MSCC).  The Company's goal was to "extricate [them]selves and [their] families from the difficulties and dependencies to which all of the working classes in competitive society are subject."  The Company wished to found a communal society which would challenge capitalism, its exploitation of the working class, and its destruction of the environment.  Although the Company initially searched for land on which to found its society in England, Ashton explains that they were drawn to America because of the availability of "good" and "cheap" land there (land which was untainted by industrial pollution or capitalist price-gouging.)  The Company was likewise inspired to emigrate by the example of other utopian societies which found refuge on the American frontier.  In later letters, Ashton refers to meetings with Shakers and with Robert Owen of the New Harmony community in Indiana.  The American frontier seemed to promise a return to a pre-industrial society - not only because it offered a simpler relationship to the land, but also because like-minded communities previously established there practiced what Ashton and his followers considered to be the ideal relationship between humans and nature.

All members of the Company were not to emigrate together.  Rather, most members (including Whiteley Ashton) stayed in England with the purpose of raising more funds for the Company in order to facilitate their own, later, emigration.  After a year of fundraising and philosophical debate, Ashton and his followers set out to build "Jerusalem" anew on the other side of the Atlantic.