By the time he started Liberty, Benjamin R. Tucker had his trial by fire as a controversialist in the pages of The Index, where he also debated Stephen Pearl Andrews about the merits of Proudhon, had edited The Word for Ezra Heywood and The Radical Review for himself. He was obviously reading voraciously, and making (and breaking) connections with radicals of all stripes. Reading Liberty is, in large part, reading the public record of his reading, or his connections and disconnections. By the end of 1881, the first debates are beginning to take off in the letters section of the paper, but the rest is all Tucker: translations, digests of his readings, comments on friends and foes, plumb-line epigrams.
Wages is not slavery. Wages is a form of voluntary exchange, and voluntary exchange is a form of Liberty.
Etc. These are the sorts of statements that have gone on to feed a thousand Usenet, blog, and Wikipedia debates, mere quibbles sometimes, certainly pithy and suggestive, but always requiring some real work to figure out exactly what the pith is. One of the reasons for a complete survey of Liberty is to see what all these pithy bits ultimately add up to.
More open questions: To what extent was Tucker consciously a controversialist? There are times when he genuinely does not seem to see what his antagonists are driving at, and he just keeps driving, sometime to the detriment of Liberty‘s connections with other radicals. In his Reminiscences, Joshua King Ingalls ends his treatment of a debate with Tucker over the merits of mutual banking with these comments:
Mr. I. not being a metaphysician or “master of logic,” like his opponent, was slow to apprehend the little game, which had been put up on him; “this little campaign of question and answer for the purpose of silencing this gun,” which had been annoying Mr. T. so long. . . . But there can be no doubt as to the silence of the gun, so far as the columns of Liberty are concerned. My name has not appeared in its columns, but once for two years, and that only to designate as “nonsense,” a little notice I sent it commending Labadie’s lecture at Detroit, one word of which, it was not allowed the readers of Liberty to see.
Interestingly, one point which was never addressed, as the debate was never resumed, was a claim made by Ingalls that:
Col. W. B. Greene informed me forty-five years since that he was pressed by borrowers to form his mutual bank, but found no lenders, except a few philanthropists who would lend their money without interest anyway, and these he was unwilling to risk sacrificing in an untried experiment.
Tucker considered the claim “extraordinary.” In 1895, Tucker, debating Alfred B. Westrup, appealed again to his personal acquaintanceship with Greene, in an attempt to settle a point in the “standard of value” debate. I mention them here because I am not sure, in either case, that Tucker was correct about Greene’s thought.
Tucker appears to me a paradoxical character, more than a bit fixated on a few principles he considered key, and willing to sacrifice personal connections in philosophical debate. He seems to have been charming and insufferable by turns. That, of course, would make him an almost perfect heir of Proudhon, Greene, and Warren.