Josiah Warren, The First American Anarchist

William Bailie’s Josiah Warren: The First American Anarchist remains the best single source we have on Warren’s career, but it’s a bit hard to get your hands on. I was fortunate enough to pick up an original copy awhile back, and I’ve finally got around to preparing an electronic version. I think there’s still a typo or two in this version, and I’ll have to find some time to mark up a good scholarly version with original page numbers, but for all of you who have yet to get a look at the work, here it is. Enjoy!

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


  1. Warren’s individual sovereignty doctrine is fairly clearly a form of anarchism on its own terms. Warren resisted comparisons to Proudhon, probably because he had no patience for rhetorical provocations of the “property is theft” type, but the comparisons aren’t hard to make. (Warren only complained, of course, because William B. Greene suggested those similarities.) And then there is the fact that self-identified individualists anarchists such as Benjamin Tucker understood themselves as continuing, at least to a great extent, Warren’s project.

  2. Warren’s science is sound. It matters little to me, personally, what terms people choose to attach to it. To me the proof is in the pudding. Call it entertaining nourishment. Call it smooth sustenance. Why not call it pudding? Why not call it Equitable Commerce or an application of Science to Society? Leave Warren alone. Why not call him a human being. Why not call him Josiah Warren; The Human Being?

    Call me an Anarchist and I’ll take issue with your fabricated name calling; like being called an Anti-Federalist when the actual cause was liberty and the people correctly labeled themselves friends.

    I’ve read most of the article today and find the author’s history to be valuable within the quotes. The commentary says more about the author’s confusion or duplicity than it does about “History”.

    Warren’s Science continues to prove itself today. Modern Times continues to be benefited by Equitable Commerce. Cost is the limit of price. Adding more or less than cost can be either an accounting mistake in the red or black, an honest error, simple charity, or simple theft.

    “Collective capacity”, “public enterprise” and a “Commission with adequate powers” are terms that originate from a confused mind, a subject, or a liar seeking something for nothing; a despot. Take your pick, master or slave, they both depend upon a faith in falsehood and aggressive violence, a belief in an imagined responsible entity, accountable to no one, and responsible for everything.

    Principles stand the test of time or they are not principles and never were principles. So far Equitable Commerce remains as true now as it ever was if you can see past the bull pudding.

  3. To Whom It May Concern:

    The “History” in this article is precious despite the contradictions mentioned above. The “Author” of the article gets right to the point soon after the diversion into mass hypnosis. I really don’t understand the reason for the contradiction. Perhaps the author could, if inspired, educate this ignorant individual.

    As to what label to attach to Josiah Warren:

    From the horse’s mouth:

    “If anything could be more damaging than this to Labor Reform, I think it is your proposition to “restore all existing wealth to its proper owners”! This, coming from an Anti-war-under-any-circumstances-man, defies all rational criticism. If this is reform, I refuse to be classed as a Reformer; indeed, I have for many years objected to being so classed, because my convictions are so different from what are commonly called reforms. Nor do I consent to being considered as belonging to any particular class or party: I am simply an INDIVIDUAL, and prefer to be free to approve or disapprove, as measures are presented.”

    Perhaps he is now free from suffering any cost associated with a misunderstood label in common current use.

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