Eliphalet Kimball on Anarchy, part 2

Here’s the second half of Eliphalet Kimball’s essay “Civilization–Anarchy,” from the August 26, 1863 Boston Investigator. There is a great deal here that may seem naive, and out of step with the anarchist movement generally. This shouldn’t surprise us. In 1863, it would be hard to say that there was an anarchist movement, particularly in America, where most of the strong proponents of libertarian thought still avoided the term anarchy. Ten years later, things would be different, but Kimball, writing in the period of the Civil War, is really pretty well out on his own in celebrating anarchy. Primitivists and zero-workers may be amused to find some anticipations here, twenty years before the publication of The Right to Be Lazy.

For the Boston Investigator
Abolish all public schools. Children are literally schooled to death. The growing brain is tender and unable without injury to bear much labor. It needs quietude to grow and strengthen. The mind and the whole system are weakened by close attention to study in youth. In the schools of this country the minds of the young are crammed with what they are not old enough to understand. Little that is useful is taught at school or college. Napoleon said that he never learned anything at school that was ever of use to him, except mathematics. Confinement in school is violence to nature, and great injury to the health. Freedom in the open air is the place for children, and they have no business with much learning. Through the influence of the clergy, children are not allowed a day of rest from study—their brain labor is kept up in Sunday schools. To cram nursing infants with beef steak and baked beans would not be more unreasonable and injurious than the school system of the United States. Under anarchy all would be producers with no useless and injurious classes. Consequently nobody would need to work more than three or four hours a day, and parents would have leisure to teach their children, and improve their own minds by reading and reflecting. Except learning to read and write, study ought to be put off till the age of maturity, both for the sake of health, and that they may have judgment to choose their own studies, and understand them. The riper the mind, the more progress is made. Good education, of course, is of great importance, but it is a shallow opinion that education preserves virtue and freedom.

Learning makes nobody good nor free. The uneducated laboring class have the most virtue. Masters might safely educate their slaves, for they could gain their freedom no sooner by it. Even without education, anarchy would preserve virtue and freedom. Laboring people with little learning use more good sense than those who are called educated, and savages more than civilized people. No person’s education is finished until death.

Luxury and show are enemies to virtue and freedom. They are ruin to any people. Human Government is their case, and anarchy or the course of Nature would abolish and prevent them. Almost everything in this country is spoiled with what is called “ornament.” Whatever is added to an object only for ornament is in reality deformity. Nature adds nothing for ornament. Painted houses and papered rooms are not pleasing to persons of good mind. All beauty is plain. All truly handsome faces are plain. Beautiful flowers are plain.—Nature never changed the style of its dress. A good style is always good. Any old dress, if clean, is decent and respectable. A rich and showy one is not decent. The most respectable dress is a ragged one covered with dirt and sweat, and worn by an honest laboring man. Great principles are connected with the subject of dress.

A weekly day of rest is part of civilization, as it is enforced by law. It is unnatural and unsuitable.—No person can labor all day without injury to his constitution—to say nothing of six days. Instead of a weekly day of rest, it ought to be hours of rest every day. Healthy and strong persons who do but little labor, are injured by a day of rest, for they need labor enough for exercise every day. With regard to the religious character of the day, no line can be drawn between works of necessity and those which are not. Either all work is necessary on the Sabbath, or none is, not even “boiling a teakettle,” or making a bed. It might be necessary for a poor man with a family to labor on Sunday. Anarchy would abolish a weekly day of rest, for no person would need to labor more than three or four hours a day.

Mexico is about to have a monarchy forced upon her by Napoleon. In that country a few men hold all the land. A man’s land there sometimes reaches eighty miles. In some parts of the country in a week’s travel, all the land on both sides of the road belongs to the church. Two brothers named Sanches own the whole State of Coahuila. Mexico needs anarchy to break up land ownership, and give the people each one a chance to take what land he needs. Monarchy, of course, will fasten the evil stronger upon them.

The world may be safely challenged for arguments in favor of the need or innocence of human law.


Jersey City, (N. J.,) Aug 3, 1863.

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2701 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.