Eliphalet Kimball remains one of my favorite figures in the American anarchist tradition, in part because he remains so unknown, popping up here and there in the 19th century radical press to make the most amazing pronouncements and demands, but somehow managing to go almost completely unremarked in the scholarly literature.
I first discovered Kimball’s anarchist writings in the Boston Investigator and Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly more than four years ago, and posted three of his essays: “Law, Commerce, and Religion,” “Civilization—Anarchy” and “Suggestions.” Recently, I was able to pick up an original copy of his one book, Thoughts on Natural Principles, and have been working up a new, expanded edition. I also stumbled across contributions by Kimball to Ezra Heywood’s The Word. I’ve been able to get glimpses of his development after 1862, but I’ve had very little success tracking him before his first appearances in the Investigator. And it turns out that Eliphalet Kimball was a lot more common a name in 19th century New England than you might think. Fortunately, chance sometimes has a way of furnishing new leads. While I was looking for part of a citation for an essay I have in hand, I ran across a pdf of one page from the New York Daily Tribune for August 4, 1852 on a site apparently dedicated to postcards, which contained an article on a unique and decidedly dark-horse presidential candidate—who happened to be named Eliphalet Kimball and who was obviously, after a little reading, the same Eliphalet Kimball who preached anarchy later in the century. [He was probably a resident of Orford, not Oxford, N. H.] So, suddenly, we can add over ten years to Kimball’s career as a promoter of “the pure and simple reign of nature, without lawyers, doctors, parsons, dry goods retailers, or apothecaries.”Here is a report of his candidacy and platform:
Another Ticket and Platform.
Mr. Eliphalet Kimball, of Oxford, N. H., offers himself as a candidate for the office of President of the United States; his claims to that dignity he rests upon his military abilities, the manifestation of which in the eyes of all men nothing but a concatenation of extraordinary circumstances has prevented. Rut for this unfortunate hindrance Mr. (it should have been Field Marshal) Kimball, would, if we may credit his own judgment, have alone the martial and civic genius of “Hannibal, Epaminondas, Scipio, Aristides the Just, Timoleon, Cincinnatus, Julius Caesar, Alfred, Charlemagne, Gonsalvo de Cordova, Albuquerque, Capt. John Smith, of Virginia, Cromwell, Peter the Great, Gustavus Adolphus, Frederick the Great, Green if he had lived, Washington, Napoleon, Duroc, Dessaix, Touissaint, a negro slave without education, Lannes, Kosciusko, Jackson, Tecumseh, Santa Anna, Moolraj and William O. Butler.” Few among characters not military have equaled the worth and glory of these distinguished individuals; among such, aside from himself the new candidate names only Columbus, Dr. John P. Kimball and Dr. Lewis Linn. These men, he tells us, possessed heroic virtue and true greatness, and probably could any one of them now be induced to run our unlucky embryonic Field Marshal would not deem it his duty to come forward into the desperate contest.
Having thus nominated his candidate, M. Kimball proceeds, in the good old orthodox order of business, to lay down his platform of principles. These must be rather startling to those who are not used to a pretty free sweep of thought. The first maxim of his administration, if he is elected, will be that poverty is the essence of virtue, and therefore, he will endeavor, as far as he can, to keep folks within the boundaries of virtue and destitution. Commerce is the chief cause of pauperism, and money is its agent; therefore money cannot be too scarce for the public good. The professional and mercantile classes corrupt society, particularly by their habits of drinking. Human government is the first cause of social disease, inasmuch as it is the parent of commerce and money. Trial by jury is worthless, and in fact what Mr. Kimball especially believes in is the pure and simple reign of nature, without lawyers, doctors, parsons, dry goods retailers, or apothecaries. And by way of inaugurating this complete state of things he promises if elected to go for the following among other preparatory measures:
“Wages of members of Congress reduced to $2 a day; salary of the President to $10,000 a year, and a corresponding reduction throughout the Government; the laws reduced to a few general ones; discontinuance of special legislation; the Capitol and President’s house demolished—their showy and unnatural style proves national degeneracy, their example increases it; other buildings erected for the same uses, in a style of plainness that becomes a sensible people; a radical reorganization of the Army on democratic principle; all officers elected by the privates; no one eligible until after he has served in the ranks; soldiers wages should be increased; prohibition of all foreign commerce; no more Ministers sent to foreign nations; abolishment of the Navy; money expelled as much as possible from the nation.”
—We bear Mr. Kimball no ill will, and hope it may not endanger his chances at the South for us to say that there are points about him and his platform which we rather like. For the rest, we cordially recommend him to any party in want of a candidate on the same general plan as Epaminondas, John Smith, of Vs., Green, if he had lived, Moolraj, Tecumseh, Howard and William O. Butler. They will never have such another chance.
“Another Ticket and Platform,” New York Daily Tribune (August 4, 1852): 4.