C. L. James & Henry Cohen, “Anarchy’s Apostles” (1891–92)

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An archive of this sort is necessarily full of marginal views and unusual perspectives on anarchism, so I assume that most readers will treat the accounts with appropriate caution. Under most circumstance, no specific disclaimer seems to be required. But C. L. James essays on “Anarchy’s Apostles” strike me as something of a special case, given James’ reputation within the movement during his lifetime as a serious scholar and given the number of truly idiosyncratic views expressed in them. I provide them here as fodder for historical research, but with the explicit caveat that there seems to be more that is wrong about James’ account than is right.

  • C. L. James, “Anarchy’s Apostles,” Twentieth Century 7 no. 21 (November 19, 1891): 8–9; 7 no. 24 (December 10, 1891): 5–6; 7 no. 26 (December 24, 1891): 7–9; 8 no. 1 (January 7, 1892): 6–7; 8 no. 3 (January 21, 1892): 4–5; 8 no. 5 (February 4, 1892): 5–7; 8 no. 7 (February 18, 1892): 6–8.
  • Henry Cohen, “Anarchy’s Apostles,” Twentieth Century 8 no. (April 14, 1892): 7–8.

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The native country of Anarchism is England. It has often been shown how the Revolution of 1688 committed both her parties to extreme ideas of liberty, pledged the Government to promote those opinions which most Governments discourage; drove the very champions of authority to oppose authority, to refuse allegiance, to resist taxation, to clamor against encroachment, to foment rebellion. Such was the school in which Englishmen learned to suspect that the blessings of what is called Order had been exaggerated.

Edmund Burke, the Cicero of the English senate, was, like his prototype, born a sophist according to the better sense of that misused word. No other thought acquired so firm a hold on his brilliant though unstable mind as this, that any proposition can be defended with equal plausibility, from which he readily drew this very Saxon conclusion that the only rule of practice is the rule of thumb. It would have been well for the effect of his influence, if not for his fame, had these opinions induced philosophic indifference. But with the intellect of Pyrrho, he united the eloquence of Æschines, and the passions of a Gracchus. At the bar he would have been esteemed the prince of advocates. Such was the man who first in his “Vindication of Natural Society” exposed the glaring fallacies of that superstition which assumes that prince or pontiff, oligarchy or elective chamber, can do anything for a people which they cannot do for themselves. At a latter period he was able to represent the “Vindication” as a satire on the deistical arguments of Bolingbroke. But no student of the times or the man need doubt that it represents with sufficient fidelity suspicions which had floated across his own restless mind. A few years had passed since the “Vindication ” appeared. A reactionary Government had thrown a people long accustomed to freedom into a state bordering on revolution. Amid world-wide mutterings of the coming tempest, the attention of all England was suddenly riveted to that intellectual meteor which bore the ever formidable name of Junius. After all the discussion which they have elicited, the authorship of the letters usually attributed to this person remains as great a mystery as ever. But a theory recently defended with much plausibility, and very interesting in connection with our present subject, did not fail to strike the most sagacious of observers long ago.

For sometimes he like Cerberus would seem
“Three gentlemen at once,” (as sagely says
Good Mrs. Malaprop); now you might deem
He was not even one; now many rays
Were flashing round him; and now a thick steam
Hid him from sight like fogs on London days.
Now Burke, now Tooke, he grew to people’s fancies,
And certes often like Sir Philip Francis.
I’ve an hypothesis—’tis quite my own,
I never let it out till now, for fear
Of doing people harm about the throne,
And injuring some minister or peer,
On whom the stigma might perhaps be blown:
It is—my gentle public, lend thine ear! ‘
Tis, that what Junius we are wont to call,
Was really, truly,–nobody at all.

The idea of a composite authorship thus whimsically suggested, bears, as it did to Byron, the recommendation of being the only one which reconciles a whole train of disconnected and conflicting indications—the evident marks of Burke, Pitt, Sackville, Francis, and others; the fact that almost every one of these persons suffers in the book he is inferred to have written; the scraps of external evidence connecting so many people with the publication; the denials; the later attempts to claim authorship; above all, the mystery itself. No anonymous writer except Junius has attracted celebrity and yet escaped detection. Fifty years later such a combination of persons having little in common but discontent, would, of course, have set up a newspaper and engaged as manager some able hack in whom that impersonal omniscience which is among the peculiarities of Junius would have surprised no one. The letters are a connecting link between the old serial tract and the modern “organ,” with the clouds and thunderbolts of editorial Jove. But who was the penman of the confederacy There was at that time in England a writer, addicted both before and afterward to “inspired ” pamphleteering, and almost proved to be an agent of Lord Chatham, who fulfils two conditions both lacking in any Junius ever named till lately. His acknowledged works are as good as the Junius letters, and not at all unlike them in style, and, as was long since guessed must be the case with Junius, he lived to prosecute the same work more successfully in other lands. Thomas Paine is known to history almost exclusively as an author. His private life was so solitary and obscure, and has been so misrepresented, that it is only from his writings we can infer his character, though it is clear from his known actions that the gall in his mouth did not reach so low as the heart. He first appeared in print in 1772 with a pamphlet dedicated to Oliver Goldsmith, and entitled the “Case of the Excise Officers”—to which class he belonged. He was dismissed from office April, 1774. All the Junius letters were written between the beginnings of 1769 and 1773. The last words contained in them (after a year’s silence) are to the effect that the public and the cause are abandoned—no ten men can be got to act together. During the year 1774 Paine became acquainted with Dr. Franklin. It was under the patronage of the Quaker revolutionist that he went to America. We may hope it has become needless to tell American readers how his “Common Sense” (December, 1775,) first raised the standard of independence; how the “Crisis,” continued amid the horrors of Valley Forge, supplied the watchword which Washington gave his soldiers on the night of that awful Christmas when they crossed the Delaware amid floating ice, and marched to surprise Trenton in the snow where men fell down frozen; how in the “Rights of Man” (1791) he dared to encounter Burke for the cause of humanity, represented at that time by revolutionary France ; how the French elected him, a non-resident alien, from four constituencies to the National Assembly; how he proposed to afford the unfortunate king an asylum in the transatlantic republic ; or how near he came to paying for his magnanimity with his 1ife. That meanest of all hatreds, the theological, has denied him even a grave in the country he did so much to save, and almost a place in her history; but on the stone which marks the spot where his bones once lay, it would be very proper to inscribe—

Si queris monumentum, circumspice.

The same author (Van Buren Denslow) who has advocated Paine’s claim to have been Junius, shows more reasons than I can reproduce for suspecting that he was employed by Jefferson to draft the Declaration of Independence. Both these celebrated works and all his acknowledged writings are, equally in the larger and smaller traits of style, alike. All begin by stating the loftiest ideal, that it may be contrasted with the actual work of individuals—a terrible method of invective, for it will make any one and anything seem odious and contemptible—but it is much more than that. It is the morality of Christianity which is used in the “Age of Reason” to demolish everything Christians consider sacred—to make Moses a cutthroat, Solomon a voluptuary, Isaiah a Bombastes, Paul a twaddle, and even Jesus a suicide who destroyed himself by being righteous overmuch. And this essential spirit of Christianity—transcendental, inexorable, emancipated from theological forms—is the spirit of Anarchism also. By virtue of it Paine became “the apostle of chronic revolution.” From his time we shall never miss those who treat the assumption that Government is necessary as he did. “It is not the disorder, but the physician; it is not a casual concurrence of calamitous circumstances; it is the pernicious hand of Government which alone can make a whole people desperate.”— (“Junius,” January 21, 1769.) “Society in every state is a blessing, but Government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one.”— (“On the Origin and Design of Government,” in “Common Sense.”)


France, like England, had her precursors of the Anarchistic movement. From the time of Des Cartes an abstract theorism, appealing against dogmas and institutions to first principles, had possessed her philosophers. Alike in physics, in religion, and in social arrangements, the cry was: “Return to Nature!” This expression, if it be offered as scientific, is justly blamed for vagueness, which abundantly appears in the use Rousseau made of it. But for rhetorical purposes it is adequate enough. From a priori assumptions to natural phenomena, from the systems of the schools to the instincts of the individual mind, from Trianon to the fête of the Goddess Reason; such was the tendency plainly exhibited in almost the whole literature of the century which preceded ’88. At the moment of victory, however, this clearly Anarchistic movement separated from another, which was not Anarchistic But democratic. Ranting about Brutus, Timoleon, Harmodius, and Aristogiton, the tree of liberty watered with the blood of tyrants, the majesty of the nation, the sanctity of law, the social contract, Terror, “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death”—the democratic revolutionists of France, the Robespierres, and Barères, the poets of the guillotine, the Ciceros of the Carmagnole, were about as much Anarchists as the Bonapartists are Republicans. Anarchism gladly washes its hands of them. Its progress, never checked in America since the time of Paine, reappears in France under new influences after the fall of the republic.

George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, the systematizer of German Transcendentalism, was not by any means an Anarchist himself. But though he supported the government of Prussia and it in turn supported him, his theory on what they call the Left, has proved the most revolutionary in history. His influence can be very clearly traced in Saint Simon. Proudhon, Marx, and Bakounine, the three greatest in the Anarchist propaganda, all professed to be his disciples. To give anything like an outline of his system is neither necessary nor possible from what he would call our standpoint. Two things sufficiently difficult our subject demands—to make intelligible his connection with past philosophy on the one hand and with the Anarchistic revolution on the other. We may begin the former where most men now begin—with the inductive methods of Bacon and Des Cartes. Of the immense practical results to which these methods lead we need not speak. Enough that they lead up to a speculative paradox. There is no mind but in matter. There is no matter but in mind. Neither having any substantive being, all theories of their relation are futile–Materialism, Idealism, Dualism, are alike nonsense, we know and can know nothing. Such was Hume’s Agnosticism, a monster from which nature recoils. Kant endeavors to disarm it by surrender. True, he says, we know the reality of nothing. But our own view of things we do know. Eternally unable to reach a theory of the world as it is, we may deduce from the laws of our own being a doctrine sufficient to our guidance of what it is for us. This is the basis of Transcendental philosophy, a transfigured Idealism, as the other is a transfigured Materialism. It soon appeared, however, that the contradiction recurs in another shape. Among those “laws of consciousness” which we are to investigate, the fundamental one is this great paradox that I, a worm of the dust, am also the Supreme Authority by which myself and all others are judged. Not to lose our thread amid metaphysical mazes, we pass over all the attempts of Fichte and Schelling to derive either God from man or man from God, and come at once to Hegel’s mode of meeting this dilemma with its bristling horns. His tactic is another flank movement. True, the paradox is insoluble. But if we will take it at that, we shall find that from it we can deduce all other paradoxes of existence, and that of them the whole universe is made up. All life is duplex; all progress is by conflict; thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, objectively action, reaction, and resultant, are all there is or can be. And “these three are one.” Worked out with German refinement of method, this notion of relativity undermines the foundation of all institutions, makes creeds, laws, customs, theories, ethics, all alike transitional, explains their evolution, casts their horoscope, and shows how they must pass away. The works of Saint Simon, impertinent otherwise to our subject, are noteworthy as the first of their kind in which these principles are applied. Socialism, so far as Saint Simon’s influence extends, no longer looks to Benedictine voluntary societies, or undiscovered islands, but to the inevitable result of tendencies which no man and no Government can do much either to forward to retard.

Pierre Joseph Proudhon was born in 1809 at Besançon, the most conservative place in France, under very humble circumstances. In boyhood he tended cows. At sixteen, however, he entered the college of Besançon, where he managed to pursue his studdies by borrowing the necessary books; at nineteen he became a compositor, and the opportunities of the printing office were so well employed that in 1837 he had become proficient in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and ventured on an “Essai de grammaire générale.” This production is considered of no value by modern philologists, but it won him the triennial stipend of one thousand five hundred francs, which enabled him to visit Paris. In 1840 he published his first volume, the title “What is Property ” the answer, his famous apothegm, “Property is Robbery.” France is not America. There was talk of cutting off Proudhon’s pension; but his academical judges, with the economist Blanqui at their head, decided that, while the Government might suppress seditious publications, the savant addressing savants must be absolutely free. During the next seven years he became known to the Socialists of Europe by his “Creation of Order in Humanity” and his “Economic Contradictions,” or “Philosophy of Misery,” in which works his Hegelianism is most fully exhibited. He also succeeded in getting tried for sedition. He deprecated the Revolution of 1848 as premature; but when it had begun, he threw himself into it with zeal. Its prematureness appeared in the ill-success of his plans. Elected to the Constituent Assembly, he proposed a progressive tax on rent and interest. His attempt to found a bank of gratuitous credit failed totally, for want of subscribers the bourgeois said, but it may be suspected the true cause was his imprisonment for agitation, which had already cost him several fines (paid by his admirers). While under restraint for three years, he married, and also published several works, the last of which was regarded as an apology for the coup d’état. This second period of his active life (1848-1852) was also that of his greatest literary prolificity and widest influence. After his release he remained tolerably quiet for about six years, when another attack on existing order compelled him to fly. The amnesty of 1860 recalled him; but his health had broken down after an attack of cholera, and he died in 1865, continuing to labor to the last. As not unfrequently happens, the great man, valued in life for qualities which he hardly possessed, and afterward discarded for being wiser than others, suffered an eclipse of fame, until his real merits were brought to light by interpreters, who then, in due course, became idolators. The most unfriendly critic must find Proudhon interesting as a self-made man, a model of industry, honesty, purity, sincerity, blame1ess in all relations, full of daring and originality. Regarded as an apostle of Anarchy, his merit is threefold. He was the first of Socialistic writers to grasp the deep distinction between property and possession.

He was the first to see that governmental sanction makes the difference, by enabling the proprietor to exact rent and interest for that use which is a natural right—the first, therefore, (of course) to reach the synthesis. Neither a communistic society like Oneida, nor a State Socialism, making property common is the remedy, but the abolition of government itself, which involves that of property and leaves use the only title to possession. He first dared to use the word Anarchy in a good sense. Hence his claim to be the founder of Anarchism. Nature, however, did not design him for a philosopher, but a journalist. The bulk of his fifty volumes consists in tracts, pamphlets, articles, and other ephemeral literature, and the rest have that sensational character proper to them only. In fine, he created the statics of Anarchy. For its dynamics we must refer to his rival Marx.

Eau Claire, Wis.


Among those philosophers, as yet known only to special students, but rapidly increasing in general celebrity, who have demonstrated the necessity of freedom from the curse of Government to the social progress of the future, this honorable distinction belongs to Karl Marx that he has given Anarchism its economic method. No one who knows anything about His “Capital,” disputes 1ts title to rank among the epoch-making volumes—with the “Organon,” the “Novum Organum,” the “Principia,” the “Wealth of Nations,” the “Origin of Species.” Orthodox economists, opposed the most inveterately to its theory, speak of it with reverence as a scientific history of the bourgeois system. Marx himself would undoubtedly have valued it chiefly as an analytic study of capital, the pivotal idea of modern civilization, which the bourgeois economists themselves have treated so carelessly as never to have agreed on any definition of the term. But to the Anarchist critic the glory of Marx will appear to center around his demonstration that capital derives that power of exploitation which is its very essence, from the protection afforded to it by Government. The marrow of his system is in the following reflections: What is capital? It is wealth applied to produce more wealth. So say the economists. What is a negro slave? A human being of the black race. The latter definition is as instructive as the other. A negro is a negro. Under certain social conditions he is a slave? A power loom is an apparatus for the production of commodities. Under the peculiar conditions of bourgeois ownership it is capital. Marx, accordingly, is the only economist who has originally reached a correct view of capital. Capital is not wealth applied to produce more wealth, but property, not necessarily wealth, applied to appropriate the “surplus value” of products. When the conditions of production are such that above the cost of raising and keeping laborers and material there remains a surplus for the owner of the material and “employer” of labor, that surplus is, to him, productive capital. When the conditions are such that the surplus, whatever it may be, falls to the owner, so that a low or minus quantity will fall to him if anywhere, then, more generally, the property is capital, and we have the bourgeois system of competition among capitalists. Clearly these conditions are determined by law. Marx, in the historical portions of his great work, shows how they begin with the capitalization of land about the time of Henry VIII. Land held under feudal conditions is not capital, but 1and treated as a simply purchasable commodity is. Other commodities, labor products, have perhaps always been capital to the merchant. Slaves are capital to the slaveowner. The mercantile, bourgeois, or capitalistic system of society, whose classic land is Britain, came in with that change in the laws which abolished or reduced to insignificance feudal tenures and servile obligations, and brought face to face the capitalists competing against each other for surplus value and the wage workers competing against each other for leave to maintain existence by creating it. It did not escape the acuteness of Marx that governments, by whose fiat both wealth and its necessary antecedents are made property and capitalized, were originally organized that one nation might exploit another by means of war. He had accordingly no faith in the State Socialistic scheme of establishing equity by making a single capitalist out of the Government itself. The nation is a military, not an industrial organization. Government is an apparatus for exploitation, and is adapted to no other purpose. That solidarity by which exploitation may be suppressed is to be found only in an international association of the trades which are to supersede the governments. Thus his system is Anarchistic. As Luther was out with other Protestants, as Paul (we now know) was at odds with other Christians, so Marx was at feud with other Anarchists. The first of his quarrels was with Proudhon, whose “Philosophy of Misery” he answered in his satirical brochure “The Misery of Philosophy.” Proudhon, indeed, had done several things to make Marx angry. His French flippancy offended the systematic German. The earnest soul of Marx was provoked by his love of paradox, which caused those who did not think him insane to pronounce him a sensational journalist ambitious only to be read. Besides they differed about details. Both professed to follow Hegel in the philosophy of history and Ricardo in the science of economy. But they interpreted these scriptures differently. Proudhon, though exalted by his own sect into an Anarchistic Pope whose utterance must be received of necessity de fide, was willing to accept the aid of the State. Marx, in his hatred of the State, appealed to the Commune. But if Proudhon was the Peter and Marx the Paul of Anarchism, Bakounine might be called the John. Or to revert to the parallel of Protestantism, he was to the Frenchman and the German what the Italian reformer had been then.

Babylonis muros delebat Lutherus,
Tecta Calvinus, sed fundamenta Socinus.

His nihilistic metaphysics resolved Hegel’s procession from the absolute into the dream of the individual soul. His destructive radicalism would substitute for the Commune and the International Association the dynamite bomb in the hands of individuals. Marx procured the expulsion from the association of his followers, who, like the Proudhonites afterward, arrogated to themselves the name of Anarchists, and in so doing he sacrificed his own opportunity of holding together the most formidable of revolutionary organizations. But though unfortunate in the seventies, this will hardly be regretted in the nineties. Bakounine was even wiser than he knew. Organization is not a benefit but a detriment to individualism. Amid these controversies, Marx was carrying to completion his great philosophic work. He believed in systematic demonstration. He aimed, therefore, at exhaustive analysis, which makes his “Capital” extremely stiff reading. Every living conception of the mind has a content, and a form, which must be carefully distinguished from the content. The content is determined by quality, the form by quantity. The former is relative, the latter is equivalent. The quality of value inheres in use, the quantity in exchange. The use is determined by the quality of labor, the exchangeable property by the quantity of labor. A single commodity cannot in the same expression assume the relative form of value (x is worth y) and the equivalent form (y is worth x). The relative form is only “x is worth —.” Nevertheless the relative form expresses a quantity, though an unknown quantity. If “x is worth —” then x is worth labor. But when the equivalent form refers to a commodity (which labor is not), then it expresses not the quantity of labor but the quality. If x is worth y, then x is worth use. The form x is worth y, being applied with denominations, may be expanded by induction thus, x linen = y tea = z thread = p flour etc. If we agree to make each of these an equivalent except the last, z, thread becomes a general equivalent. Money is the general equivalent in use. Now, in exchange each man parts with what is a use to the other but not to him, for what is a use to him but not the other. The exchange values are equal and are measured in money. The exchange divides into the processes of purchase and sale. But money does not mean coin. It means an ideal measure of value; which consideration introduces the theory of credit. Gold in being monetized ceases to be a commodity but resumes this character continually. In the exchange of non-capitalists the circuit is—Commodities—Money—Commodities. But in the exchanges of capitalists the form is—Money—Commodities—Money. Now, use is the end of exchange; and in this capitalistic circuit there would be no use, unless money were worth more than money. How is this surplus realized? It is realized through the exploitation of labor. This introduces the historical discussion, in which it is shown how labor, being excluded from material by law, becomes purchasable like commodities, and falls under the operation of the general economic rule that competition reduces prices to the cost of production. The cost of producing a laborer determines the price of his life, now as under slavery. The surplus produced by his labor belongs to the capitalists. But as the laborer is also the consumer, this surplus itself comes under the law of competition. Capitalists must compete against each other to cheapen goods as well as wages. As prices approach the cost of production, surplus value becomes harder to realize, and those commercial panics which, increasing like earthquakes during the old age of a planet, forbode the ruin of the capitalistic structure, are not secondary but primary phenomena of that very reduction of prices to cost which competition causes. The final result has been delayed by the opening of new markets, but the end—the trust, the cessation of production, and the resulting revolution, are clearly foretold by Marx in 1867. The Pauline and Petrine parties of Anarchism, like those of Christianity, have made “progress by conflict” beyond the area of those conditions in which conflict was necessary. Their fundamental harmony, as representing the statical and dynamical theories of capitalism from the Anarchistic standpoint, has become obvious; and that dogmatism which maintains the exclusive prerogative of either must prove unfruitful and vanish in obscurity. The Proudhonite is to the twentieth century the same sort of an anachronism as the Ebionite to the second. Popery, ever unlovely, is yet a natural result of a system essential dogmatic and collective, but freethought with a standard of orthodoxy and Anarchism kissing the big toe of Saint Pierre Joseph’s successor, is a little too incongruous. There are points at which Marx’s economy might be criticised. He was too close a follower of Ricardo, who, where he differed from Malthus, was generally in the wrong. He, however, had at least read Malthus, and was sensible that the emancipation of women was indispensable to that of men; in both which respects he had the advantage over Proudhon. His devotion requires no exposition. He had been rich, but all his sympathies were with the poor. He was a man of station, but he recognized no merit except labor. He had abandoned all expectation of immortality, but he labored for eternity alone. He was a Jew, but the idea of his life was to overthrow the tyranny of the capitalist and the usurer. His philosophic work has outlived his inconsistent attempt to organize a military revolution upon the principles of industrial anarchy, and will forever insure his position among those “immortal dead who live again.”


It is a corollary from the law of reaction that a doctrine favorable to authority will alienate people from their rulers most where these are least in sympathy with themselves. In France, accordingly, in Germany, and in America, the effect of the Hegelian metaphysics were far less radical than in Russia. Proudhon, Marx, Saint Simon, Lassalle, and most of the American Anarchists, have shown a strong disposition to opportunism, acting with existing parties for what they could get. Russian Anarchism alone appears absolutely independent and destructive— Nihilism, a movement whose first demand is the repudiation of all existing laws, whether civil, theological, or social. The only institutions with which it has shown any disposition to compromise are those which antedate the empire—the Sklavonic village, its annual division of land and election of officers by universal male and female suffrage. Not, of course, that all Russian radicals go so far. Most of them would be very well content for the present with a representative legislature. But these only act with the Nihilists. They cannot speak for them. Consider what the Hegelian doctrine of universal antinomy means in its most abstract shape (the left). It destroys first all the ordinary motives. I am nothing but a link in the chain of causes and effects, whose only escape from being broken is to bring my will into harmony with my destiny. To act for pleasure, money, power, fame, for love, or friendship—in short, for self, under any term, is to invite, not mere death, which is nothing, but the misery of wanting to live when I must die. The beginning of wisdom is self-annihilation, death accepted, life renounced, mere physical existence guarded only as I would guard that of a private whom I command in battle, for the sake of the work which it may be used in. What, then, is this work? It is the Nihilist propaganda. Society is constituted on a principle the reverse of my own. It begins in selfishness. It ends in dissolution. To hasten this result is the sole business of the hour. First among the delusions to be destroyed is the common idea of religion—happiness to be attained, punishment to be feared, otherwise than as a consequence of being or not being a willing instrument of progress, which, for the present, means only pulling down; a God who can confer immortality on ephemera; a heaven to soothe, a hell to intimidate, those masses who naturally chafe under oppression. Inseparably united with this superstition is that of the State—the idea that there is or can be anything in Government but a conspiracy of knaves to steal from fools. Property, the creature of the State, falls instantly under a like condemnation. Not only is claiming anything without improving it a. bald, bare wrong, like slavery, but, while every one else does so, the true man has no business even to possess anything. He cannot eat, drink, sleep, without paying toll to the monster which his only thought is to destroy. He has no excuse for doing any of these things except that he is “a part of the revolutionary capital,” not to be wasted, but used in the great work of overthrow. Morality, founded on property, goes. with it. To kill, to steal, to commit adultery, are, indeed, foolish actions, if done from vulgar motives; but to have the slightest scruple about doing them on account of those alleged rights which the fundamental wrong finds it convenient to institute is transcendent folly. Those whose death will benefit the cause must die. Whatever the cause can advantageously use must be instantly taken for it. To seduce a person into an act which commits him or her to the revolution, is a good deed. The cultivation of art and science is judged by the same standard. Why invent machinery which assists capital to exploit labor; why expend talent upon music or poetry which influences the pernicious passion of patriotism or dissolves in esthetic apathy, spirits which might be upheaving the foundations? Science is useful so far as it teaches us to burn and blow up. Art is beneficial if it fosters discontent. Finally, all half-way reform is but a method of delaying the blessed consummation. In particular, any attempt to substitute better institutions for those now existing is utterly to be abhorred. All institutions are to be abolished. Organization, except for the one purpose of annihilation, is an evil. This was the point at which Marx fell out with the Russian revolutionists, who then arrogated the name of Anarchists in Europe, as the Proudhonites do now in America. Two points in the natural history of Russian Nihilism require emphasis—that it actually is what it is here represented, and that its central impulses are optimism and benevolence. The first appears sufficiently from its record. Hegelian metaphysics were the favorite study, and became the intellectual starting point of that entire Russian school which followed Turgenief–of Tchernychewsky and Tolstoi not less than Bakounine. But it always proceeds at once to action of a character unknown in any other country. A young girl shoots a brutal captain of police, not because she wanted to kill him, but because she was determined his deeds should be known. A lady of station spends years among the peasants sharing their labors so faithfully, and speaking their jargon so well, that they never suspect her rank. Her object is to obtain means of killing the Emperor, which she accomplishes, after such failures as a month’s subterranean labor for the purpose of blowing up a railroad station—done just a moment too late to catch the Czar. For weeks there is not a day but witnesses an immense incendiary fire. Explosions occur in the palace. Treason is written in the Empress’s album. The army is honeycombed with plots. The organizers of this vast conspiracy have a secret press which floods the country with their literature; they have numbers, signs of recognition, meeting places, committees which direct them to apply the torch, to hurl the bomb, to contract such marriages and seek such homes as may best serve “the revolution.” “These are Scythians!” exclaimed Napoleon, as he gazed upon the flames of Moscow. To the fearless remorselessness of the Scythian, Nihilism adds the obedience of the Jesuit. The optimism and philanthropy of the Russian revolution need no evidence but its terrors. Pessimism is never severe. Despair may prompt particular acts of ruthlessness, but only hope takes the trouble to be ruthless systematically. The Miltonic Satan, propagating misery because he suffers it, has no archetype in nature. Mephistopheles does not, to say, hate, he only despises and depreciates. It takes a good lover to make a good hater, like these fanatics whose “cold passion” illuminates the dreariest dungeon in Saghalien as with Arctic light. The merciless sweep of their philosophy creates a blank like the track of a Turanian army led by an Attila or a Genghis.

As when the force
Of subterranean wind transports a hill
Torn from Pelorus, or the shattered side
Of thundering AEtna, whose combustible
And fueled entrails, thence conceiving fire,
Sublimed with mineral fury, aid the winds,
And leave a singed bottom, all involved
With stench and smoke.

The essential tenderness of their hearts appears in this that all of them—Bakounine, Tchernychewsky, Kropotkine, and the rest, see in this universal ruin the beginning of a new creation which makes it all worth dying for. Michael Bakounine was born in 1814 at Torzhok, Tver. He sprang, like Kropotkine, from the highest Russian aristocracy. Having left the army to study philosophy abroad, and refused to return, he forfeited his property. His earliest political associations were with Poles, Germans, and Frenchmen, a fact which shows the cosmopolitanism of his mind. It is very hard for a Russian to do justice to Poland. Her insolent aristocracy, her popish peasantry, her old wrongs to Russia, repel him as the faults of a natural enemy do every man. After the revolutionary movements of 1848, Bakounine was twice sentenced to death, and twice received a commutation to imprisonment. At length he was given up to the Czar and sent into Siberia, whence he escaped by way of the Amoor and Japan to America (1861). His expulsion from the International by decree of Marx (1872) was the death of that organization and the beginning of his great influence in Italy and Spain. Bakounine was not a voluminous writer. He thought in deeds. His claim to be the true founder of Anarchism rests on this, that while Proudhon and Marx demanded time and made use of votes, he insisted on the duty of immediate separation from the world, and on dynamite (in the synecdochical sense of that term) as the only remedy against oppression. Though the milder methods of Tolstoi have to some extent superseded his, it will always be remembered that he made the Anarchists a party.


The austere optimism of Christianity, which we have found to pervade archaic Anarchism and also the ultra-nihilism of the Russians, is equally involved in the first principles of Hegel and in those of that “transfigured Materialism” whose best known apostle is Herbert Spencer. According to the English philosopher, as the German, “the essential beneficence of things” is not to be questioned. The seeming cruelties of Nature, earthquakes, pestilences, tigers, famines, wars, are the apparatus by which she performs selection; and perfect happiness, an indefinitely distant end, is, through all suffering, constantly approximated. Thus the whole native philosophy of modern Europe rests on a premise implicitly taken from a Semitic religion. We have but to question the premise and it falls. The Aryan intellect was not likely to overlook such a vulnerable point. Arthur Schopenhauer, the apostle of Pessimism, had evidently, by his own reflections, entered upon the same path as his Asiatic precursor, Kapila, when in 1813 he produced his treatise on the “Fourfold Root of the Sufficient Reason.” But at this time he had no acquaintance with the religious systems of Hindoostan. Introduced to them subsequently, he at once recognized as his master the great prophet of the distant East, and declared himself the preacher of a Western Buddhism. The fundamental maxim of Schopenhauer, as of that Asiatic school which gave rise to Buddha, is “volition precedes intelligence.” What without is force, within is will. As a contemporary and student of Hegel, though it was on Hegel that he poured the inexhaustible resources of his scorn, Schopenhauer finds in these, the thesis and antithesis, and in consciousness, which is but their result, the synthesis. It follows that consciousness springs from a conflict of impulses, and must be painful. Extinction, “Nirvana,” eternal sleep, alone is happiness. This philosophy is necessarily Atheistic. The Buddha revolted against even the vague Pantheism of the Brahmans, and Schopenhauer against that of Hegel. Nature, “The Unconscious,” as he calls it, is rather a Satan than a deity; it is perverse will driving us to wake, though reason directs that we should seek to sleep; and, though ignorant, it is cunning enough to delude us with visions of unattainable rewards (1) in this life, (2) in heaven, (3) in the applause of posterity, (4) in the approbation of conscience and the knowledge that we are doing good. But “be these juggling fiends no more believed.” Life is vanity and vexation, heaven the dream of a dotard, and fame an apple of Sodom. Benevolence, indeed, may derive some satisfaction from living to benefit others. But of course that is the only way they can be benefited, by teaching them, and therefore primarily ourselves, to so overcome desire that we shall not relapse into the Unconscious and be thrown up again by its restless waves, but shall pass into the imperturbable haven of utter annihilation beyond the clutches of this blind, mad tyrant, the original—

Monstrum horrendum, informe, ingens, cui lumen ademptum.

The Transcendentalists and Evolutionists found it much easier to ignore Schopenhauer than to refute him. His invectives and trumpet-calls to battle fell on ears which the Unconscious had deafened; and for thirty years his name was almost unknown to the schools. His ideas have, however, been popularized by Von Hartman; and like those of Sakya Mouni, they have lately received an accession of breadth at the expense of depth, by uniting with the occult craft of Theosophy. The optimism of material progress has nothing with which to resist them. The chariot of Buddha rolls its unchecked wheel throughout the West today as formerly across the East. Anarchism alone can vindicate Optimism in our time. Ralph Waldo Emerson (born 1803, died 1882) is the best exponent of its metaphysical principle. The pessimist assumes that men always pursue an object. Like some genie architect of sepulchral gloom, he lays out the lines along which this is done, every one of them ending in the labyrinths of impossibility, the Eblis halls of convention, the dungeons of satiety, or the pitfalls into which those who follow the most alluring bubbles fall down and disappear forever. But the whole castle of despair vanishes at this disenchanting spell, “Men seek primarily their own way.” Power, wealth, reputation, the love of men or women, aye, even guidance, are sought because they are supposed to confer emancipation. It follows, first, that to expect the solution of life’s riddle in any of these external things is a very great mistake.

Per mi si va nella citta dolente.

But, secondly, it follows that this mistake, bad as it is, is curable. Individuals perish, but the soul remains with its experiences. “If in the hours of clear reason we should speak the severest truth, we should say that we had never made a sacrifice.” There is a fundamental harmony in nature which underlies all the antimonies of the human will, as the inequalities of the Alps and Andes become insignificant in the profile of the sphere. Even Schopenhauer acknowledged that in art, which is the realm of imagination, the will approximates to creative order. But why should art be limited to chiseling and daubing, to jingling and strumming? Why should we not serve the ideal in eating and drinking, in fasting and working? Within us, if we will receive it, is the divinity which inspires all art and furnishes every artist with his archetypes. If we will but be guided by our intuitions, we shall find opening before us a pathway like the dawn which shineth more and more unto the perfect day. This reliance upon conscience—an inheritance from a line of Puritan ancestors—is what raises Emerson’s optimism above commonplace, for otherwise it has entered into the inspiration of all prophets, west of India, and therefore into the cant of all the western sects. Its Anarchism is as plain as day. For if the only sacred law is that of the individual’s nature, it follows immediately that every external law, whether civil, critical, ethical, or social, is an obstacle not only to the perfect life of the sage, but to that progress which is bringing common men up to the same level. Accordingly, Emerson, though he seldom meddled with politics, has been recognized both by friends and foes as the especial propagator of Anarchy in literature and speculation. It is probable, however, that his importance to philosophy has never received sufficient acknowledgment until now. He has been accused of imitating Carlyle, though they had little in common except hatred of conventionality and humbug. Carlyle, if he meant all he said, was the panegyrist of visible genius only. Emerson was the discoverer of genius in the humblest individual. But I misjudge Carlyle if he did not delight in mystification. Emerson’s candor can no more be disputed than the sun’s. He is getting to be very much quoted, which Carlyle never will be. Emerson has also been taxed with having no positive doctrine, though it ought to be clear enough that the Anarchists, who will always reverence his name, are the only originals now fertilizing a desert of eclecticism. The form1essness of Emerson’s writings, as he invariably maintained, is the mark of their inspiration. System is that of quackery. But above all others, the favorite charge of the Philistines against Emerson is that he taught an immoral Pantheism, in which the sinfulness of sin and the hope of immortality are explained away. Now, it is very certain that if Pantheism means that which identifies God with the universe, so as to deny that there is any God except Nature, Emerson was no Pantheist—nothing like as much so as Hegel—that the transcendence of the Deity was quite as clear to him as the immanence, though he laid more stress on the latter.

They reckon ill who leave me out;
When me they fly, I am the wings;
I am the doubter and the doubt,
And I the hymn the Brahmin sings.

The same author wrote :

My thunderbolt has eyes to see
His way home to the mark.

“Time and space are only inverse measures of the force of the soul.” “Moons are no more bounds to spiritual power than bat balls.” “Our being is descending into us from we know not whence. When I watch that flowing river which, out of regions I see not, pours for a season its streams into me, I see that I am a pensioner, not a cause, but a surprised spectator of this ethereal water; that I desire and look up, and Put myself in the attitude of reception, but from some alien energy the visions come.” To misconstrue such words is not a mark of Philistinism, but its quintessence. Emerson would have stooped to answer it, and never did. By degrees the prophets of Baal got tired of attacking an Elijah who would not fight, and began to study his fire as a psychical phenomenon. But it is not a phenomenon, not a credo, it is religion herself, who thus dares to appear unadorned and proclaims her immortality by casting all the scales of dogmas and dialectics.


When history attains her own majority, she will divide the philosophers and poets of all ages, but particularly ours, into two classes—the sayers and the doers, those who were but word-catchers and those whose words were deeds. The thingness of Liberty appears in this, that every actual addition to the possessions of the human mind has been made in enlarging her empire. This is the glory of the Thinkers in Things—of Bacon, Copernicus, Adam Smith, John Locke. It is also the praise of those who poetized realities—of Shelley, for example, Byron, Ibsen, Tolstoi, all bards of freedom, as were also, though this be less obvious, the great poets of an earlier period—Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Goethe. As often happens, the first in that choir whose acknowledged muse is Freedom were the least. William Godwin (1756-1836) was a writer of very considerable power and originality, but neither as thinker nor imaginer can he be classed with the other men of this memoir. His fame rests chiefly on two romances, “Caleb Williams” and “St. Leon,” both interesting stories, both abounding in impossibilities, both owing their reputation rather to the author’s narrative ingenuity than his dramatic genius. Both were intended to illustrate his social theories. “Caleb Williams” shows the power of wickedness in high places. “St. Leon,” suggested by the author’s controversy with Malthus, turns upon the possibility of terrestrial immortality, and, like the legend of the Wandering Jew, exhibits this as the greatest curse which could befall a solitary individual. In both the story completely hides the moral, for Godwin, though only a clever, not an inspired, writer of fiction, was a far better romancer than philosopher. His “Political Justice,” which called forth the famous essay of Malthus, is an eloquent prophecy of Anarchy and Communism, with universal peace and happiness; but it does not, any more than Sir Thomas More’s “Utopia,” explain how this consummation is to be attained. Percy Bysshe Shelley, the son-in-law of Godwin, is far too great and too generally appreciated a poet to be reviewed, as such, within the space to which I must confine myself. He suffered from “the conspiracy of silence” during the whole of his short life; but his genius has long since conquered recognition, and in the true spirit of those Pharisees who built the tombs of the prophets, all the critics of Philistia render homage to the unrivaled beauty and versatility of his music, the exuberant wealth of his imagination, the liveliness of his wit and fancy, his power of personification, unequaled since the golden age of Greece, the burlesque humor which, united with his other qualities, might have made him the best translator of Faust, and the dramatic genius, surpassed only by Shakespeare, of which he gave abundant demonstration in the “Cenci.” Nor is this quite all. Such analysts generally say as little about his theories as they can; but they let it out that they have found in him these incredible paradoxes, an Atheist and a worshiper, a denier of revelation who believed in immortality as much as Blandina or Rowland Taylor, a professed assailant of marriage and those laws concerning kindred and affinity which nature herself is supposed to have implanted in the heart of universal man, whose conception of love, as shown in his voluminous writings on the subject, is not only perfectly free from grossness, but, what is very rare, attains that point of ideal perfection at which the sensuous and the spiritual elements are no longer even distinguishable, but blend like rainbow colors into a ray of unblemished purity. They find in him a revolutionist who detested bloodshed, believed in the omnipotence of ideas, recommended nothing but passive resistance to oppression, and defied the malice of the world to provoke him into an expression of bitterness against any individual. The poor creatures cannot be expected to acknowledge that these incongruous qualities are related to each other as cause and effect. Byron, as much too great and too familiar a subject for our space as Shelley, has been even worse treated by the Philistines. Not content to abuse his ethics, they were always fertile in suggestions that his genius was overrated, that his popularity would decline, that he lacked fundamental originality.

Though he roars very well—this the puppy allows—
Yet ’tis all of it borrowed—mere second-hand roar;
And he vastly prefers his own little bow-wows
To the loftiest war-note the lion can pour.

The predictive part of this has been falsified. Original or not, Byron. has lived down Southey, Hunt, Landor, Browning, Tennyson. Not only among English readers, but in Germany, his reputation still far surpasses any English poet’s except Shakespeare and Milton. Neither can it be questioned that his most heterodox poems have the greatest influence and the best. Schoolgirls weep over the death of “Medora.” Statesmen dog-ear, and philosophers pencil mark, “Don Juan.” A complete history of Byronism is neither easy to arrive at nor necessary for our purposes. There can be no question that the philosophic interest of Byron’s poems is in their Anarchistic spirit—in the defiance of authority and convention which breathes through every line; the idealism which identifies all the phenomena of nature with the passions of the human soul; the self-reliance which having reached the frontiers of pessimism by condemning everything instituted recovers hope in prophesying liberty. And this revolutionary temper does not stop at democracy, but goes the entire length.

I’d have mankind be free
As much from mobs as kings—from you as me.

Some thirty years divide the first generation of Anarchistic poets from the second—thirty years of the eighteenth century moved into the nineteenth, years of slothful peace, conservatism, snobbery, of bourgeois philosophy and peddlar poetry. The new era begins in England with Morris and Swinburne, in America with Whitman. But the fame of these writers, for the present at least, is hardly so great even among English readers, nor is their Anarchism so decided, as that of their foreign contemporaries. Henrik Ibsen, the Hugo of Norway, has within a few years distanced all living poets except Tolstoi. In his own country his reputation dates from 1848, when he shared the perils of that revolutionary era with Marcus Thorand, who last year closed his career of devotion to freedom at Eau Claire. The progress of Anarchistic theory shows in those writings which have made his fame. Shelley always uses the mere word Anarchy in its bad sense, sometimes with most incongruous effect.* Ibsen has avowed himself an Anarchist. The occasion is not propitious for discussing the poetic mint of his writings. It is worthy of note that the most popular are the most Anarchistic. Nora finds that the inward standard of duty, the mens sibi conscius recti-régime, the utter repudiation of the outward standard. “Ghosts” traces the perpetuation of sin and misery to the established sexual law. The philanthropist who does not think the lives of his neighbors less important than the price of real estate is unanimously declared an enemy of the people. It is also remarkable that the older Ibsen grows, and he must be advanced in years, the more weird and fantastic becomes that Gothic imagination which in his youth was hardly recognizable. The “Wind Duck” is to “Nora” as the “Frogs” of Aristophanes to the “Knights.” The influence of Leo Tolstoi is surely destined to increase. The nomenclature alone is a serious obstacle to a Russian author’s popularity in the West, and he is only beginning to overcome it. Tolstoi is a born poet, whose creative genius overpowers his analytical subtlely even in the “Confessions.” Here he differs widely from Ibsen. No one can dispute the poetic greatness of the novelist whose realism has eclipsed that of Tourgeneff, Golgol, and Tchernychewsky. If John Wanamaker had never lived, it might be said with equal truth that no one could dispute the moral elevation of the “Kreutzer Sonata.” Among the poets of Anarchy, Tolstoi holds this peculiar distinction, that even more than Shelley he has vindicated the perfect innocence of the Anarchist ideal. In the land of Bakounine he has substituted ideas for dynamite—the blood of martyrs for that of tyrants. Of all these great men, the two last alone have that uncompleted fame which belongs to those who still live. Anarchy has never had an apostle, but all other phases of progress too many. Therefore like the ancient sages, waiting for the final day I will call no mortal happy while he holds his house of clay. There are certain indications from which I might infer that Anarchism may shortly have a choir of minor poets who, compared with those of staler themes, will not be very small. They consist principally in the scraps of revolutionary verse which, though they want connection, do not want power. Take, for example, the following words given the Commune of Paris in a very brief apologue spoken at Chicago on its anniversary in 1886:—

I am not dead, I am not dead;
I live a life intense, divine.
Yours be the days forever fled;
But all the morrows shall be mine.

Or this, which comes from Australia, apropos to the assassination of the Czar:—

The storm-cloud burst ! From out the storm
The clean red lightning leapt,
And lo! a prostrate royal form
Lies low as any common worm—
And Alexander—slept!
Yes, one lies dead for many millions dead.
One red spot in the snow
For all that damning line of red
His guilt had caused to flow.
And did a woman do this deed?
Then near her scaffold high
That all may on her forehead read
The martyr’s right to die!

Fragmentary as this is, there has been very little writing for a long time which exhibits in equal degree that successful boldness, that audacity of thought and expression brought by the strength of the inspiration into perfect accord with the requirements of harmony, which was in its day the peculiar and inimitable excellence of Pindar.

* Thus the sublime paean of liberty in Hellas begins as follows:–

In the great morning of the world
The Spirit of God with might unfurled
The flag of Freedom over Chaos;
And all her branded Anarchs fled,
Like vultures frightened from Imaus
Before an earthquake’s tread.


The subjects of this paper form a peculiar group in which I do not include Emerson, nor the transatlantic disciples of Proudhon, nor the Chicago martyrs, because there was nothing peculiarly American in their genius. Thomas Jefferson, the friend of Thomas Paine, like him approached the verge of Anarchism without exactly passing it. “The world is governed too much” was his well-known sentiment. His importance to the history of human progress consists in his efforts to reduce authority to a minimum—particularly in this that, as he found it very nearly in that state, he was able to enlist the imitative instinct on the side of liberty, and create what has always been at once the individualistic and the conservative party of America. To his influence we owe those first amendments of the constitution which are the best parts of that much belauded instrument. Hamilton and Jefferson were the bad and good angels of the United States. The former gave us an “olympiad monarchy,” a millionaire senate, “protection,” standing armies; the latter gave us that Patmos of strict construction which has emerged from the deluge of war, like the pyramid after Noah’s flood “rock, rooted in the crust of the earth and buttressed with the everlasting hills.” Since the time of Jefferson, there have always been Anarchists in America. Less original, or at least less famous, individually, than those of other countries, the American Anarchists collectively have many points of superiority. They were mostly hard-headed Yankees, unfamiliar with German metaphysics, but capable of seeing that, as a matter of history, the nearer any people approached a state of pure Anarchy the better off they were, not only morally and intellectually, but, what was perhaps less to be expected, economically. The tractate by one of them, called the “Blazing Star,” develops this observation very happily. That William Lloyd Garrison was a professed Anarchist is not known to every one, though it is that he condemned both voting and war. But his sons’ biography shows that in his mind these positions were parts of a connected system. Theologically unsettled, he always, like Tolstoi, was a Christian in the sense of regarding Jesus as that great man whose moral intuitions had given rise to modern civilization, and was destined to introduce the millennium. Bloodshed was incompatible with Christianity; therefore government was equally so, for government is nothing if not force. Accordingly, to take any part in the process of government is a sin. The harmony and comprehensiveness of these views delighted their author; and he was with difficulty restrained from merging his abolitionism in a crusade against all positive institutions by the entreaties of friends, that he would reserve his force for what he could hope to see effected. What he thus regarded as distinctively Christian is doubtless just as much Buddhistic; but at least it is Oriental. It found its way into Europe with the Gospel; and there can be no stronger proof of the predicted apostasy than that Shelley, Tolstoi, and Garrison, three men who had almost nothing else in common, except a reputation for infidelity, should also be almost the only three living at the same time to maintain a principle so evangelical as this: that patience even to death is the one way of subduing the world to righteousness, and that every attempt of man to govern man for his good is that very surrender to the adversary which was refused upon the Mount of Temptation. The American Anarchists, indeed, quite generally accepted the same theory. There is no reason to doubt that its popularity in the New World was largely due to Quaker influence. But though a Quaker is thus the next thing to an Anarchist, there is an important difference. The Quakers, as Garrison said, were most inconsistent in condemning foreign war, and yet establishing domestic authority, as they did in Pennsylvania. The Anarchist, while he condemns rebellion as the mere substitution of one government for another, must sympathize with any rebellion in the name of freedom rather than with the other side. Jefferson hoped the United States would never be fifteen years without one. In short, Individualism and Transcendentalism are common to both sects, so that between Quakers and Anarchists there is no logical difference, but liberty follows the more directly from Hegel’s premises and peace from those of Fox. Garrison was not the only one to see all this. In 1876 people were surprised to hear a Democratic lawyer of the highest eminence describe the most popular hero living as “a drunken Democrat reeking with the blood of his countrymen shed in domestic brawl.” The sentiment became a feeble illustration of the speaker’s views when it was made known a few years later that Charles O’Conor had long been an Anarchist; and that this was why he would not be President of the United States. Josiah Warren, whose views attracted the respectful notice of John Stuart Mill, is the best known economic writer among the Anarchists of America. Profoundly interested in that great communistic movement which passed over this country during the forties, but repelled from the associations by their almost uniform failure, he reached the Anarchistic generalization that the real evil of society is not competition but privilege—that truly free competition would carry cheapness to the point of communism, as the trusts have since perceived; that profit requires scarcity, and that it could be defeated by “equitable stores” based on the maxim that “cost is the limit of price;” because the managers of such stores, content with wages of superintendence, could undersell the profit-dealers, and so beat them with their own weapons. This project has evidently much in common with the English system of coöperation. It is said to have had some success in America, but not as much as the Rochdale and analogous enterprises. One reason doubtless is in the superior inducements to speculation. But a fundamental reason why it cannot, as he hoped, displace the profit system of any country without political revolution is that Government maintains the basis of all speculation by maintaining property, particularly property in land.

Though the Anarchistic tendency in America, as in England, dates from the last century, there was here, as in Europe, a positive and general revival during the present. The determining conditions in the two countries were slightly different. Active American Anarchism sprang from the great Socialistic movement which was preached by Robert Owen and Frances Wright d’Arusmont. With the latter a new and vitally important element entered into it—the element of women’s rights. In the course of this element itself there can be no difficulty about tracing several converging streams, all I conceive having their first source in what speculative historians call the subjective (which is also the Anarchistic) tendency of modern civilization. Mary Wollstonecraft first gave it definite shape in her “Vindication of the Rights of Woman” (1791). There was perhaps nothing to be called Anarchistic in this book. The authoress only pleaded for the rights of women to equality with men. She sympathized during the French Revolution with the Girondists, who, notwithstanding the Anarchistic leanings of Condorcet and a few others, were doubtless, as a party, even further from Anarchism than the Jacobins. But, none the less, her influence on Anarchism is of capital importance. She was, as almost every one knows, the wife of Godwin and mother-in-law of Shelley, two early and ultra Anarchists. and, besides, the equality of women with men means their personal independence, a fact which the mere advocates of their political claims have had sorry luck in trying to conceal. This is eminently Anarchistic. The tyranny of men over women is not only the oldest of tyrannies, but according to the law of Malthus it is the cause of all others. In the writings of E. H. Heywood, now suffering for the truth in Charleston penitentiary, of E. C. Walker and Moses Harman, who have been similarly persecuted, and of the American Anarchists generally, we find this fundamental wrong not only recognized but selected for emphasis, pushed to the front, and made the real point of attack. This is one of many reasons why American Anarchism far exceeds for vigor that barren type in which the male is all or almost all. Another cause contributing to the same phenomenon is peculiar. European Anarchism has been too much associated with a bald Materialism or with unintelligible Transcendentalism. American, while sturdily and independently inductive in itself, has been re-enforced by all the popularity of an attractive superstition. Since the Rochester rappings (1848) a movement purely indigeneous, and still almost confined to America has at once incited millions to renounce all authority but the internal, and, more particularly, by leading back to the study of its precursor Swedenborg, has destroyed their reverence, first for legal marriage and then for the untenable doctrine of affinity, which thus became the bridge from law to liberty. Accordingly, the American Anarchists are, perhaps, more numerous than all others. Scratch a Spiritualist and you will find an Anarchist. About the writers of this sect I can say little, for I must confess much difficulty in reading them and little respect for any part of their philosophy except the Anarchistic. But here I find myself simply uninitiated. The more I learn about American Socialists and Anarchists, the more general I find their admiration for the coryphaeus of Spiritualism, Stephen Pearl Andrews. Should his pneumatology be vindicated by methods strictly scientific, he may teach us all. Quien sabe?


By Henry Cohen


In the series of articles on “Anarchy’s Apostles” recently printed in the Twentieth Century, it was shown that Anarchy has among other things economists, agitators, metaphysicians, poets, and Americans. As the compiler does not classify himself, will he pardon me if I do it? As he does not very well come under the headings mentioned, I have made a new one under which he will be “a shining light.” As I consider an Anarchist a very logical person, it may be asked why I classify Mr. James as one. To which I answer that all efforts in the past to make Mr. James and his school drop the name, have been unavailing, so I will call him one “only this once” in a mildly satirical way, hoping he will reject the name in future.

From time to time some social reformers have used the word Anarchistic to define their position (or rather positions) and in this way have made it appear that Anarchists believe some very foolish things. But of all of these that I have read none have shown the possibility of the illogical mind better than C. L. James. The evidence on which he calls a man an Anarchist is often as slender as that of the Christian when he tries to make it appear that some great man was a Christian.

Mr. James says Marx was an Anarchist, he also says Warren was an Anarchist, and claims to be one himself. Now, Marx’s remedy is diametrically opposed to Warren’s, as a single quotation will show. And Mr. James differs from both (that is, a part of the time.) In chapter 32, of his “Capital,” Marx says: “This expropriation is accomplished by the action of the immanent laws of capitalistic production itself, by the centralization of capital. The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production, which has sprung up and flourished along with, and under it. Centralization of the means of production and socialization of labor at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalistic integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.” Mr. James says of Warren: “He reached the Anarchistic generalization that the real evil of society is not competition but privilege—that truly free competition would carry cheapness to the point of Communism, as the trusts have since perceived.” Now, which of these theories is Anarchistic? They exclude each other. For if exploitation is caused by the immanent laws of capitalistic production, “free competition ” is the evil and not the remedy. The classing of two such views under one head is the greatest blunder in the series, and the reader can judge of the value of his observations when he makes such mistakes. Mr. James seems to be a great reader, but not a close student. He rejects egoism, and when a new egoistic paper appeared about two years ago, he referred to the editor as “the egotistical editor of Egotism.” Yet in the article on “The Anarchistic Poets,” Ibsen’s name is spelled with capital letters. Ibsen, whose bold, bad Nora abandons her children in a way that causes all good altruists “to shudder and to weep.” Mr. James, though a Socialist, favors Malthus, who finds the evil in man, not in his surroundings. A Communist (at times) he declares speculation to be the evil, instead of private property, as logical Communists claim. I could increase the list of contradictions, but I think there are enough to show that he is “an easy first” for the place of the great illogician.

Denver, Col.


About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.