Anarchist Church, Anarchist State. . . Anarchist Inquisition?

Stephen Pearl Andrews, “Andrusius,” The Pantarch — The history of radical reform in the United States is full of colorful characters and extravagant projects, but Andrews and his Pantarchy (complete with the philosophy of Universology, universal languages Alwato and Tīkīwā, and New Catholic Church) stands out, even in a crowd which includes Lewis Masquerier and his “compulsory homestead” scheme or Edgar Chambless’ Roadtown.

In anarchist circles, Andrews is probably most respected and best remembered for his advocacy of Josiah Warren’s cost principle and doctrine of individual sovereignty, or for his agitations in the cause of “free love.” But our picture is not complete if we do not consider Andrews in his roles as philologist, abolitionist, phonographer, associationist, spiritualist, student of Comte, etc., etc. The Universological texts, which Andrews considered his major works, are daunting, and organized according to principles that simply don’t have much currency in our day and age.

The synthesis that Andrews attempts is remarkable, and bears some resemblance to other early anarchist philosophies. There are, perhaps, two primary types among the early American anarchists. One, common to the ex-Owenites Warren and Masquerier, focuses on just a few basic principles, and constructs its systems and experiments from those. The other, characteristic of Greene, with his Saint-Simonian influences, and Andrews, who never, it seems, really stopped being a student of Fourier and Comte, seeks its basic principles in analogies and syntheses, drawing more and more into its system as it is elaborated. This second approach is prone to producing dialectical relationships between ideas, to flirtations with paradox, and to complex rhetorical shifts. In this tradition, Proudhon’s turn to the treatment of the “aims” of property and the state might be considered exemplary in many ways. We might not be too far out of line in thinking of the project of the later Proudhon as an attempt at the transvaluation of these concepts and their attached values.

The potential paradoxes introduced in Proudhon’s developing system come into a sort of full bloom in Stephen Pearl Andrews’ Constitution or Organic Basis of the Pantarchy, published as by “Andrusius, Pantarch” in 1860, with copyright registered in the name of William S. Andrews (probably the son of S. P. A.) The political organization described therein mixes the philosophy of individual sovereignty with the form of a benevolent dictatorship—and pulls the trick off with a rather remarkable degree of success. Article IX gives a theoretical explanation:

The Pantarchy is a Grand Composite Order of Government, reaching with its influences every department of human affairs, and involving in itself, and reconciling with each other, in a compound harmony, the Monarchical, the Aristocratic, and the Democratic Principles; hitherto deemed irreconcilable with each other; or, at best, but partially reconciled and actually hindering each other in the so-called Mixed Governments of the past.

Andrews gives us an anarchist state, an anarchist church, all the pomp and circumstance of the most hierarchical societies organized according to a strict voluntarism. We even get an Anarchist Inquisition:

More immediately connected with the Legislature and the Supreme Government, will be the Grand Court of the Inquisition, re-established with more than all the rigor and efficiency of its history in the past; but with this difference, that the Inquisition of the Pantarchy, instead of applying its tortures to the bodies of men, will put to the question the principles of Nature and Nature herself, compelling them to confess their most hidden secrets through the severest trials which they are able to endure. It will be the business of the Inquisition to bring to every variety of test all pretended new Principles, Discoveries, and Inventions, in every department of life; to force from them the fullest disclosure of their promise of value to mankind; and to report to the government all such as survive the trial, for promulgation to the world, with a recommendation to governmental aid of the most valuable and the most needy. The Inquisition will be, therefore, the patron institution and the foster-parent of the discoverers, inventors, and reformers.

To select more pieces of the Andrusian plan would be simply to invite their ridicule, while the whole document presents a rather more positive appearance. Reading it, I am reminded of the various competing governmental forms in Paul Emile De Puydt’s Panarchy. I have criticized that scheme in the past, on the basis that its operation really depends at base on a widely shared concern with liberty, without which the “free market in governments” is likely to collapse into something more authoritarian. What Andrews’ Pantarchy suggests is the extent to which forms which are currently authoritarian in practice might, from that shared libertarian base, be transfigured. Several steps on beyond the late Proudhon, Andrews dares to rethink virtually all the trappings of authoritarian government according to the best among their possible aims. I’m not certain I would want to live in the Pantarchy, but it is at the very least an intriguing thought experiment, perhaps not so far removed from the mainstream of anarchist tradition as we might have thought.

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2700 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.