Clement M. Hammond, “Then and Now” (1884)




Boston, October 4, 2084

My dear Louise:

This strange country seems more strange to me daily, as I know it and its people and customs better. It seems more like a dream, a perplexing though pleasant dream, than it does like a reality. I often think that, instead of actually being here, two hundred years away from you, that I am sitting on the beach near my own dear old home, listening to the monotonous sound of the waves at my feet blending with the murmurings of the wind to form what was always a harmony that made me think and theorize and dream. Sometimes I try to rouse myself from my reverie and shake off this that seems so much like a vision. But it is useless. I am in a real world, among real people.

When I tell Mr. De Demain that everything is so strange to me, he smiles and says nothing is strange but myself, and he adds, although I suppose I shouldn’t tell it, that I am not so very strange to him.

When I tell my friend that this world doesn’t seem real, that it seems simply a dream, an ideal conception, he grows earnest, and tells me that nothing could be less a dream than the state of human society today. “Why!” says he, “Anarchy is the most practical thing the world ever knew, but the governments of two hundred years ago, and back as far as history reaches, were based upon dreams. You remember the preamble to the constitution of your country and the things that it set forth as being the objects of the government to be based upon that constitution. Liberty and justice! could anything have been more ideal than that? A splendid ideal, truly, but the fault of the government was that it forced liberty and justice to always remain ideal and not real. Anarchy halts at that point where constitutions are made. Theologians of the olden time held that God, defined, and consequently limited, would cease to be God. So we hold that liberty and justice, defined, and consequently limited, would cease to be liberty and justice. History proved that Anarchy is right in holding this.

“In looking over a file of newspapers of a couple of centuries ago, recently, I ran across a number of speeches and editorials calling upon government officials of all kinds to run the government, national, state, and municipal, on business principles. Now, those principles are just the ones which govern society today. The people do not grant the privilege of government to an individual or set individuals as a monopoly, as did the people of the time from whence you came. Trade is not hampered by monopoly; it is governed simply by the influence of a healthy competition. Anarchy is a very matter-of-fact, every-day, business-like thing. There is nothing abstract or ideal about it. In itself, now that we have it, it isn’t much. It can be defined in a very few words for one who has never lived under the dark shadow of the State. But in defining Anarchy to one like you, it is necessary to compare it with the State. I must tell you what Anarchy is not. I must tell you of the crimes that it does not commit, the misery that it does not cause, the false relations in which it does not place man. I have tried to do this in my talks with you. If you understood the meaning of true business principles, I should tell you simply this: Anarchy means the state of society when governed by true business principles. I suppose now it will be necessary for me to explain to you briefly what true business principles are, and to state them very briefly I will say:

“First: Perfect freedom of exchange. This, of course, makes an untaxed and perfectly free currency necessary.

“Second: Cost must limit price. This, of course, makes interest impossible

“Third: Individuals must own only what has been produced by human labor. This, of course, means that man cannot hold property in anything produced by nature without the aid of man’s hand.

“Fourth: Law must be simply justice defined in individual cases. This, of course, makes congresses, legislatures, and the like unnecessary.

“These are the fundamental principles of Anarchy. Don’t they strike you as being much more practical than ideal?”

Mr. De Demain seems to be a very practical man. I find that he is not looked upon by his friends as being at all visionary. He is considered at the college a very able man, and has the reputation of being a most excellent teacher. Can it be, after all, that the whole system upon which society of your time is based is false? Can it be that Anarchy is the key to the whole problem of life? Can it be that Anarchy answers forever the question, Is life worth living?

Louise, help me to answer these questions.


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About Shawn P. Wilbur 2132 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.