James L. Walker and the Philosophy of Egoism
L’Unique 14 (October 1946)
In France, those who are interested in the history of the anarchist individualist movement have only seldom, if ever, heard of James L. Walker. According to those who saw him and knew him best, information on his life and activities has not been easy to gather and assemble. We know, however, that he was born at Manchester, in Great Britain, to a wealthy family, that he pursued his studies in England, France and Germany, that he was employed for some time by the Times of London, that on his arrival in the United States he became assistant of the Times of Chicago, that he published there an “anti-theological” periodical extending over 40 columns, then that in 1865 he was forced, for reasons of health, to move to Texas where he was editor in chief of several newspapers. In that same year he had married Katharine Smith, of Illinois. James Walker was a distinguished polygraph, possessing a dozen living languages, whose knowledge extended to Greek, Latin and Sanskrit. He was the author of a system of stenography and works concerning education, chemistry, medicine (James Walker was a physician), civil engineering and sociology, some of which have been published. He encouraged the creation of “colonies” in the inhabited centers and the countryside, organized on the basis of voluntary and mutualistic affinity.
In 1886-87, under the pseudonym “TAK KAK,” he contributed to Liberty, Tucker’s newspaper, where he led a campaign in favor of egoism, winning over to his views the majority of the readers and Tucker himself. Here demonstrated that anarchism is in reality only the political branch of pure egoism, and suggested the replacement of the term “philosophical anarchism” with that of “egoist anarchism,” in order to distinguish it from the revolutionaries, partisans of the use of violence, who were also called anarchists.
James Walker’s aim was to amass a certain fortune that he would consecrate to the publication and propaganda of books and pamphlets regarding sociology and intellectual liberation. Unfortunately, a flood occurred where he was then living, at Galveston, Texas, which swallowed up or spoiled the greatest part of his possessions and effects. He perished in 1904 in Mexico victim of an attack of yellow fever.
Those who had been close to James Walker described him as the ideal Egoist, the most amiable of men, calm, courteous, profound, humorous on occasion, but never idle in his remarks. He always appealed to reason, thumbing his nose at social distinctions, and thus found himself as much at ease in an attic room as in a salon. Tall, upright, muscular, even athletic, not posturing, but not giving way either, he spoke in a correct manner, but without pretension. If he did not whine hypocritically over the distress of the disinherited, if he did not thunder pointlessly against the luxury of the privileged, he was unbending with regard to the functioning of the cooperatives, where he would not accept that the directors — the “bosses” ― should receive more than the other employee, manual or not.
Such are, briefly summarized, the career and appearance of the man who wrote The Philosophy of Egoism, which we will begin to translate in the installment for November. The first chapters of that study appeared in Egoism, a little review published from 1890 to 1898 in Oakland, California, by Georgia and Henry Replogle (we should clarify that when James Walker began to compose the first chapters of his Philosophy of Egoism he was unfamiliar with Stirner and “The Unique and It Property.”) Suddenly, the Replogles had to cease publication of Egoism. Around 1900 he concluded this work, but all sorts of obstacles were set against it seeing the light of day. In 1904, as we have seen above, James Walker died; then it was the turn of the Replogles, who had wanted so much to publish the work. Finally, in 1905, it appeared in Denver, Colorado, bearing the name of Katharine Walker as publisher.
As for the translation that we present here, we have above all strive to present a comprehensive and faithful version of the text, willingly sacrificing the beauty of the style to clarity of expression.
[Working Translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]