Voltairine de Cleyre, “Mechanics and Vacant Land” (1890)

Mechanics and Vacant Land.—While my views in general accord with those of the Twentieth Century editors, I cannot forbear to offer a criticism upon Mr. M’Cready’s recent advice to the unemployed of San Francisco. In your issue of March 20 he says: “Do you know I think if those 25,000 men. . . would justly, quietly and persistently assert their right to apply their labor to 25,000 patches of vacant land, they would give the constituted authorities a problem that wouldn’t be solved in a hurry.”

Now, while it is true that the land monopoly is the root monopoly, it appears to me that such advice as that partakes strongly of the fanaticism of a patent medicine vendor! Among those 25,000, the probabilities are in favor of 75 per cent, at least, of mechanics—men who would not know how to use “vacant land,” even with all the improved implements of farming at their disposal. How, in the name of wonder, are those men to go upon “vacant land” with empty pockets and bare hands, and educations in altogether different lines of labor, and compete with skilled farmers for the market? With all respect to Mr. M’Cready, I don’t think a typesetter’s stick, a mason’s trowel, a baker’s apron and the experience which accompanies their owners are very good farming implements. Set these men, or let them set themselves, on “vacant land,” and then face the money monopoly and the patent-right monopoly (one quite as oppressive and unjust as the others, to which The Twentieth Century scarcely alludes), and calculate how much better off they would be starving there than starving in the city.

Philadelphia, Pa.

Voltairine de Cleyre.


Voltairine de Cleyre, “Mechanics and Vacant Land,” The Twentieth Century 4 no. 15 (April 10, 1890): 14.

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