The Boston Anarchists (1888)

by Sophie Raffalovich (1860-1960)

[About Sophie Raffalovich]

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BA.1 The city of Boston is America’s intellectual city par excellence. Such, at any rate, is the pretension of its inhabitants, and American novelists show us young Bostonian women discussing some obscure problem of literature or philosophy and not hiding the disdainful pity they feel for their sisters in New York, all absorbed by the frivolities of worldly life.
BA.2 This picture drawn by Mr. Henry James bears the stamp of truth, and we find confirmation thereof in the writings of Boston’s anarchists, who have themselves likewise been subject to the influence of their milieu. They offer a striking contrast with the anarchists that are most familiar to us – with those, for example, whom M. Mermeix describes in the enumeration of the different groups that make up Socialist France. M. Mermeix assigns anarchists to an inferior rank as to number and intelligence. “Apart from a few eminent men, like M. Elisée Reclus and prince Kropotkin, they are generally coarse, ignorant workers, completely illiterate. Their speeches are vulgar, flat, and violent declamations. They insult and do not reason. Pointless attentats are the deed of anarchists.”
BA.3 Very different are the anarchists of Boston. They know how to write, they are even quite learned; they cite Comte, [online editor’s note: probably Auguste rather than Charles. – RTL] Spencer, Mill; it is true that they sometimes place them in strange company. On one of their pamphlets we see the portrait of Herbert Spencer,1 and in the next issue, the place of the English philosopher is occupied by Louise Michel. [Online editor’s note: Charles T. Fowler, editor of The Sun (cited here by Raffalovich), may have been a “Boston Anarchist” in point of doctrine, but as a resident of Kansas City, Missouri, he is unlikely to have reached his views by imbibing the cultural environment of Boston. – RTL] They condemn the attentats and point out the folly of those who seek to solve “social problems through the coercive method, through legislative measures or through violence.” They denounce the abuses of governments, the encroachments of the State, and the still more serious assaults with which socialists threaten freedom. They are in constant struggle with the German and English socialists, who have adopted the ideas of Karl Marx; with the partisans of Most and of the Freiheit; or with the anarchists of Chicago.
BA.4 Mr. Tucker, the editor of Liberty (the organ of the Boston anarchists) does not even allow the epithets respectable, pacifistic, and bourgeois which he attracts to arrest his attacks on the politics of dynamite. “Dynamite has never caused a rational thought to enter a human brain. It is ignorance that must be removed in order to achieve a serious result.” [Online editor’s note: Retranslated from the French, pending identification of the English original. – RTL]
BA.5 At the time of the trial of the seven anarchists who threw the bombs in Chicago, [Online editor’s note: a rather inaccurate description of the Haymarket defendants, none of whom threw anything, and most of whom were not even present when the bomb, singular, was thrown. – RTL] Tucker highlights the contrast between the doctrine of these fanatics and that which he upholds in Liberty. “[The Chicago anarchists] have challenged in Anarchy’s name, but to institute and secure one of the most revolting of Archies, – the Archy of compulsory Communism. They propose to win and uphold it by methods the most cruel and bloody. ... [T]he use of force must always react with most deadly effect upon us .... an economic revolution can never be accomplished by force. ... [T]he employment of force leads to the redevelopment of the military spirit, which is totally opposed to the spirit that ... we wish for ....” [Online editor’s note: Quoting the English original rather than Raffalovich’s rather loose translation. The second part of the quotation, beginning with “[T]he use of force,” is actually from Gertrude B. Kelly rather than from Tucker. Raffalovich also renders Kelly’s “must always react” as “has always reacted.” – RTL]
BA.6 Mr. Tucker warns his compatriots against the aim pursued by Most and the staff of the Freiheit. “Bad as is our existing system, it is perfection compared with the iron despotism which these men seek to establish. While fiercely denouncing the tyrannies of our present government, they know ... nothing whatever of natural rights and individual liberty. ... We will not be held morally responsible for the crimes of those men, for we have ever exposed the fallacy of their principles, and denounced their methods ....” [Online editor’s note: Quoting the English original rather than Raffalovich’s translation. The passage is actually from Edwin C. Walker, not Tucker. – RTL] And yet despite this statement, Mr. Hyndman, the English state socialist state, once referred to The Anarchist as a journal that “preaches the doctrines held by Most, Tucker, and Schwab in America.” This assimilation excites the wrath of Mr. Tucker, who addresses a reprimand to Mr. Hyndman. [Online editor’s note: The Anarchist did in fact publish both individualist-anarchist and anarcho-communist content, so Hyndman’s description seems innocent enough. – RTL]
BA.7 Thereupon, Mr. Hyndman’s journal, Justice, replies rather tartly: “Evidently the Liberty and Property Defence League, the Manchester school of economists, and the Anarchists are one and the same.” [Online editor’s note: Quoting the English original rather than Raffalovich’s translation. – RTL]
BA.8 “This indicates advancing intelligence,” replies Mr. Tucker. “Most is much nearer to Hyndman than to Liberty, and Anarchism is much nearer to the Manchester men than to Most. In principle, that is. Liberty’s aim – universal happiness – is that of all Socialists, in contrast with that of the Manchester men – luxury fed by misery. But its principle – individual sovereignty – is that of the Manchester men, in contrast with that of the Socialists – individual subordination. But individual sovereignty, when logically carried out, leads, not to luxury fed by misery,2 but to comfort for all industrious persons and death for all idle ones.” [Online editor’s note: Quoting the English original rather than Raffalovich’s translation. Raffalovich changes “Most is” to “Most and Schwab are.” – RTL]
BA.9 On the other hand, Mr. Tucker never ceases to repeat that a great many of those who “desire to change the present condition for a better state, are afflicted with a clouding of their mental vision that renders them incapable of telling the difference between progress and retrogression. They claim to aspire to complete individual freedom, and they strive to achieve this end by extending the sphere of government, by restricting individual initiative, through all sorts of new oppressions.” [Online editor’s note: Retranslated from the French, pending identification of the English original – unless Raffalovich’s text is an astonishingly free translation of the following lines, by George Schumm (1856-1941) rather than Tucker: “the desire of many revolutionists, to make things quickly and positively better through the machinery of government, originating in their blindness to perceive the saving force of liberty, will defeat their very purposes and intentions. They appear to be unable to see that in the present state of the world all true reform work is necessarily of a negative character, that it consists principally in the removal of the usurpations of the State, and of the restrictions placed upon individual initiative on all sides.” – RTL] He is hostile to land nationalisation, to the agitation for an eight-hour-day law, to the organisation of the Knights of Labor – in a word, he makes no concession to any of the popular enticements.
BA.10 A member of Liberty’s staff, Mr. Appleton, had become the head of another newspaper and had advised its readers to join the Knights of Labor. Tucker addresses to him the following wise admonitions on this subject: “[Mr. Appleton’s] own powerful pen has often clearly pointed out in these columns the evils of that organization ... I hope he will not let the wide swath which the Knights of Labor are just now cutting unduly impress him. The seeming magnitude of immediate results should never induce a man of intellect to encourage principles and methods the ultimate evil consequences of which are sure to far outweigh all temporary benefits.” [Online editor’s note: Quoting the English original rather than Raffalovich’s translation. Actually Tucker’s criticisms were based on a misunderstanding; as Tucker later acknowledged, Appleton had not in fact endorsed the Knights of Labor. However, some of Tucker’s associates, such as Dyer Lum (here) and Florence Finch Kelly (here) were happy to endorse them. – RTL]
BA.11 Indeed the Knights of Labor at one time exercised in the United States a veritable tyranny over workers and employers, and during the two years of 1885 and 1886, Liberty denounced their acts of despotism with as much independence as The Nation, the American journal that defends economic ideas with the greatest conviction.3 [Online editor’s note: Raffalovich, as is typical for writers in the Journal des Économistes, uses “economic” to mean “free-market liberal.” The Nation was itself a classical liberal journal in the 19th century, though it shamefully supported the judicial murder of the Haymarket defendants. – RTL]
BA.12 The Knights of Labor inspired terror throughout the entire country. Their delegates had only to show up in a factory and give a sign, and the workers would leave theior labour. These latter had no cause for complaint, they asked nothing better than to work, they did not even know the reason for the strike, but they did not dared to disobey the representative of the Knights.
BA.13 This was done more than once, and The Nation cites an example that occurred in Paterson at a silk factory. “There is a comic side to nearly everything, and the comic side of this is that a body of men who can be made to abandon their means of livelihood on receiving a sign from an unknown man, complain bitterly of ‘the tyranny of capital.’” [Online editor’s note: Quoting the English original rather than Raffalovich’s translation. – RTL]
BA.14 The Knights made use of the terrible weapon of the boycott, with an inflexibility reminiscent of papal bulls of excommunication, or of the Vehmgericht. When they decree the boycott, they direct this measure against “any man, woman, child, any house, corporation, or individual, against anyone who has directly or indirectly aided, succored, or assisted with his labour the person, corporation, or institution that has incurred the displeasure of the order.” [Online editor’s note: Retranslated from the French, pending identification of the English original – unless Raffalovich is freely translating the following lines from The Nation: “the people shall neither buy from nor sell to, neither trade nor contract nor have any commercial or other intercourse with, anybody who has incurred their displeasure ....” – RTL]
BA.15 A railway company’s dismissal of a worker belonging to the Order of the Knights was enough to provoke an enormous strike. Thus in St. Louis, in the month of April, 1886, an employee of the Texas railway, who was affiliated with the Order of the Knights, was dismissed. The Knights ordered the company to rehire him.
BA.16 Mr. Powderly’s organization took for its basis this idea: each Knight has the right to choose his employer, to fix the rate of the salary he wishes to receive, to go in search of amusement as often as he pleases, and to keep his job for life. [Online editor’s note: Of course one could equally well say that the employer seeks the right to choose his employees, to fix the rate of the salaries he wishes to pay them, to work them for as long as he pleases, and to dimiss them at will. Is it wrong for employees, but right for employers, to negotiate for the best terms they can get? And why isn’t the boycott that so horrifies Raffalovich just an instance of the “higgling of the market”? (One also wouldn’t guess from Raffalovich’s account that Powderly was a squishy moderate who tried to get the Knights to deemphasise strikes.) – RTL]
BA.17 Upon the refusal of the company to reinstate the employee, the strike was declared. It spread throughout all of Texas. After twenty-four hours, the strikers, seeing that they had not achieved their goal, extended the strike to the Missouri railway. Acts of violence multiplied; they were accompanied by a discreet pressure still more rigorous. All employees who served the company directly or indirectly, from the highest-paid artisan to the poorest day-labourer, were requested to leave work. They understood the terrible meaning attached to this request and they obeyed. [Online editor’s note: While Tucker was indeed no fan of the Knights of Labor, and criticised their forays into violence both governmental and freelance, Raffalovich is mistaken in assuming that Tucker shared her horror at their central strategy. On the contrary, Tucker writes: “The methods pursued by ... the Knights of Labor in the conduct of the recent strike have driven ... capitalistic publicists into a state of frenzy, so that they now lose no opportunity to frantically declare that one set of men must not be permitted to deprive other sets of men of the right to labor. This is a white-bearded truth, but, when spoken in condemnation of the Knights of Labor for ordering members in one branch of industry to quit work for the purpose of strengthening strikers in another branch by more completely paralyzing business, it is given a tone of impertinence .... I can’t see for my life whose liberty is encroached upon by such a procedure. Certainly not that of the men ordered to quit, because they joined the Knights, a voluntary organization, for certain express purposes, of which this was one, and, when they no longer approve it, can secede from it and then work when and where they please. Certainly not, on the other hand, that of the employers who thus lose their workmen, because, if it is no invasion of liberty for the individual workman to leave his employer in obedience to any whim whatsoever, it is equally no invasion of liberty for a body of workmen to act likewise, even though they have no grievance against their employer. Who, then, are deprived of their liberty? None. All this outcry simply voices the worry of the capitalists over the thought that laborers have learned one of their own tricks, – the art of creating a corner.” – RTL]
BA.18 The Knights claim to represent the only genuine workers, and they are merciless toward those who are not members of their association.
BA.19 In Albany, a master mason, Mr. Young, employed workers who were not part of the Order of the Knights of Labor. He was placed under a ban; he could no longer find a single brickseller who would consent to deal with him. He discussed the situation with his workers, and they decided to join the Knights. They believed that once they entered the association they would be able to work without disturbance. The application was made; the name of the masons was presented at the first meeting. They were told that as punishment for having delayed so long to join the association, they would have to pay 50 dollars in order to be admitted; if they did not pay this fine, they would find no work in Albany or anywhere else.
BA.20 With the help of their friends, they got twenty-five dollars together, which they paid in cash up front, and the Knights generously allowed them to pay the remaining balance out of their wages. The prohibition was lifted, and the master was able to obtain materials.
BA.21 This odious tyranny was exercised in large and small matters alike. At one point the Knights went so far as to dictate to people which newspapers they should read, and to threaten with ruin those who refused to obey them.4
BA.22 The evil reached such proportions that public opinion was finally roused to action; the courts sentenced the boycotters to severe penalties, and the Knights of Labor were forced to renounce this powerful weapon.
BA.23 They sought to achieve their goal by legislative means, and they profited from the lessons given them by the protectionists. They accepted the latter’s doctrine that determining workday length and wage rates is a matter for legislation. [Online editor’s note: In other words, when their attempts to work through the market were crushed by capitalists making use of state power, the Knights turned to state power in turn. Questionable strategy, perhaps, but hardly something Raffalovich is in a position to condemn, having just endorsed state action against boycotts. – RTL] They demand that the law render the eight-hour day mandatory, and Liberty has no trouble showing how their policy is still erroneous on this point. Let the State fix the legal workday at eight hours, and the situtaion of the worker will not be improved thereby. In the United States, out of every 1,000 workers there not so many as 100 who are employed in occupations to which the eight-hour law might apply. It cannot be put into practice in agriculture, horticulture, fishing, a large number of factories, in restaurants, and in railways. A multitude of people are beyond the reach of the law – all those who work at home, seamstresses, tailors, washerwomen, blacksmiths, carpenters; and all those who are self-employed cannot be forced to stop after eight hours. The law could not be enforced in the cotton mills, woolen mills, shoe factories, etc.
BA.24 “If the proponents of this legislation were to achieve what they are demanding, they would soon be seen contriving to find a way to permit labourers to work outside the legal hours for better pay.” [Online editor’s note: Retranslated from the French, pending identification of the English original. – RTL]
BA.25 Liberty likewise condemns the atrocities which were committed against the Chinese and which had been approved by the Knights.
BA.26 On another question which greatly excites people’s minds, the Boston anarchists demonstrate their good sense. We mean prohibition, the ban on selling alcoholic drinks. This is the goal pursued by the prohibitionists, for on this point the Americans are no less intolerant than the English.
BA.27 Hazlitt once spoke in praise of hatred, and declared that he loved those who knew well how to hate: I love a good hater. [Online editor’s note: The saying actually originates with Samuel Johnson, but Hazlitt does paraphrase it. – RTL] His countrymen have retained this ability, but they have fewer occasions to exercise it. “Formerly,” says an English journalist, “our fathers hated the French, eaters of frogs, the Pope in Rome, and the Jesuits. They took a passionate interest in theological controversies that seem to us quite inoffensive.” The hatred of slavery also held a large place, and nowadays a single cause cause has inherited all these antipathies, the crusade against drink. “A vast sum of inappropriate hatred has concentrated itself upon the head of the wine merchant, who passes for the real Satan of the XIXth century.” [Online editor’s note: Retranslated from the French, pending identification of the English original. – RTL]
BA.28 The prohibitionists, in America just as in England, are ready to undertake the most tyrannical measures, provided that they can strike at this enemy of the human race. They have triumphed in some states: in Maine, in Kansas, and in Iowa. A prohibitionist has recently described, in the North American Review, the happy result obtained by these repressive laws. He acknowledges that in Portland, the chief city in Maine, the severity of the law does not prevent liquor from being sold, but, he continues, it is sold in secret and it is only the drunkards who continue to drink. On the other hand, moderate people submit, and renounce it. “If I had to go to all this trouble in order to drink a glass of eau-de-vie in Boston, and if I had no more agreeable place in which to drink it, I do not think I would ever drink again.” [Online editor’s note: Retranslated from the French, pending identification of the English original. – RTL] He cites this remark by a Bostonian as the triumph of the system, and without questioning the tyranny that is thereby exercised upon the sober portion of the population.
BA.29 If we turn to less partial witnesses to learn whether “prohibition prohibits,” here is the answer given by the statistics of the State of Maine: “The total number of persons committed to jail in that State during 1885 was 3,395, of whom 188 were sentenced for selling liquor (an increase of 38 over 1884), and 1,761 for drunkenness (an increase of 441 over 1884).” [Online editor’s note: Quoting the English original rather than Raffalovich’s translation. – RTL]
BA.30 If one investigates the effect of the law in the state of Iowa, one perceives that in the countryside the results are good and that they are detestable in the cities. But in the villages there was no liquor output before prohibition was established. Public opinion condemned the traffic without the aid of a prohibitive statute, and it continues to condemn it. In the cities, on the other hand, they sell more liquor, there are more drunkards, and saloons have increased.
BA.31 In Kansas, a clause has been exploited that permits a pharmacist to sell alcohol to anyone who brings him a certificate attesting that the drink is used for medical purposes. The ease whereby the law is thereby circumvented has had a demoralising effect on pharmacists and on the public.
BA.32 In a pamphlet on prohibition, Mr. Fowler subjects the arguments of the prohibitionists to derision:
BA.33 “Prohibitionists maintain that drunkenness is the greatest evil of the age, that it is the direct cause of the greater part of our taxes and of nearly all our crimes, and that the State should intervene in order to suppress it.
BA.34 “Nobody denies the evil of intemperance; let us concede that it is indeed the greatest scourge. If the government can or should remove greatest vice, should it not exercise its influence on the vice that comes in second place?
BA.35 “Once the principle has been applied to alcohol, it will be easy to extend it to all the useless or harmful agents.” Tobacco is likewise a poison; the artificial thirst produced by the excessive use of tobacco encourages the abuse of strong liquors. If one evil is to be suppressed, why not suppress all the others? The abuse pf tea and coffee is likewise dangerous.
BA.36 If what one drinks is a source of evil, is not what one eats it just as dangerous? Shouldn’t the government abolish the use of pastry? And the evils of the toilet, the suffering caused by personal grooming – are these not a subject for the meditations of the legislator? Mr. Fowler continues his enumeration of the evils to be suppressed in order to bring about a perfect world, wherein one would have a single preoccupation: “to suppress the evil of each.”
BA.37 “The last and greatest evil to be suppressed would be the spirit of intolerance, or the suppression business. For we have reached a situation such that if an evil can be suppressed for the public good, it is not possible to stop .... We can form an idea of what would the society would be like where this principle should be applied .... It would be hell on earth,” says Mr. Fowler, and he makes the reader feel quite vividly the danger of the paternalism preached by the prohibitionists.
BA.38 “Let us profit from past experience,” he says in closing. “Let us learn the genuine principle of liberty .... Whoever is on the side of liberty is for temperance. Do not let your sympathy be led astray by false clamor for the public good. Know that law and order are inseparable from liberty, and that true temperance cannot be advanced by policemen, but only through education and better conditions of existence.” [Online editor’s note: Above passages from Fowler retranslated from the French, pending access to the English original. – RTL]
BA.39 This is the doctrine of the English liberals – Mill, Spencer, Morley – but it will take a long time for this doctrine to gaining ground, “so much less do the generality of mankind,” as Mill said, ”value liberty than power.” [Online editor’s note: Quoting the English original rather than Raffalovich’s translation. – RTL]
BA.40 “[T]he ‘North American Review’ contains a very keen article by Gail Hamilton critical of Professor Sumner’s position on the tariff question. His weak points are singled out very shrewdly and thoroughly laid bare. And yet Professor Sumner is mainly in the right and Gail Hamilton mainly in the wrong. Professor Sumner is weak because of his inconsistency. He will have to turn Anarchist in order to answer Gail Hamilton successfully.” [Online editor’s note: Quoting the English original rather than Raffalovich’s translation. – RTL]
BA.41 What then is the principle that the economists should adopt in order to earn the approbation of Liberty? It is not a new theory, quite the contrary; the anarchists have not taxed their imaginations. They have simply borrowed from Proudhon all their weapons of war.
BA.42 Proudhon, as is known, took “infinite pains to not resemble his fellow utopians. But despite his efforts,” says Lanfrey,5 “he does not escape the common lot, and he bears more than any of them the distinctive sign of these absolute and sterile minds. This sign is a mania for nostrums. Each of these doctors has discovered a marvelous remedy, infallible, curing all ills, applicable to all cases, and of which he alone possesses the secret. Such a mania would be treated as charlatanism, given the audacity that accompanies it, if it did not denote above all the poverty of a mind incapable of having more than one idea at a time. The superiority of M. Proudhon consists in his having frequently changed the recipe. There was a time when he attributed all the misfortunes of mankind to the use it had made of the syllogism. The syllogism was almost as culpable in his eyes as the capital sin. He discovered a form of reasoning called the series, which was to exterminate the syllogism, lead men to absolute certainty, and in a short time reshape the face of the world. A year or two later he declared in his Confessions that the series, that daughter of his imagination, had been brought forth in an hour of delirium, and he began circulating his axiom: “Property is theft,” a formula to which he attributed still more virtue. He took as his motto the word of Jehovah: “I will destroy and I will build up.” [Online editor’s note: This appears to be Proudhon’s rather free paraphrase of Deuteronomy 32: 39’s “I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal.” – RTL] Next, the bank of exchange appeared, and for a few days rivaled in popularity camphor, that other universal panacea simultaneously medical and political: [Online editor’s note: I suspect this is a reference to Berkeley’s enthusiasm for tar-water, a relative of camphor. – RTL] anarchy had preceded it, and had rendered services no less grand to the human race.” Proudhon next preached the theory of federation, and after that, of abstention from the ballot. [Online editor’s note: The chronology of Proudhon’s ideas is a bit off here. The formula “Property is theft” occurs (along with the term “anarchy”) as early as 1840, in Proudhon’s What is Property? – well before the 1849 Confessions. The series-versus-syllogism material debuts in the 1843 Creation of Order in Humanity; antinomies are defended in the 1846 Economic Contradictions; the mutual bank in the 1849 Solution of the Social Problem; a different version of antinomies in the 1858 On Justice and 1862 Theory of Property; federation in the 1862 On Federation and Unity in Italy and 1863 The Federative Principle; and abstention from the ballot in the 1863 Democratic Jurors and Nonjurors and 1864 Letter to Workers. The implication that Proudhon generally abandons the older ideas for the newer ones is inaccurate; but acknowledging this would undermine Lanfrey’s silly contention that Proudhon’s mind could hold only one idea at a time. – RTL] He is abstention’s Christopher Columbus. Abstention from the ballot gives us our liberties, it disarms power, it ensures forever the triumph of true democracy. It is a word as infallible as the antinomies, the series, the bank of exchange, and federation put together. He goes so far as to name it the most sacred of duties .... He even believes it possible to compare the voter who stays home on voting day to Boissy d’Anglas, refusing his signature to the populace, even at knifepoint, during the Prairial uprising. [‘]In what did the glory of Boissy d’Anglas consist, in the famous session of 2 Prairial, if not the most heroic of abstentions?[’]” [Online editor’s note: This last line is quoted from Proudhon’s Democratic Jurors and Nonjurors. Lanfrey supplies, but Raffalovich omits, the quotation marks. The reference is to the following incident, described in the French version of Wikipedia: “On 1 Prairial, Year III, the people of the insurgent faubourgs having invaded the Chamber, tried to force the Convention to reestablish the Reign of Terror; they insulted and threatened the president, and in order to frighten him, they placed before him head of the representative Jean Bertrand Féraud, who had just been murdered before his eyes. ... At the sight of this head, Boissy d’Anglas respectfully removed his hat and saluted his unfortunate colleague; then he resumed his seat, remaining unmoved amidst this scene of disorder and horror, until the Convention was rescued by the royalist sections of the National Guard.” – RTL]
BA.43 The anarchists have adopted abstention from the ballot along with all the other nostrums of Proudhon. They advise all voters to abstain in all elections: this is the true way to reduce the government to rubble. They have accepted the bank of exchange with no less enthusiasm. It shows up in a great number of their writings.
BA.44 Mr. William B. Greene has dedicated to this thesis a pamphlet that has had six editions. This is a success that the writings of anarchists do not often obtain, and this work is not the better for it.
BA.45 Mr. Lysander Spooner, in his violent indictment of the government of the United States, does not neglect to extol this sovereign remedy. The title alone of the pamphlet speaks volumes: “A Letter to Grover Cleveland, on his False Inaugural Address, the Usurpations and Crimes of Lawmakers and Judges, and the Consequent Poverty, Ignorance, and Servitude of the People.”
BA.46 The whole thing is written in that tone, with a vigor of style uncommon at the author’s age – he is nearly 80 years – but with an exaggeration that frequently becomes laughable.
BA.47 If Mr. Spooner were addressing himself to the most sanguinary of tyrants, he could make use of no other language than that which he employs in his letter to the President of the United States. And this produces a singular effect when one considers that the man against whom these insults are directed, fulfilling with dignity and good humour the functions with which he is entrusted, is striving to uphold the principle of reforming the civil service and reining in pension abuse, and through his recent declaration in favour of free trade has just given proof of his disinterestedness and political courage.
BA.48 Mr. Spooner has no time to pay attention to these details. He pronounces sentence against the president, the voters, and the legislators, and then seeks to prove that the Constitution of the United States is a tissue of contradictions and errors. We cannot follow him in this investigation, where a less prejudiced guide would be desirable.
BA.49 But Liberty’s Library does not consist only of pamphlets. It includes works of much greater extent. One must first mention the Radical Review, a journal whose span of existence was not lengthy. The first volume appeared in 1877 and was not followed by a second. In its pages we encounter several of the contributors to Liberty, but they had not yet arrived at the anarchic formula. It is in this Review that Mr. Tucker published his translations of Proudhon’s Economic Contradictions. His worship of Proudhon dates from this period; and he has just undertaken to translate all the works of Proudhon, including the correspondence. The complete edition will consist of fifty beautiful volumes, and Mr. Tucker announces that the buyer who has the foresight to subscribe to the monthly publication issued under the title of Proudhon Library will gain a dollar per volume or fifty dollars on the full edition. This publication is an “event in literature,” which he shares with the readers of Liberty with much solemnity. [Online editor’s note: unfortunately, this project was never completed. – RTL]
BA.50 He puts a great deal of zeal into guiding the reading of his subscribers; and among the books he recommends is a Refutation of Progress and Poverty by Mr. Hanson. [Online editor’s note: the actual title of William Hanson’s book is The Fallacies in “Progress and Poverty.” – RTL]
BA.51 M. Hanson informs us that he has given “eighteen years of constant thought to a solution of this difficult problem [of poverty]. Sympathy for the distressed is the motive force of this protracted investigation. He has found that the Political Economists are contradictory, inconsistent, and illogical. They seldom agree upon anything, and are therefore scientifically unreliable.” [Online editor’s note: Quoting the English original rather than Raffalovich’s translation. – RTL]
BA.52 Prior to refuting Henry George, Mr. Hanson undertakes to refute Mr. Macleod. This English [Online editor’s note: Ahem. Scottish. – RTL] economist is very well known in America and it is frequently cited by the anarchists. His works are very remarkable; they are “full of suggestion, and also very rich in historical material and economic discussion: but they contain matters of doctrine in which the author is at issue with the recognized authorities, and that, too, on points of the first importance.” [Online editor’s note: Quoting the English original rather than Raffalovich’s translation. – RTL] Such is the judgment offered by the American economists, Messrs. Sumner, Wells, Foster, Dugdale, and Putnam in their list of books on political economy to serve as a guide for students. This indicates to us that Mr. Hanson was mistaken in choosing Mr. Macleod as the representative of economic doctrines. Or perhaps he was correct from his own point view; he has made his job easier, since Macleod’s Elements of Political Economy offers material for criticism.
BA.53 “Macleod overwhelms one by his learning. If a knowledge of Greek, Latin, French, German, Ancient and Modern History, Greek and Roman Law is wisdom – then indeed is he supremely wise. But wisdom is not necessarily the companion of great learning.” [Online editor’s note: Here and below, the English original is quoted – for both Hanson and Macleod – rather than Raffalovich’s translation. – RTL] Judgment is indispensable, and Macleod sometimes shows himself lacking in it when he indulges in an excessive display of erudition. If the Greek and Latin citations were removed, the treatise would be a volume shorter, and economic science would lose nothing thereby. There are times when his literary preoccupations lead him so far afield that he begins gravely reproaching Lucretius for some philosophical error into which he would not have fallen if he had understood the nature of “Public Debts, Bills of Exchange, and ... other Incorporeal Property.” [Online editor’s note: Raffalovich is citing Macleod’s Principles of Political Economy rather than the previously mentioned Elements. The discussion of Lucretius (here and here) that Raffalovich dismisses as a pedantic digression is actually making a more interesting and important theoretical point than she seems prepared to acknowledge. – RTL]
BA.54 Mr. Hanson brings out Mr. Macleod’s weak points with a certain verve; but once he begins to reason on his own account, it is impossible to go along with him.
BA.55 Let us judge by the following definitions:
BA.56 “WEALTH consists of ALL Labor Products and Services that gratify human desires, and whose Commercial Value can be measured with WORK.”
BA.57 “Now, What IS Work? Is it not the expenditure of energy, or animal force in productive industry? ... Therefore: – A TRUE and SCIENTIFIC MEASURE of ALL Labor-Products and Services is an AVERAGE DAY’S WORK. Divide it into HOURS and MINUTES and we have the fractional Units.”
BA.58 Mr. Hanson condemns the land monopoly, and he congratulates Henry George for having so well understood its bad effects, but he reproaches him with becoming “unscientific, illogical, [and] absurd” when discussing the issue of interest. Henry George is so feeble-minded as to declare that the lender provides a service to the borrower, and that the service justifies the interest.
BA.59 Mr. Hanson condemns interest along with rent and profit, “the three evils caused by the land monopoly.” [Online editor’s note: This last is Raffalovich’s paraphrase of Hanson’s claim that “land monopoly thwarts justice, by producing innumerable evils, the chief of which are rent, profit and interest.” – RTL] He also condemns Henry George’s remedy, State confiscation of ground rent, and his remarks on this subject are very reasonable. Preoccupation with the “unearned increment,” with unearned wealth, has “deflected [Henry George’s] reasoning faculty,” he says, and he exposes by means of an example the injustice of the project of land nationalisation.
BA.60 “I plant a potato in the ground,” he says. “I weed it. I hoe it. ... And ... ten potatoes ... grow where I planted one. ...
BA.61 “My neighbor plants a potato, and cares for it as I did for mine. He worked no more than I, and used no more capital ... but he harvested fifteen potatoes while I harvested but ten.”
BA.62 These five extra potatoes Henry George would confiscate to the profit of the community, and Mr. Hanson stand sin opposition to this injustice, but through a bizarre course of reasoning he comes to maintain that “my ten potatoes, and my neighbor’s fifteen potatoes, had precisely the same exchangeable value, because the same amount of skill, labor and capital had been expended in their production. ... WORK ... is the only quantity which can, by any possibility, enter into commercial exchanges.” [Online editor’s note: while Hanson’s treatment of the problem is certainly unpromising, it is not quite as absurd as Raffalovich makes it sound. Hanson is not, for example, proposing that we should expect or demand to receive as high a price for ten potatoes as for fifteen; see the continuation of the passage. – RTL]
BA.63 We feel some qualms over exposing such absurdities; the same doctrine is defended with no less seriousness in Mr. IngallsSocial Wealth, and that book is recommended with no less enthusiasm by Mr. Tucker to his readers than that of Mr. Hanson.
BA.64 Further, Mr. Tucker does not commend solely writings composed by the partisans of anarchy; he grasps hold of ideas that approach his own in the most thoroughly opposed writers; contradictions do not give him pause: Proudhon has habituated him to them. He reproduces a small pamphlet by Ruskin: Captain Roland’s Purse, which presents a summary of Ruskin’s attacks against on capital, and then borrows from the Fortnightly Review an article by Mr. Auberon Herbert: A Politician in Sight of Haven: Being a Protest Against the Government of Man by Man.
BA.65 Mr. Tucker prefaces Mr. Herbert’s article with a characteristic note. “Wherever the words anarchy and socialism appear in this essay, they are employed, the former in the ordinary sense of confusion, and the latter in the limited sense of State socialism. Mr. Herbert is unaware that there exists a school of anarchistic socialism and has not disocvered that the doctrine of liberty maintained by this school is nearly identical to his own.” [Online editor’s note: Retranslated from the French, pending identification of the English original; Tucker’s preface appears to occur only in the 1884 edition, whereas only the 1890 edition is generally available. – RTL]
BA.66 Indeed, Mr. Tucker has adopted Herbert’s ideas on the matter of taxation, and on this point has deviated from his favourite theorist. Proudhon had acknowledged that the State could impose a tax, and had set the limit of the tax at the tenth part of one’s income.6 So long as the tax did not exceed this proportion, it was consistent with justice. But the anarchists have another ideal: not the compulsory tax, the voluntary tax. This is the solution proposed by Mr. Herbert, whose ingenious and paradoxical theories M. Yves Guyot has examined in these very pages.7
BA.67 If Mr. Herbert’s program departs too far from received ideas to have any hope of being realised in the present conditions of society, it is not less true that it indicates the way forward: to reduce the functions of the State and to an ever larger portion for individual liberty. “Those people who wish to make their fellow-men wise, or temperate, or virtuous, or comfortable, or happy, by some rapid exercise of power, little dream of the sterility that belongs to the universal systems which they so readily inflict on them.” [Online editor’s note: Quoting the English original rather than Raffalovich’s translation. – RTL]
BA.68 The anarchists have had the great merit of comprehending this truth, and here they agree with the economists; but they depart from them in the goal which they pursue: the destruction of the State. The anarchists imagine that once the State has been gotten rid of, poverty, misery, and vice will disappear. They are full of indignation against those who maintain that reform must begin with an interior reform, and that vice is a still more deadly enemy of liberty than is the State. M. Tucker replies by citing the example of Proudhon, who “spent very little of his time in preaching against vice. He knew that vice was the result of crime almost exclusively, especially of the crime committed by ‘society’ against the individual, and his life was devoted to social reconstruction ....” [Online editor’s note: Raffalovich mangles this a bit, having Tucker describe vice as “the result of crime committed almost exclusively by society against the individual” – a stronger claim than Tucker is actually making. – RTL]
BA.69 It is here that the anarchists have fallen into an excess similar to that which they have often denounced. They have demonstrated the error of those who regard the State as Providence, who look to it for all benefits and all assistance; but they have exaggerated its power in another direction, and seen in it the cause of all crimes and all miseries. Remove the State and the golden age will flower: the formula is simple, but unfortunately progress is not so easy.
BA.70 The economists have quite frequently deplored the abuses of statism, but they have taken care not to demand the abolition of all government. [Online editor’s note: Raffalovich’s claim that “the economists” – by which, as always, she means free-market liberals of the Say/Bastiat/Molinari stripe – have “taken care not to demand the abolition of all government” is ironic, given that Molinari himself, the editor of the Journal des Économistes for whom she was writing this article – and whose work she will go on to cite in the very next paragraph! – was himself an advocate of the dissolution of the state: and not just back in his 1849 “Production of Security” and Soirées, but even in his Political Evolution and the Revolution, published in this very same year of 1888. – RTL]
BA.71 “What, in the present state of things, would be the situation of members of an anarchic society?” asks the author of The Natural Laws of Political Economy. [Online editor’s note: in other words, Molinari, in 1887. – RTL] “They would all be obliged to devote the greater part of their productive powers to the defense of their property, while at the same time employing another part in an attempt to seize the property of others. It would be a permanent and universal struggle. Consider further that even if each person, by insuring himself in this way, could guarantee his property against the attacks of individuals, he would find it impossible to resist collective aggression, whether from within or from without, and that the anarchists would most likely end up destroyed or reduced to slavery. That is why in no place, even among the poorest and most backward peoples, do we observe, except in an accidental manner, the existence of anarchy. All peoples are provided with a government, that is to say, an enterprise whose principal function consists in guaranteeing property in its three forms: personal, movable, and immovable. This government is a natural product of the law of the economy of forces. However costly and imperfect it may be, it is less costly and more efficient than could be the insuring of each person by himself.” [Online editor’s note: Molinari’s and Raffalovich’s shared assumption that anarchism means the abolition of all formal institutions for security, and not just of the state’s coercive monopoly, is puzzling, given that, e.g., Tucker (here and here) and Spooner (here and here) had written pretty clearly to the contrary, as had their counterparts in Paris, Proudhon and Bellegarrigue – and also given that an intermediate possibility between state provision of security and everyone-for-himself should have been on Molinari’s radar, since it was his own position. – RTL]
BA.72 Progress would consist, not in getting rid of the State as the anarchists keep repeating, but in correctly fixing the limits of its influence and in rendering its action more restricted and more efficient: this is more difficult than to destroy.


Journal des Économistes 41, no. 3 (March 1888), pp. 375-388.

BA.n1.1 1 The Sun. A Bi-monthly Publication Devoted to Cooperation. January and February 1888.
BA.n2.1 2 We do not believe it is necessary to prove that the Manchesterites have never held the doctrine that Mr. Tucker attributes to them, and that their ideal is not “luxury fed by misery.” But too great an exactitude is not to be required of anarchists, even Boston ones. We must be grateful for the good sense they have shown in separating themselves from the party of “propaganda of the deed.”
BA.n3.1 3 Since that time the organisation of the Knights of Labor has lost much of its importance, the number of its adherents has decreased, a schism has arisen, and its influence has considerably diminished.
BA.n4.1 4The Nation reproduces a letter addressed to a widow, Mrs. Vonderbrake, who maintains a modest shop in New Haven. For years she was a subscriber to the Journal and Courier, which had been placed on the index by the Knights. Here is the letter:
“New Haven, April 19, 1886.
MADAM: It will be for your interest to stop your subscription to the Journal and Courier immediately, as that paper has been boycotted. Your customers will not patronize you while you take that paper.


[Online editor’s note: Quoting the English original rather than Raffalovich’s translation. Raffalovich renders “Vonderbrake” as “Vanderbrake.” – RTL]
BA.n5.1 5 Political Studies and Portraits.
BA.n6.1 6 Theory of Taxation, 1861.
BA.n7.1 7 May 1885 issue. [Online editor’s note: Yves Guyot, “Doubts and Solution of an Englishman,” Journal des Économistes, 4th series, XXX (15 May 1885), pp. 246-259. – RTL]

[Tucker’s reply ]

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