Thursday, December 21, 2006

Saturday, August 6, 1881. Vol. 1, No. 1


Vol. I BOSTON, MASS., SATURDAY, AUGUST 6, 1881. No. 1


"For always in thine eyes, O Liberty!
Shines that high light whereby the world is saved'
And though thou slay us, we
will trust in thee."

John Hay







On Picket Duty
Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, these three; but the greatest of these is Liberty
Formerly the price of Liberty was eternal vigilance, but now it can be had for fifty cents a year.
Individuals on becoming adults gain their freedom. Are nations never to attain their majority?
The effect of one-half of our laws is to make criminals; the purpose of the other half is to punish them.
Holding a monopoly, the banker is the worst enemy of the human race, being its chief despoiler; without that monopoly, he is its best friend, being its greatest civilizer.
. . .
It may be well to state at the outset that this journal will be edited to suit its editor, not its readers. He hopes that what suits him will suit them; but, if not, it will make no difference. No subscriber, or body of subscribers, will be allowed to govern his course, dictate his policy, or prescribe his methods. Liberty is published for the very definite purpose of spreading certain ideas, and no claim will be admitted, on any pretext of freedom of speech, to waste its limited space in hindering the attainment of that object. We are not afraid of discussion, and shall do what we can to make room for short, serious, and well-considered objections to our views. But propagandism through the press is an expensive luxury, and it costs us too much to strike the many blows we have to give to warrant us furnishing our opponents the hard-earned facilities of returing them.
Joaquin Miller, "Sophie Perovskaya, Liberty's Martyred Heroine" [poem]
About Pregressive People






Liberty
Issued Fortnightly at Fifty Cents a Year; Single Copies, Two Cents
BENJ. R. TUCKER, Editor and Publisher
Office of Publication, 18 P. O. Square
Post Office Address: LIBERTY, P. O. Box No. 3366, Boston, Mass.
Entered as Second Class Mail Matter
BOSTON, MASS., AUGUST 6, 1881.
"A free man is one who enjoys the use of his reason, and his faculties; who is neither blinded by passion, nor hindered or driven by oppression, nor deceived by erroneous opinions."—Proudhon.






Our Purpose.
No Substitutes for the Ghosts.
The Anatomy of Liberty.






Who Is the Somebody?

"Somebody gets the surplus wealth that Labor produces and does not consume. Who is the Somebody?" Such is the problem recently posited in the editorial columns of the "New York Truth." Substantially the same question has been asked a great many times before, but, as might have been expected, this new form of putting it has created no small hubbub. ''Truth's" columns are full of it; other journals are taking it up; clubs are organizing to discuss it; the people are thinking about it; students are pondering over it. For it is a most momentous question. A correct answer to it is unquestionably the first step in the settlement of the appalling problems of poverty, intemperance, ignorance, and crime. "Truth," in selecting it as a subject on which to harp and hammer—from day to day, shows itself a level-headed, far-sighted newspaper. But, important as it is, it is by no means a difficult question to one who really considers it before giving an answer, though the variety and absurdity of nearly all the replies thus far volunteered certainly tend to give an opposite impression.

What are the ways by which men gain possession of property? Not many. Let us name them: work, gift, discovery, gaming, the various forms of illegal robbery by force or fraud, usury. Can men obtain wealth by any other than one or more of these methods? Clearly, no. Whoever the Somebody may be, then, he must accumulate his riches in one of these ways. We will find him by the process of elimination.

Is the Somebody the laborer? No; at least not as laborer; otherwise the question were absurd. Its premises exclude him. He gains a bare subsistence by his work; no more. We are searching for his surplus product. He has it not

Is the Somebody the beggar, the invalid, the cripple, the discoverer, the gambler, the highway robber, the burglar, the defaulter, the pickpocket, or the common swindler. None of these, to any extent worth mentioning. The aggregate of wealth absorbed by these classes of our population compared with the vast mass produced is a mere drop in the ocean, unworthy of consideration in studying a fundamental problem of political economy: These people get some wealth, it is true; enough, probably, for their own purposes: but labor can spare them the whole of it, and never know the difference.

Then we have found him. Only the usurer remaining, he must be the Somebody whom we are looking for; he, and none other. But who is the usurer, and whence comes his power? There are three forms of usury: interest on money, rent of land and houses, and profit in exchange. Whoever is in receipt of any of these is a usurer. And who is not? Scarcely any one. The banker is a usurer; the manufacturer is a usurer; the merchant is a usurer; the landlord is a usurer; and the workingman who puts his savings, if he has any, out at interest, or takes rent for his house or lot, if he owns one, or exchanges his labor for more than an equivalent,—he, too, is a usurer. The sin of usury is one under which all are concluded and for which all are responsible. But all do not benefit by it. The vast majority suffer. Only the ablest usurers accumulate: in agricultural and thickly-settled countries, the landlords; in industrial and commercial countries, the bankers. These are the Somebodies who swallow up the surplus wealth.

And where do the Somebodies get their power? From monopoly. Here, as usual, the State is the chief of sinners. Usury rests on two great monopolies,—the monopoly of land and the monopoly of credit. Were it not for these, it would disappear. Ground-rent exists only because the State stands by to collect it and to protect land-titles rooted in force or fraud. Otherwise the land would be free to all and no one could control more than used. Interest and house-rent exist only because the State grants to a certain class of individuals and corporations the exclusive privilege of using its credit and theirs as a basis for the issuance of circulating currency. Otherwise credit would be free to all, and money, brought under the law of competition, would be issued at cost. Interest and rent gone, competition would leave little or no chance for profit in exchange except in business protected by tariff or patent laws. And there again the State has but to step aside to cause the last vestige of usury to disappear.

The usurer is the Somebody, and the State is his protector. Usury is the serpent gnawing at Labor's vitals, and only Liberty can detach and kill it. Give laborers their liberty, and they will keep their wealth; as for the Somebody, he, stripped of his power to steal, must either join their ranks or starve.




A portion of the report submitted to the public by a majority of the Westboro Reform School trustees concerning the recent investigation of the management of that institution, is indicative of the rapidity with which the sentiment of prudery is disappearing. We quote the passage referred to: "The trustees, with no less sincerity than the outside public, desire to avoid the necessity of corporal punishment, but they are satisfied that to boys of this character, addicted, as many of them are, to that secret vice which kills both body and soul, solitary confinement offers temptation and opportunity ; and this consideration has induced many thoughtful persons to consent to the occasional use of this form of punishment, which they consider less harmful than confinement." These words are notable because the report containing them is signed by three men and two women, as follows: Samuel R. Heywood, George W. Johnson, Anne B. Richardson, Elizabeth C. Putnam, Lyman Belknap; and, in a less general but more amusing sense, because the first-named gentleman, Mr. Samuel R. Heywood, is an eminently pious and proper deacon in a leading Orthodox church of Worcester, Mass., and a brother of the author of that now famous pamphlet, "Cupid’s Yokes," at whose plainness of speech on delicate topics in the past he has frequently expressed his disgust. Truly, the influence of the editor of the "Word" is making itself felt in an unexpected quarter.
What a wonderful achievement is the "Irish World" newspaper! Telling the most unpopular truths without reserve, it has, nevertheless, by the very energy of its earnestness, attained a circulation that places it high among the first journals of the world. Liberty is not always satisfied with it, and does not find it always consistent, but, all things considered, deems it the most potent agency for good now at work on this planet.


Who says there is no hope for humanity when no a man than Judge B. R. Hoar of Concord, Hoar the haughty, Hoar the unbending, Hoar the stiff-necked, hitherto supposed to have lost all interest in his fellow-man, actually casts his eyes the ground to discover that a wretch in a Washington jail is being wronged, remembers that the most hated man in the world has rights that should be respected, and publicly protests against the official tyranny that is persecuting Guiteau, the assassin? The upstart district attorney of the District of Columbia, who issued the impudent order to the warden, directing Guiteau to be subjected to peculiar and unusual treatment while held to await the action of the grand jury, cannot feel altogether comfortable under the following rebuke from a former attorney-general of the United States: —"The warden is undoubtedly responsible for the safe custody of the prisoner, and should use all proper precautions against escape. But he has not yet been tried, or found guilty of any crime; and is, in view of the law, only held for trial. No man has a legal right to punish him until he has been tried and convicted, and then only by the punishment to which he is sentenced. To subject him to any privation or indignity not required for his safe-keeping is illegal, and should not escape condemnation because this poor wretch is the object of universal odium. If he has a friend or relative, or wishes to see a legal adviser, why should he not be allowed to see them? The district attorney is the officer who is to represent public justice in the prosecution of alleged criminals. What authority of law has he to 'direct' a jailer upon the subject of indulgences to be permitted to unconvicted prisoners?" Manly words, Judge Hoar ! Liberty thanks you for them.

Governor O. M. Roberts of Texas is a man above his business. So high-minded a man ought not to be occupied in the contemptible employment of ruling others. In responding to the rather presumptuous request of Governor Foster of Ohio, that all the governors in the United States join in proclaiming a day of thanksgiving for the recovery of President Garfield, Governor Roberts said: "I do not deem it consistent with my position as governor to issue a proclamation directing religious services where the Church and State are, and ought to be, kept separate in their functions." We do not appreciate the governor's logic, there being no more reason for separating the Church from the State than for separating the post-office, the school, or the hospital from the State. Liberty requires that every institution be separated from the State until there shall be no State left But, despite his inconsistency, the governor’s position evinces a spirit of sincerity and conscientiousness very rare in officials, and commanding the warmest respect.

Citizen George Francis Train, from his stamping-ground in Madison Square, notifies Premier Gladstone that, if he attempts to Herr Most O’Donovan Rossa, or "Freiheit" the "United Irishman," or touch "my Irish boys," he (G. F. T.) shall put on a few additional turns of the psycho twist. When the Pagan Dictator resumes the head Centreship, let Great Britain tremble! Dynamite is not a circumstance to psychology, and the peanut diet can see a glass bomb and go it several czars better, with an occasional Victoria thrown in.

The president has too many doctors, and the doctors have too many interviewers. The people wish to know the truth from day to day, and the president needs the best of care. Neither are possible while the doctors are on their stilts before the country and the newspapers are besieging them. Let the doctors have peace at Washington, and let the best doctor have sole charge, even though Dr Bliss should disappear.

Among ordinary political journals vest of the Mississippi, the "Virginia City Chronicle" generally takes the lead in liberality of spirit. With all the more sorrow, then, we chronicle the fact that its recent classification of John Brown with Booth and Guiteau as "America’s three noted assassins" is as villainous an outrage as was ever heaped upon a sacred memory.

Gone from bad to worse,—the young woman of Chicago, who a fortnight ago loft a house of ill fame to join the church.

Et Tu, England!

England's treachery to Liberty by stabbing her in Johann Most’s person in an hour of trial, is thus fitly characterized by "Le Révolté": —

"Most is sentenced to sixteen months at hard labor."

Such is the news that has astounded the whole European press. Even the conservative journals of Switzerland regard this sentence as "too severe" for a press offence. For having dared to print what nine-tenths of Europe thought, what two-thirds of the English themselves have expressed in private conversation; for having had faith in the honesty of England, whose constitution was not designed as a trap, Most is condemned to climb for months over the paddles of a wheel, or undergo some other physical or moral torture not less odious and degrading. The scoundrels composing the governing classes of England, glad to find an opportunity of rendering a small service to Alexander or to William, to be paid for in ringing coin, have made haste to consign to prison the journalist who believed in their bottomless boasts of the liberty of the press. And those same hypocritical bigots, who but yesterday approved the execution of the Czar, or said that the proceedings against Most were without justification, will now bend before the judge’s decree, will discover that Most is a convict, and will not dare, cowards that they are, to breathe a word in protest, will not dare to rouse public opinion to reverse the judgment. Oh! if Most had opened the veins of a sultan hostile to England ; if he had massacred, one after another a few dozen of Afghan princes ; if he had chopped off the heads o’ a few hundred Indians in revolt against England’s yoke ; if he had foundered in mid-ocean, with cargo and crew, a vessel insured in an American company,— oh! then these same radicals and liberals would have gone all lengths to set him at liberty. But he approved the execution of a tyrant whose son promises not to march his soldiers against Merv. That is enough hue and cry against Most! But wait! The day is not far off when revolutionary socialism shall plant itself in your midst, as well as everywhere else, and then, be sure, you will pay dearly for this sentence.

Identity of Liberty and Justice

Labor Cutting It's Own Throat.

Crumbs from Liberty's Table

The Liberty of Parents

The Penalty of Treason to Liberty.

The spirit of liberty, say Elizabeth Cady Stanton, in whatever form it comes, whether as African, Chinese, Woman, Nihilist, Socialist, Communist, will assert itself and avenge its wrongs. Ariosto tells a pretty story of a fairy, who by some mysterious law of her nature was condemned to appear at certain seasons in the form of a foul and poisonous snake . Those who injured her in the period of her disguise were forever excluded from participation in the blessings which she bestowed in her power. But to those who, in spite of her loathsome aspect, pitied and protected her, she afterwards revealed herself in the beautiful and celestial form which was natural to her, accompanied their steps, granted all their wishes, filled their homes with wealth, made them happy in love and victorious in war. Such a spirit is liberty. At time, she takes the form of a hateful reptile. She grovels, she hisses, she stings. but woe to those who in disgust shall venture to crush her. And happy are those who, having dared to receive her in her degraded and frightful shape, shall at length be rewarded by her in the time of her beauty and glory.

Game for the Fool-Killer.

Access to "Liberty"

Considering the importance of Liberty, both as the primary journal of the individualist anarchist tradition and as an important component of the larger debates about social issues in its time, it is a bit surprising how difficult it is to access. For those with access to a university or other large library, Proquest's APS Online database includes most of the run. John Zube's microfiche edition is more complete, costs $27, and includes the either issues of Libertas (and you can order the Radical Review from John as well.) I tend to use both, relying primarily on Zube's edition for completeness, and often better image quality, and using the rather imperfect but still helpful "full text" searchability of the APS Online set to zero in on specific references. (There will probably be occasion to talk about specific instances where the errors in the searchable text effectively hide information from any but this sort of comprehensive search.)

Along the way, I will be scanning or transcribing some of the material I'm reading, but I'm going to have to be selective. If there are others who are interested in contributing to a more complete archive of Liberty (and the Radical Review), I would welcome the assistance.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Travelling through "Liberty"

Between 1891 and 1908, Benjamin R. Tucker's published 403 issues of Liberty, almost certainly the most important individualist anarchist publication in English, and probably in any language.

Tucker was a, perhaps the, key player in the second phase of individualist anarchism in the United States. He both continued and greatly modified the earlier mutualist projects of William Batchelder Greene and Josiah Warren. By the end of his career he had come to embrace a Stirneresque egois—apparently worlds away from the Saint-Simon-influenced Christian mutualism of Greene's early work or the Owenite origins of Warren's. Questions of continuity and development within the individualist anarchist tradition are extremely contentious, particularly among the wide range of market anarchists—ranging from fairly orthodox Proudhonian mutualists to "anarcho-capitalists" of various stripes—who claim connection to Tucker's work.

There are real difficulties in coming to grips with the individualist anarchist theory that was worked out in the pages of Liberty. First of all, there was simply a lot of it, and there were a lot of forceful voices raised on issues that were already contentious before they were raised in those pages. It's also necessary to come to terms with the degree to which Tucker, and others, were committed controversialists and natural sectarians—and then to balance that in our understanding against the instances where Tucker, and others, tilted far off their "plumb line" axis to reach out to potential allies among liberals and capitalists.

What I'm going to do in the posts here is to work my way through Liberty, covering as much of the material as I can by the end of 2007. I'll summarize issues, make commentary, scan key texts, develop a cumulative table of contents, track down related articles and scan them when possible and appropriate. I'll also try to include some coverage of the Radical Review and of Tucker's contributions to other periodicals like The Index and The Word.

Thanks for reading. Solidarity and freedom,

—Shawn P. Wilbur