James L. Walker, aka “Tak Kak” (1845-1904)

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  • James L. Walker, “A Southern Journalist’s Opinion,” Liberty 3, no. 19 (December 12, 1885): 5.
  • Tak Kak, “What is Justice?,” Liberty 3 no. 25 (March 6, 1886): 8.
  • Tak Kak, “Killing Chinese,” Liberty 3 no. 25 (March 6, 1886): 8.
  • Tak Kak, “Selfhood Terminates Blind Man’s Buff,” Liberty 4 no. 5 (July 3, 1886): 8.
  • Tak Kak, “Egoism in Sexual Relations,” Liberty 4 no. 6 (July 17, 1886): 5.
  • Tak Kak, “Regicides and Republicans,” Liberty 4 no. 11 (November 20, 1886): 5.
  • Tak Kak, “The Colin Campbell Suit,” Liberty. 4 no. 13 (January 1, 1887): 4.
  • Tak Kak, “The Rational Utilitarian Philosophy,” Liberty 4 no. 13 (January 22, 1887): 8.
  • Tak Kak, “Proudhon’s Works a Source of Health,” Liberty 4 no. 16 (February 26, 1887): 1.
  • Tak Kak, “Truth and Belief,” Liberty 4 no. 17 (March 12, 1887): 7.
  • Tak Kak, “Stirner on Justice,” Liberty 4 no. 18 (March 26, 1887): 7
  • Tak Kak, “Egoism,” Liberty 4 no. 19 (April 9, 1887): 5-7
  • Tak Kak, “Reply to John F. Kelly,” Liberty 4 no. 24 (July 2, 1887): 7
  • Tak Kak, “On Mr. Kelly’s Final Statement,” Liberty 5 no. 1 (August 13, 1887): 5.
  • Tak Kak, “Noms de Plume,” Liberty 5 no. 1 (August 27, 1887): 5.
  • Tak Kak, “Edgeworth’s Miserable Insinuations,” Liberty 5 no. 4 (September 24, 1887): 5.
  • Tak Kak, “Anarchy, Government, and Liberty,” Liberty 5 no. 6 (October 22, 1887): 6.
  • Tak Kak, “A Reason for Hanging Anarchists,” Liberty 5 no. 11 (December 31, 1887): 4.
  • Tak Kak, “Self-Wisdom and Egoism,” Liberty 5 no. 11 (December 31, 1887): 6.
  • Tak Kak, “Egoism and Selfishness,” Liberty 5 no. 16 (March 10, 1888): 5.
  • Tak Kak, “A Difference of Words Only,” Liberty 5 no. 17 (March 31, 1888): 7.
  • Tak Kak, “A Normal Function,” Liberty 5, no. 26 (August 4, 1888): 5.
  • Tak Kak, “Even So, What Then?” Liberty 7 no. 2 (May 24, 1890): 3.
  • Tak Kak, “Tak Kak Not with the ‘Brave,’” Liberty 7 no. 4 (June 21, 1890): 7.
  • Tak Kak, “The Question of Copyright.—I,” Liberty 7 no. 22 (February 21, 1891): 5.
  • Tak Kak, “Hare and Tortoise,” Liberty 7 no. 22 (February 21, 1891): 7.
  • Tak Kak, “Sentimental and Incomplete,” Liberty 7 no. 23 (March 7, 1891): 1.
  • Tak Kak, “Copyright.—II,” Liberty 7 no. 23 (March 7, 1891): 5–6.
  • Tak Kak, “Copyright.—III,” Liberty 7 no. 24 (March 21, 1891): 4–5.
  • Tak Kak, “A Century of Fraud,” Liberty 8 no. 11 (August 22, 1891): 3.
  • Tak Kak, “Must the Ego Count Himself Out?” Liberty 8 no. 25 (November 28, 1891): 3.
  • Tak Kak, “Egoism or Self-Sacrifice?” Liberty 8 no. 36 (February 13, 1892): 2–3.
  • Tak Kak, “Wiles of the Social Man,” Liberty 8 no. 38 (May 7, 1892): 2.
  • Tak Kak, “Monopoly’s Devious Ways,” Liberty 9 no. 29 (March 18, 1893): 3.
  • Tak Kak, “Spencer and George.—I,” Liberty 9 no. 31 (April 1, 1893): 2.
  • Tak Kak, “Spencer and George.—II,” Liberty 9 no. 34 (April 22, 1893): 2–3.
  • Tak Kak, “Spencer and George.—III,” Liberty 9 no. 38 (May 20, 1893): 2.
  • Tak Kak, “Cleveland’s Commission,” Liberty 9 no. 51 (April 21, 1894): 2–3.
  • Tak Kak, “A Pointer for Trade Unions,” Liberty 14 no. 12 (August, 1903): 4.
  • Tak Kak, “‘Representative’ Government,” Liberty 14 no. 13 (September, 1903): 4.
  • Tak Kak, “The Virus of Specific Moralism,” Liberty 14 no. 14 (October, 1903): 7.


(from The Philosophy of Egoism)

To write a just biographical sketch of a man who has completed the execution of life-long plans is hardly possible. To do justice at writing the life of a man who was cut off by death at the moment of attainment from the execution of plans that had been ripened for almost a lifetime, is quite impossible. In the first undertaking when concrete accomplishment is chronicled there is revealed at least an approximation of the reach and depth of thought exerted; and the failure to depict such a life task may be only in the matter of intensity. While in the second effort the failure must come in the very vital point of inability to reveal even the objects to be accomplished, to say nothing of the breadth reached, depth penetrated, and the in finite detail encompassed by the mind of a brain now numb and for ever stilled.

The life work of James L. Walker presents this lamentable difficulty. This point can perhaps be no more forcefully illustrated than in the following editorial review of what was known of him and his life, published in the “News,” Galveston, Texas, Apr. 19, 1904, upon the receipt of the news of his death:

“Through a letter received yesterday by Mr. Edwin Bruce, secretary of the Galveston school board, the News learns of the death of Dr. James L. Walker, which occurred at Laredo, Mexico, April 2, after an illness of sixteen days. Dr. Walker went to Mexico about seven years ago and was for a number of years connected with the newspaper at Monterey. The News understands that he studied medicine and practiced for some time when he was a young man, and after getting out of the newspaper business in Mexico he resumed practice as a physician. Mr. Walker was for many years connected with the editorial department of the Galveston-Dallas News. He was a deep thinker and a forcible writer. He had few intellectual equals in the state. He belonged to the old school of solid writers, what the present generation call heavy. Those who knew him best recognized him as an intellectual giant. He was pre-eminently a logician and incidentally a fine linguist, versed in dead languages, and a fluent conversationalist in half a dozen modern tongues.

“Owing to his quiet mode of life, few knew of him personally. He was a man who had little to say about himself individually. This is demonstrated by the fact that while he was associated for a number of years with men now connected with the News, there is not one of his former associates who could state with definiteness as to his age or his nationality. Mr. Walker was always ready to discuss any topic of the day or any topic in history with the greatest fluency, but had little to say about his personal affairs. At the same time there was nothing about him to enable one to call him distant or say he was too reserved.

“After severing his connection with the News in 1895, he read law, and was admitted to the bar and practiced at Galveston a short time before he went to Mexico. Mr. Walker was a deep thinker, a ripe scholar and an elegant gentleman. He leaves a wife, who was with him at the time of his death.”

The writer of this effort is handicapped by the same difficulty as was the editor of the Galveston News, more appreciation for the subject than knowledge of his doings. Although there was maintained between Mr. Walker on the one hand, and Georgia Replogle and me on the other, quite a dozen years of correspondence of such a confidential nature as may readily exist between a fond master and his devoted disciples, and this was supplemented by some months of daily association, nevertheless not a sufficient number of facts concerning his past life were gathered to form even a tolerable biography. He talked, always apparently without reserve, about his past when it became incident to the conversation, and would doubtless have answered direct questions concerning it, but no one even dreamed of biography; he was so hale and hearty, and withal so careful of his health that he seemed easily good for more than a score of years. So the precious opportunity was lost in planning for the future rather than in reviewing the past, which would so much better have served this need.

Outside of Mr. Walker’s work in the Liberal World, no biographical information has been obtained save this reproduction of another article written by a personal friend of his and published in the Galveston News the day following the publication of the above-quoted editorial:

“The death of Dr. James L. Walker mentioned in today’s News, causes sorrow here [Waco, Texas,] where the deceased had many friends.

“Dr. Walker was born in June 1845, at Manchester, England, of wealthy parents, who gave him a liberal education. After graduating at institutions of learning in England, France, and Germany, he be came connected with the London Times. On reaching the United States he became an associate editor on the Chicago Times. In Texas at various periods he worked editorially on the San Antonio Herald, the San Antonio Express, the Galveston-Dallas News, the Austin Statesman, the State Gazette of Austin, and other papers. He was the author of works on stenography, chemistry, medicine, and civil engineering. He had a reading and speaking acquaintance with ten living languages, and was proficient in Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit. In 1865 he was wedded to Katharine Smith, of Illinois, who survives him. After his marriage he came to Texas with his wife, and before returning to newspaper work he taught in colleges. He traveled all over both hemispheres.”

Mr. Walker’s name was properly, simply James Walker, the initial “L” being adopted in the exigency of his mail matter becoming con fused with that of other James Walkers in some of the various localities in which he lived. But as he was known as James L. Walker to the Liberal World, by whom these chapters will doubtless be first read and most appreciated, the name has been so written in this booklet.

It was incidentally learned in conversation with Mr. Walker that his Iconoclastic and Liberalizing work began very early in life, as he published in Chicago a 40-column anti-theological paper and debated and lectured on Sundays besides, for almost two years prior to his marriage and departure for Texas, which is said to have occurred in 1865. The paper was sustained principally by Freethinker merchants of the city; and although it gathered a considerable list of regular subscribers, the cold, damp lake climate affected Mr. Walker’s lungs and throat so unfavorably that he abandoned the enterprise, and sought the drier air and milder temperature of the Southwest.

His next innovating work in the realm of Liberal thought was, as nearly as memory serves, some articles on “Conscience,” contributed to “Lucifer,” at that time published at Valley Falls, Kansas. These articles, if memory again is correct, stirred up very bitter opposition from some of the more emotionalistic readers of that journal; but they also carried off several valuable adherents to the ideas presented.

Again, in the years 1886-7, Mr. Walker, over the nom de plume “Tak Kak,” made his most widely effective effort in the propaganda of the new ethics by means of some articles on the “Duty” idea, in “Liberty,” the pioneer organ of Philosophical Anarchism, then published in Boston, Mass. Here, once more, most bitter opposition was aroused, practically dividing the Anarchistic camp; but he firmly established the Egoistic idea, and carried with him almost all the readers of that journal, as well as its editor. Among those who from reading this discussion were led to embrace the Egoistic philosophy, were the projectors and publishers of the little magazine “Egoism,” through which the publication of these chapters was inaugurated.

In the above-indicated memorable discussion in “Liberty,” Mr. Walker won the distinctive title of “Father of Egoism in America.” Although Dr. Caspar Schmidt, a comparatively unknown author, had under the nom de plume “Max Stirner,” previously written a masterly and inimitable work in Germany on the philosophy, Mr. Walker had thought out and systemized the same in this country before he heard of Stirner. As a result of this discussion in “Liberty,” a distinctive and widely-distributed school of the greatest solidarity has sprung into existence, and includes among its adherents the brightest and ablest ethical polemicists of our time.

In this discussion or incident to it, Mr. Walker, in pointing out that Anarchism is really only the political branch of Egoism proper, also earned credit for suggesting the genealogical and consistently descriptive name, Egoistic Anarchism, for the Anarchism hitherto designated as Philosophical Anarchism, to distinguish its school from that of the physical force revolutionists who also claim to be Anarchists.

Mr. Walker’s next and last effort in sociological writing was the chapters herein contained. This was to be followed by a treatise on Liberty;—liberty to try expedients for bettering our condition. There was then to be one on Money—an exchange medium; and another on Land—the right to produce a living; and finally, Suggestions on Colonizing. He entertained, of course, the same cosmopolitan economic ideas that are held by all of the Anarchistic school, but he believed that under present conditions of waiting for education to soak into the masses, and as an educator itself, colonization was highly desirable. One plan was to colonize in cities, in a given section if convenient, and to strive to achieve economic independence by at first diverting patronage to the members of the colony, and finally thus establishing mutual industrial hold in the community at large. The other plan was to locate on the land in large bodies and to organize industry also on a purely voluntary basis; the main idea being aggregation of people of similar views, thus eliminating as far as possible the authoritarian interference of Philistine political polity.

Besides these projected sociological works, Mr. Walker had put into manuscript, several years before his death, two educational works. The nature of the one has slipped the memory altogether; the other was a system of Spanish shorthand. But owing to the indifference of Spanish-speaking peoples toward modern methods in producing their literature, its publication was abandoned for the time.

Mr. Walker may have had other works on other subjects in contemplation, but these were all that were learned of in the incidental manner in which all that is here written was obtained. He was also interested in telepathy, and in hygienic matters, but nothing was mentioned of a treatise on either subject.

During the years that Mr. Walker was editorially connected with the Galveston News, he continuously wrote masterly and powerful articles anent the various political issues as they passed. These were the dread of all contemporaries, as none could gainsay his arguments, based as they were on the incontrovertible principles of his philosophy. And it may be added that the Galveston News was everywhere the delight and pride of the school he represented, it being the only daily paper in the world enunciating any sound economic and political doctrines. But in time there came an end to all this. Finally someone learned the basis of these impregnable positions and informed contemporary papers, which being unable to answer the arguments, started the mad-dog cry, “Anarchy.” So, whatever may have been the inclination of the News management, the result was that Mr. Walker was reduced to the merely mechanical function of correcting for the compositors, copy that had been written by others.

After continuing in this menial position for three years, inducements were held out by certain wealthy Mexicans and resident Americans to come to Monterey, Mex., and establish a Spanish-English daily newspaper. But by the time Mr. Walker could arrive on the ground, the enthusiasm of these same persons had become so limp that he abandoned the enterprise. Thereupon he started an English weekly paper for the patronage of the American colony numbering about 2,000 persons. And, although operating in a country in which every editor is directly responsible to the government for every word by him published, he created a local paper which in its scope and penetration of subjects handled was probably never equaled in any country. This he published for several years, but publications cut no figure with Mexicans, and Americans located in Mexico soon become Mexicanized and equally disinterested. Therefore he dropped publication, and entered upon the practice of medicine, having been licensed to practice years before in Texas.

In the year 1902, Mr. Walker and his wife came to Denver to spend the hot season away from Mexico. It was upon this occasion that the writer was favored with the personal acquaintance of this man whom he learned to reverence and love more than any other man he ever met. And, when the annulling blow of life fell, he would have fled to the arms of this fatherly and brotherly master, even as the dismayed child flees to its mother; but alas, fate had carefully destroyed the balm many days before she laid agape the wound.

In the latter part of that year, Mr. Walker returned to Mexico to dispose of his effects there, then to visit the St. Louis exposition in 1904, and from there to locate somewhere in the United States. The disposal of his effects had been accomplished, and he was about to leave Mexico, when he was overtaken by the inevitable monster. He had passed through the yellow fever epidemic in Monterey that year, hut not without being attacked. However, he succeeded in breaking the fever, and had so far recovered as to be about to return to the United States preparatory to carrying out his original plans, when he changed his mind, believing it better to travel with his wife in the interior of Mexico, pursuant of some business there until the weather should be warmer at the North. He was still weak from the depletion of the fever when unfortunately he and his wife ran unwarned into epidemic smallpox. They fled immediately to a back town, hoping to escape the contagion, but all in vain; it had already fastened upon the weakened man. And although Mr. Walker was himself an Allopathic practitioner, and therefor more or less committed to heroic methods of treatment, he knew so well the ideas and practice of Mexican doctors that he feared their medication more than the disease. So the next effort was an attempt to conceal his condition, in order to evade the rigorous medication of the authorities. But this also failed, and this precious man was seized by Mexican officials and carried to a native “hospital;” and, of course, doped to his death with the regulation life-extinguisher of the authoritarian State that he had fought with his most powerful ammunition during most of the best years of his life.

He had succeeded in pulling himself through a much more severe malady in the instance of the yellow fever attack, when he was in his own home and amid acquaintanceship that allowed him his own medical resources. And, he probably would have succeeded again with this less malignant affliction if he had not been subjected to the excitement of seizure at a critical stage of the affliction and thereafter to the iron-clad usage of a prisoner.

His wife was permitted to remain by his side and do all that might be done, but unfortunately this did not include kicking out the Mexican doctor with his regulation decoctions that the delicate constitution of the victim could not combat. He suffered great agony and was delirious much of the time; recovering consciousness, however, a few hours before his death clearly enough to realize the situation, for, calling his wife to him, he said: “We can’t overcome this.” And thus she was left to part alone from his immeasurable soul in that barbaric land;—even forced to leave all that was left to her of him, lying in the midst of the wretched beasts whose sloven lives had poisoned away the adored being who meant all to her that existence meant.

The grave was protected against the Mexican habit of burying over the same ground again and again, by deeply-laid concrete surmounted by a strong iron enclosure embedded in this concrete. According to Mexican law the remains, after five years burial, may be removed. This will probably be done by the devoted wife.

It is said above that Mrs. Walker was left to “part alone,” etc. Figuratively, this is true; literally, not. There happened to be one American in a nearby town who, fortunately, was an acquaintance, and being summoned at the last, aided so far as lay in his power to the end of this calamitous tragedy.

Mr. Walker was an ideal Egoist. While he taught the doctrines of equity wherever the subject was seasonable, (and the humblest novice could be no more ready at all times than he to do a full share in associative effort with his own kind); nevertheless he permitted the Philistine World to pay him all the homage and tribute it cared to. He sacrificed none of his strength promiscuously upon the altar of equality to the unappreciative un-equal,—-as is the wont of the evangelistic enthusiast. Toward earnest persons of his own general social ideal, he might “overflow,” as he has so aptly, forcefully, and yet incidentally put in an early chapter, but always with an eye to a rational limit;—one which, in his own mind, incurred no obligation on the part of the person thus favored. It was his idea that in co-operative effort, the directors of work, or “bosses,” should not generally receive greater compensation than the manual workers in the same line, since the opportunities for relaxation would compensate them for the greater value of their services rendered to the body at large.

In association Mr. Walker was of the most lovable of men; calm, courteous, profound, and yet humorous upon occasion, but never light. In conversation, every proposition was an appeal to reason; there was no cramming of the assumptions of authority down the mental throat. He was as spontaneously in touch with the spirit of the occasion in the hovel, as with that in the drawingroom. He regarded the varying conditions of the rich man and the poor man with that same consideration which unlike neighbors might each elicit from him. He made no wry faces at the inconveniences of the poor, nor did he fawn over the luxury of the rich. Neither was there fanatical rebuke manifested against the commander of opulence. He elucidated at as great length and with the same interest to the one as to the other. What he imparted, or what he gave, was given with the air of a prince. There was none of the awful griping that is evinced by the Moralist when he does one of his “Duty” stunts, which seems to have cost him more than it ever could be worth to any other per son. In bearing Mr. Walker was dignified without a suggestion of austerity, or of snobbishness. Tall, and erect in carriage, muscular and athletic, he was sure to attract that attention which melts into admiration. His language, while absolutely correct, flowed without a tinge of the strain of pedagogic discipline so conspicuous in the conversation of the majority of “educated” people. All who enjoyed his confidence and won his interest must ever regret that the pleasant hours of relaxation and conversation are never to be repeated.

Never shall I forget the last evening spent with this genuinely great unknown. He came out to my bleak little suburban home, where we spent the evening alone, and under the stimulus of the parting occasion and all the final things being felt and said, he seemed more magnificent than ever in his imperial democracy and embracing comrade ship. It was a balmy night with the clearest of Colorado’s clear skies and the brightest of her moonlight, and as we sat in the still open, the homogeneity of the scene;—the great sky, the vast plains, and the great man, fairly assaulted even my usually pre-occupied senses.

It was Mr. Walker’s purpose to accumulate at least a moderately independent fortune, before launching into a considerable effort of sociological and other innovating writings. This part of his program was fairly well accomplished, when the Galveston flood came, obliterating much of his holdings altogether; there being a considerable portion of it at the bottom of the sea when the tidal wave subsided. So he probably would have devoted at least a few more years to re pairing so far as possible the breach in his fortune, before uncovering his light to the world of dungeoned mentality. But, alas!…! [1]

Henry Replogle.

[1] This sketch should, fittingly, have been written by Benj. R. Tucker, previously referred to as the editor of “Liberty.” Mr. Walker had no warmer friend or greater admirer than Mr. Tucker, who possesses in addition, the advantage of scholarship and literary training, so necessary in comprehensively and lucidly celebrating so worthy a subject. But Mr. Tucker was abroad, and the date of his probable return unknown. Moreover, the publication of the booklet at this time seemed very urgent, inasmuch as the details of the work were in such shape that no one besides me could well perform the task. My health, also, was in such a precarious condition that life itself was unusually uncertain. For this reason Mrs. Walker was naturally very anxious to complete the work while it was still possible. So I undertook the sketch myself, hoping to redeem it in a future edition with one written by the proper person. This one has been written between rounds of oiling and inspection, while on duty in the engine-room of a steam plant, and without access to any data save those supplied by memory, possibly badly blurred by psychical prostration. The whole was then corrected to approximately the present shape by the kindly aid of some friends.



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