Benj. R. Tucker
Following the military defeat of the Southern Jeffersonians in the Civil War and the war reparations placed upon their property and livelihood, the American political world was left to the Hamiltonians for a generation. There were few options left. Jeffersonians in the North were tagged as Copperheads and rebel sympathizers. Southern Jeffersonians were disenfranchised in more ways than one. Tariff increases initiated by the Republican Party sent long-time Jeffersonian strongholds into bankruptcy. Many would later attempt to rebuild the lost economy of the South with the few scraps left by the carpetbaggers of the North; others left for the West in the hopes of finding better opportunities. The power gained by the Republicans was to give political control of the South and most of the other states within the Union to the G.O.P. With this free hand, there was little opposition to the special grants and privileges which were sought by their supporters and interests.
The next political battle Jeffersonians were to undertake was against the Tariff. This effort energized a new generation of Jeffersonians. Tariffs, by the late 1870's not only eliminated the federal debt but filled the coffers of the federal government with a surplus unheard of by any of the previous administrations. Indeed, it was an embarrassing surplus with little reason to exist. There were interest groups fighting over control of this surplus, including railroad interests, Northern banking interests and ex-soldiers and soldier wives' pension demands.
Much of the later American designs in the Pacific and elsewhere were a consequence of this surplus as Republicans fought to gain additional territory through military occupation and continued increasing control over lands reserved for Indians. Imperial designs were made upon Spanish claims.
As the Republicans understood, tariffs are a natural income for a nationalist state. It places control at the border as to what products may or may not enter. It is only a national state dominated by special interests which inherently benefits from these taxes. What is the proper revenue for local needs and focuses on benefits accrued from individuals within states and local jurisdictions for a republican state allied with other republican states in a federal system? Of necessity, it must be a form which, if not a voluntary payment, is of a nature which is controlled by the polity closest to the individual, wherein choices are made on the smallest level possible. Tariffs were certainly not the answer
The growing Free Trade Movement sought an end to the tariffs and corruption in state and federal governments by every means available to them, leading to several outcomes. The first and most important was the rise of the Democratic Party with Grover Cleveland at its helm. The next most important were the rise of the"Mugwumps" within the Republican party. For many Jeffersonian radicals, neither went far enough or sufficiently effective in their efforts and looked for alternatives.
The first major movement of the radical Jeffersonians evolved from the insights of a young journalist and firebrand, Henry George. With the publication of Progress and Poverty, as well as number of other books, pamphlets, essays and articles, a new movement arose with ideas for a dynamic capitalist free society, the single tax movement. The idea of limiting all government to a single tax based upon land value was debated across dinner tables and lecture halls throughout the country. It would preserve the Jeffersonian ideal by its primary emphasis upon providing income for cities and local communities (as land taxes have always done) and little for the higher levels (state and federal) save for what would accrue for a frugal government willing to provide for state and national concerns. This paleolibertarian notion was the direction of political activism for radical libertarians for generations.
Following the Civil War came a growing preoccupation with public corruption, beginning to overshadow concerns among reformers with Reconstruction itself. Their enthusiasm for the Republican party began to evaporate during Grant's administration. Tucker described his only sojourn into politics in The Life of Benjamin Tucker, Disclosed by Himself, In the Principality of Monaco, At the Age of 74:
"Four years of Grant and corruption had disgusted me with the Republican party, and the chance of seeing an honest man in the White House in the person of Horace Greeley, whom I had so long admired, made me eager for the fray. In Theodore Tilton's …establishment of his new paper, The Golden Age, I found an immediate opportunity for participation, as Tilton, in his youth a Tribune reporter under Greeley, had espoused the cause of his old employer, and was devoting both pen and tongue to his election. …I had still a few weeks in New Bedford, and it occurred to me that a part of that time might well be devoted to a canvass for subscriptions to The Golden Age. Less than a week's work in the city resulted in a list of respectable propositions, -- about thirty names, I believe, -- and without previous consultation with the management of the paper, I dispatched both the addresses and the money…, they rose promptly to the occasion. Straightway came a letter … urgently inviting me to take the agency for the entire State of Massachusetts. My refusal [was] based on the ground that I was soon to accompany my parents to Vermont…However, even in hopelessly Republican Vermont, I had one opportunity, while at Bellows Fall, to lift my feeble voice in the good cause..."
The stagnation of party politics in the mire of narrow partisanship and repeated scandals during the"Great Barbecue" of the Gilded Age cleared the way. The abolitionist, freethinker and father of the mutual insurance industry, Elizur Wright, spoke to black voters in the 1872 election that the Party of Lincoln had only freed the slaves as a wartime"expedient…It is you[r] obvious policy not to wed yourselves for better or worse to either party…but to go for that which best deserves and most needs your help…The great question now before the Republican party, and all the rest of us is whether after our bloody cutting out of cancer [slavery], we are to rot by the cancer of our corruption." While he supported Grant's troops ordered to combat the KKK, he would later say,"What is the use of keeping people's throats from being cut, if they are to be perpetually robbed?" (p. 180-81).
By July 4, 1876, Wright would found, with other former abolitionists (such as Moses Harmon), the National Liberal League which supported black emancipation, women's rights, but above all they identified themselves as individualists threatened by the imposition of state-enforced Christian dogma:"The platform of the coming millions is the individual," as Wright would say (p. 182). The League's stress was upon personal rights, civil liberties and freedom of thought. Anthony Comstock's crusade against vice and obscenity was to become their most noted battle front, with Ezra Heywood, who was arrested for the publication of his essay, Cupid's Yoke. D.M. Bennett, editor of freethought periodical, The Truthseeker, was also arrested by Comstock for mailing a copy of Cupid's Yoke through the U.S. Postal Service.
Ezra Heywood, an elderly abolitionist and opponent of the Civil War (he had opposed the violent methods used by Lincoln as well as that of the Confederate States of America), was highly regarded as a"gentle anarchist" who was fighting a battle for freedom of information, and the rights of consenting adults to their own personal relationships. An ardent feminist as well (and married to a strident feminist, Angela Heywood), he believed that men had reduced women to such socioeconomic dependence that, in order to live, women were forced to chose between selling their labor for next to nothing or selling their bodies into unwanted unions. This Heywood believed to be an insufferable injustice and devoted his writings to free love as a form of freedom from another type of slavery, as he explained in Uncivil Liberty as well as in Cupid's Yoke.
Here is the point where the subject of this article comes in, for he meets Ezra Heywood in 1873 at the National Free-Love Convention held in Ravenna, Ohio. Benjamin Tucker, who had become one of the controversial feminist Victoria Woodhull's"boy-toy" at the age of 19. As a long-time friend, J. William Lloyd would describe Tucker as a:
"well-groomed, fashionably dressed, with a neatly trimmed dark beard (beards were fashionable then), a swarthy complexion, flashing black eyes, a frequent if perhaps slightly nervous laugh, and a charmingly genial manner, which I never knew him to lose… Handsome, a brilliant translator, an editor of meticulous care and finish, a trenchant reasoner, with a faith and enthusiasm for his"ism" that had no bounds, he was like a strong current that swept us along… Tucker's manner of writing was what chiefly attracted attention to him. No more fiery and furious apostle ever put pen to paper. A veritable baresark of dialectics. He was dogmatic to the extreme, arrogantly positive, browbeating and dominating, true to his"plumb-line" no matter who was slain, and brooked no difference, contradiction or denial. Biting sarcasm, caustic contempt, invective that was sometimes almost actual insult, were poured out on any who dared criticize or oppose… this swashbuckler, on paper, when you met him in person, was the most genial, affable, and charming gentlemen that you could possibly imagine, kind, gentle and always smiling. I discounted this as toward myself but I could not learn that anyone had ever had a hard spoken word from him, and I have never to this day heard of one who had. Face to face this tiger was a dove."
Benjamin R. Tucker was to become America's greatest expositor of the philosophy of"unterrified Jeffersonianism" (as he called it), most commonly known as anarchism. Child of a Quaker father. a Jeffersonian Democrat and Painite Unitarian mother activist, both of old Yankee stock, he grew up as a child reading Darwin, Spencer, Buckle, Huxley and Tyndall, and listened to speeches by such as Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Emerson, Wendell Phillips, Carl Shurz and Charles Bradlaugh. When he moved in 1872 to Boston to study at MIT, he would meet and become friends with other American radicals like Josiah Warren, William B. Greene, Stephen Pearl Andrews and, of course, Ezra Heywood. As a matter of course while beginning his career as a journalist, mainly with the Boston Globe, he would work with journalists, many sympathetic with his views, and become familiar with other writers who would come into his circle of friends as he began publishing, editing and writing in the radical press of this time.
In 1892 in"Why I am an Anarchist" in The Twentieth Century, a New York weekly edited by Hugh O. Pentecost, Tucker said that anarchy is
"the realization of liberty. Destroy the banking monopoly, establish freedom in finance, and down will go interest on money through the beneficent influence of competition. Capital will be set free, business will flourish, new enterprises will start, labour will rise at a level with its product. And it is the same with the other monopolies. Abolish the tariffs, issue no patents, take down the bars from unoccupied land, and labour will straightaway rush in and take possession of its own. Then mankind will live in freedom and in comfort. That is what I want to see; that is what I love to think of. And because Anarchism will give this state of things, I am an Anarchist." (reprinted in Man! An Anthology of Anarchist Ideas, Essays, Poetry and Commmentaries edited by Marcus Graham, London: Cienfuegos Press, 1976. p. 136)
Tucker's beliefs were set down in the first issue of Liberty in August 1881:
"Liberty insists on the sovereignty of the individual and the just reward of labor; on the abolition of the State and the abolition of usury; on no more government of man by man, and no more exploitation of man by man; on Anarchy and Equity.-Liberty's war-cry is 'Down with authority' and its chief battle with the State-the State that corrupts children; the state that trammels law; the State that stifles thought; the State that monopolizes land; the State that give idle capital the power to increase, and through interest, rent, profit and taxes robs industrious labor of its products."
Tucker is best known as the author of Instead of a Book, By a Man Too Busy to Write One and Individual Liberty, both collections of essays culled mainly from Radical Review (1877-1878-indexed here) and Liberty (1881-1908-indexed here). Tucker's free-wheeling, laissez-faire, free market anarchism tinged with free love, Stirnerism with a good dose of humor, was analyzed, criticized, commended and blackballed, but it could not be ignored. His periodicals included discussion, propaganda, literary writings of note, debates, essays. The periodicals were brilliantly edited, typed in the best formats of its day, with beautiful artwork and photos. It would be in his periodicals that libertarians would know what is available and what were the issues were being debated.
A generation of radicals grew up reading his periodicals, books and essays in America, Europe and elsewhere. His staff of associates and writers were the best that liberty produced. He popularized Whitman's Leaves of Grass, and printed G.B. Shaw prior to any other American publisher. When Liberty stopped publishing in 1908 when Tucker's bookstore burned down, he would continue to write and communicate with others until his death in Monaco.
His impact was considerable, both within his own generation, and to the generations of libertarians that have come afterward as Rudolf Rocker points out in Pioneers of American Freedom (Los Angeles: Rocker Publication Committee, 1949. pp. 118-154)
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Roderick T. Long - 4/20/2005
I feel the force of that case for the 14th Amdt., but I feel the force of the contrary case too, which is this: the effect of the 14th Amdt. is to allow the federal govt. to impose various things on the states, in the name of protecting freedom to be sure, and sometimes it will actually be protecting freedom, but since the federal govt. is the one that decides how to interpret the 14th Amdt. (and it is rather vaguely worded, you'll agree), the state has little recourse if what gets imposed on it in the name of freedom is actually not so.
An analogy: suppose the U.N. were to be granted the power to impose a fairly nice-looking albeit somewhat vague bill of rights, to be interpreted by the U.N. itself, on all its member nations including the U.S. The U.S. would then be in the position relative to the U.N. that the 14th Amdt. places individual states in relative to the U.S.
Now in fact I don't agree with those who recoil in horror from the 14th Amdt. now in the name of states' rights, because in my view the states have long since ceased to exist as states, they're just part of the federal system now, and if the 14th Amdt. enables one part of that system to impose checks on another part that's all to the good. So if someone tried to get the 14th Amdt. repealed now I would probably oppose such a move (unless accompanied by a de-consolidation of the states, or better yet disunion). But if the 14th Amdt. had been proposed in the 1790s I probably would have been against it then.
[Note: yes, I favour the secession of Alabama, the state in which I live -- yet I confess that if Alabama were to secede I would probably hightail it out of here as quickly as possible! Cognitive dissonance....]
David Timothy Beito - 4/20/2005
Very good point. Jefferson's policies as president did little to encourage small-scale agriculture. I blogged on this a couple of years ago:
"While on vacation, I had the opportunity to read Roger G. Kennedy’s provocative Mr. Jefferson’s Lost Cause: Land, Farmers, Slavery, and the Louisiana, and the Louisiana Purchase. The author’s environmentalist approach is not always convincing but he raises critically important issues.
Kennedy faults Jefferson for his failure to apply his anti-slavery/pro-yeoman farmer vision in the realm of practical politics. This is not a typical "revisionist" attack piece, however. In fascinating detail, Kennedy reveals how Jefferson fumbled several golden opportunities to stop the spread of slavery before, during, and after his administration. Particularly impressive is the lucid discussion of how the federal government, with Jefferson’s assent, fostered slavery through land policy. Jefferson's administration worked through a private company, The Firm, to use the debts of individual Indians as a pretext to get control of tribal lands and then sell these lands at a discount to aspiring planters. In the process, promising efforts to populate the Southern states with black, white, and Indian yeoman farmers were smothered in the womb.
Like Jeffrey Rogers Hummel in Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War, Kennedy's evidence shows that historians make a mistake when they imply that slavery was a purely “capitalist” institution based entirely on "free market" forces of supply and demand. Slavery was probably the most subsidized industry in the period of the early republic. Had the subsidies not existed, such as slave patrols, the Fugitive Slave clause, and cut-rate prices on land, the institution may have collapsed long before the Civil War."
Kevin Carson - 4/19/2005
To the extent the Confederacy was dominated by the cotton aristocracy of the deep South, it was pretty un-Jeffersonian. Jefferson's ideology was much more relevant to the Chesapeake states of the upper South; tobacco and cotton planters were rivalled in importance there by the subsistence farming white yeomanry, so there was more of a demographic base for Jeffersonian ideas. Jefferson toyed with importing New England's radically democratic political institutions (esp. the township system) into Virginia; he wouldn't have had a prayer of success in the deep South.
Gus diZerega - 4/19/2005
Two quick thoughts. First, I agree with you about the republicans' organic nationalism thing. Give me Hamilton on that one. The puritanical streak seems to infect the country as a whole, alas,
Second, the Bill of Rights now basically says states can no more oppress their citizens than can the national government. i truly do not see that as a sign of national government increasing its coercive power except in the trivial sense that it is now better able to protect our rights than it was before.
To pick an extreme example, say a state starts killing people who do not agree with its dominant religion. The bill of rights in its older sense is ambiguous as to whether the national government should step in. Evidence- the death penalty against agitating against slavery. If the national government stepped in, most of us would be over joyed. And rightly so. I think the same holds here - expanding the Bill of Rights led to a net reduction in the power of government to coerce citizens.
Roderick T. Long - 4/19/2005
On the 14th Amendment, I think this is tricky. Some libertarians are convinced that it's a great thing, that it promotes liberty by extending the Bill of Rights to the states and thus protects against local as well as federal tyranny. Other libertarians are just as convinecd that it's a terrible thing, that it de facto abolishes the states as independent entities and thus completes the consolidation of power in the Federal govt., as well as opening an enormous loophole for expanded govt. power thanks to its vague language. It seems to me that each of these arguments has some merit to it; I'm puzzled that so many libertarians see just one of these (though not always the same one) as decisive and give no weight at all to the other.
Roderick T. Long - 4/19/2005
I think the view of the Confederacy as Jeffersonian reflects the idea that the Confederacy was continuing the legacy of Taylor, Calhoun, and Jackson. None of those was a pure Jeffersonian (Calhoun was able to salvage slavery by repudiating natural rights, Jackson's Indian policy was horrific), but one can see how they stand in a broadly Jeffersonian tradition nonetheless, and one can also see, I think, how the Confederacy could be viewed as a continuation (albeit a continuing degeneration) of that tradition. Of course the deviant-Jeffersonian strand wasn't the only one influential on the Confederacy, there were also people like George Fitzhugh who were as diametrically opposed to Jeffersonian principles as it's possible to get. I think the need to justify oppression of slaves, Indians, etc. is both what caused the deviant Jeffersonians to deviate and contributed to the rise of anti-Jeffersonians like Fitzhugh.
But on the other side, there's a kind of collectivist and puritanical fervor in the Republicans -- the association of many of them with the alcohol-prohibition movement, for example, and their longings for mystical organic unity -- that seems far creepier than anything one can imagine from an urbane Enlightenment philosophe like Hamilton.
Gus diZerega - 4/19/2005
But I really do not see the South as a heir of Jefferson in any significant way, whereas the Republicans of the time could probably be said to be heirs of Hamilton. (Now they are heirs to Jeff Davis, or worse.) The ONLY thing anyone can point to in the South of that time as "Jeffersonian" is "states rights" and "states rights" is not really a Jeffersonian notion. Later in his life (probably after he read Adam Smith) he even changed his views about cities and working men compared to farmers. I think people fail to appreciate how far the South went in retreating from its Revolutionary values, once they decided they had to stick with slavery. The dominant people there really did become anti-American.
I would say that the north was fundamentally more open to developing further the implications of a free society than was the south because its basic framework was liberal and market oriented. The South was fundamentally neither. Stephens spoke ofr a lot of people.
Lincoln's excesses were in wartime. And, as a long time resident of Lawrence, Kansas, I can assure you the South was committing excesses as well. War brings out the worst in damn near everybody. But the South's excesses to which I referred were peacetime excesses, business-as-usual excesses. Again, I think they should have been allowed to leave - but having said that, the excesses committed in wars are different than the excesses committed in peace.
I am not an American historian - but I was impressed when reading the book "His Excellency George Washington" with the evidence that Hamilton might have been scheming to set himself up as a military leader. If that was true - and I dunno - then I think Lincoln was certainly entirely within the Hamiltonian tradition - except ironically more pro-civilian, and so possibly better. Remember he was also a major opponent of the Mexican American war. I wonder whether Hamilton would have been? I think not, even though his hatred of slavery was genuine and laudable.
Another point - the 14th amendment from a Southern perspective was bad - but from a natural rights perspective it was very very good - basically continuing the liberalization of American society that began in a big way with the revolution. It took till the 1950s to apply the Bill of Rights to the states not because that was not intended, but because activist judges reinterpreted it to give more proetection to corporations than to black Americans. (I base these rmarks on Reed Akhil Amar's excellent The Bill of Rights, which argues that the Civil War amendments completed the expansion of liberal principles begun in the Revolution.
But my reason for getting involved in our discussion was my taking exception to calling the South Jeffersonian. In libertarian circles that label tends to romanticize the Southern cause when we should, in my opinion, have little sympathy for it other than the view they should have been allowed to leave. And if they had been smarter they probably could have. Firing on Ft. Sumter was stupid - but certainly in character for those who ran S. Carolina... They could have waited the thing out, not paid taxes, and basically passively refused to cooperate.
Roderick T. Long - 4/19/2005
I certainly agree that slavery and lynching is worse than tariffs. (Though tariffs are not the worse thing the Union did, either; Lincoln's war crimes were the worst thing the Union did. I don't know whether conscription and mass murder are as bad as chattel slavery, but they're at least in the same moral ballpark.) But I do think the North repudiated the Declaration of Independence too. They mostly didn't do so explicitly; indeed, Lincoln kept invoking the Declaration in his speeches. But Lincoln's position that secession should be forcibly prevented even if slavery were not at issue is surely a de facto repudiation of the Declaration.
Living in Alabama and working with the Mises Institute, I usually find myself having to argue "the South was just as bad as the North," so it's sort of refreshing to find myself arguing "the North was just as bad as the South."
One reason I don't give the Republicans quite so much credit for their generally more progressive views on slavery and on Indians was that these views were costless for them. The Republicans, like the Federalists and Whigs before them, were concentrated in the industrial northeast where they seldom encountered either slaves or Indians. Mostly they sacrificed no interest of their own in being on the libertarian side of those issues. (I'm not talking about activists like Garrison, who risked plenty.) Similarly, rural Southern Democrats don't earn much moral credit for being against tariffs, because they weren't benefiting from the tariffs; indeed they were harmed by them. (In the few cases when Southern states benefited from protectionism they tended to embrace it.)
I agree that Jefferson was far preferable to the leaders of the Confederacy. If one sees the Confederate/Democratic faction as the political heirs of Jefferson, and the Union/Republican faction as the political heirs of Hamilton, then each movement represented a corruption and worsening of its forebear's principles. (Although I prefer Jefferson to Hamilton, Hamilton was far more libertarian in general than Lincoln and the 1860s Republicans, just as Jefferson was more libertarian than Jefferson Davis and the CSA.)
Gus diZerega - 4/19/2005
The secession issue is ambiguous - so I won't push the treasonous part.
But I will be more obdurate on the rest. White males had it far far better in the US of that time than did women, blacks, and Indians. So I would evaluate the worth of a position vis--a-vis liberty more by how they thought about the lierties of the weakest than of the strongest, ONCE THE STRONGEST WERE RELATIVELY FREE.
Further, in the north more people - white males actually - could vote and hold office. Small comfort for anarcho-capitalists, but not for those of us who no longer (or never did) accept that alternative as possible or necessarily desirable.
Further, the South had those draconian limitations on basic freedom of speech that were absent in the north. The north did not repudiate the Declaration of Independence, and few more libertarian documents have ever had a political impact. In fact, i can think of none.
Finally, seven states abolished slavery on their own in the north - it was easier tfor them because they were not as economically important, but they did abolish it. The north was hardly perfect, and I know of no society that was - but lack of perfection does not mean equivalence in imperfection.
As to Jefferson. He wrote that untrammeled state government was tyranny - in his Notes on Virginia. He did not like unchecked power anywhere. He supported freedom of speech far more consistently than the South. After he retired he actually wanted to expand New England's system of small independent democratic communities throughout the country - and what is amazing to me is that earlier, during the war of 1812, these same communities made life miserable for him. Yet he wanted to strengthen them. That is truly amazing among politicians. He wasn't perfect but I know of no one who comes close. He dwarfed the men of the Confederacy.
A personal note. My attack on Southern culture is a painful one for me. i was born in Virginia, very much like the friendliness of folks there (so long as they accept you), think it is a beautiful part of the country with some of the best cooking, and its black residents in particular have enriched our culture immensely. So have southern writers. The agrarian tradition even made some valid criticisms of industrial society, in my opinion. I also like the slower pace of life a lot. But none of those good things - and I think they are good things - make up for its brutality to the weak, or the extraordinary nastiness of a disproportuonate number of its politicians.
For example, I have a copy of the "official democratic ticket" for the state of Mississippi in 1944. It urges votes for Strom Thurmond, Trent Lott's favorite. It says "A vote for Truman electors is a direct order to our Congressmen and Senators from Mississippi to vote for passage of Truman's socalled civil rights program in the next Congress. This means the vicious FEPC - anti-poll tax - anti-lynching and anti-segregation proposals will become the law of the land and our way of life in the South will be gone forever."'
Yep, gotta preserve the tradition of lynching.
Lynching is worse than northern tariffs.
Roderick T. Long - 4/19/2005
If one compares the policies of Democrats and Republicans during the period leading up to the war, the Democrats were consistently more pro-liberty than Republicans on nearly all issues concerning the liberty of white males. The Republicans were better on the liberty of blacks, Indians, and women (though only marginally so in the case of women). So I think the characterization of the secessionist Democrats as "Jeffersonian" makes some sense.
Roderick T. Long - 4/19/2005
I agree that the Confederate cause has been over-romanticized; but the Union cause was no better. There was slavery in the North before and during the Civil War, and Lincoln made clear that he would have prevented the North from seceding whether or not slavery had been at issue (though I do think he hoped emancipation would be a result of the war -- still it wasn't his main objective). Both the Union and the Confederacy were mass-murdering socialistic leviathans. (For my curse-on-both-houses see here.) I'm also not convinced that the leaders of the Confederacy were treasonous, since I think secession was constitutional. (Argument: nothing in the Constitution explicitly forbids secession, the 10th amendment grants to the states and people all powers not explicitly denied, hence the Constitution recognizes a right of secessions, hence the seceding states were no longr part of the U.S., hence their actions were not treason.) Jerks yes, treasonous jerks no.
Gus diZerega - 4/19/2005
I am inclined to think that slavery would have eventually died out on its own - for reasons discussed by Hummel's Emanicpating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men. And if it did not happen peacefully, as it did on Brazil for example, it would have happened messily. If it had come to that, it couldn't have happened to a more deserving 'civilization" - a civilization of parasites.
So if the few southern states whose governments (not necessarily their citizens) initially wanted to leave had done so, lots of people would not have died, apparently much of the northern South would not have left, and the Confederacy's wretched cause would have died out soon enough anyway, either peacefully or violently. In the latter case it would have been mostly their blood that was spilled - too bad, but not the tragedy that happened in the Civil war. And we wouldn't have had to listen to the hypoocritical cant about "patriotism" these grandsons of traitors have subjected us to the past several years. Think of it: No Tom DeLay. No Trent Lott. No Newt Gingrich. No Bill Frist. No Strom Thurmond. Oh happy days.
But the treasonous jerks who pushed Southern independence represented the least democratic and libertarian parts of their populations. For example, S. Carolina required you own 60 slaves to serve in major offices, as I understand it. Talk about oligarchy! Several had the death penalty or whipping for anyone advocating abolishing slavery. Somehow this is infinitely worse to me than supporting tariffs.
The South supported states rights only because they could not rule nationally - and current events prove this point, as their poisonous progeny work hard at splitting the country. Further, from when does a classical liberal or libertarian perspective speak of states having rights? As the South has proven over and over again, some states were far more oppressive than the US government has ever been - proof of Madison's argument in Federalist 10. If slavery isn't enough, Georgia's treatment of the Cherokees say about all that needs to be said about the moral character of Southern society.
Too many libertarians idolize what was one of the most poisonous and treasonous denials of the libertarian and classical liberal foundations of the US. (I once did as well, before I learned more about them.) There was nothing Jeffersonian about them. Nothing at all. They explicitly repudiated the American revolution's founding principles of human rights, limited government, and self-determination.
I hope the libertarians who still do so will give up their romanticizing of one of the most anti-liberal societies to have existed in European North America.,
David Timothy Beito - 4/19/2005
Possibly for a while. I suspect that a Haiti scenario would have been in store for the C.S.A. especially if it had been limited to the deep south (as as the case before Fort Sumter). In the short term, this Gulf State (plus South Carolina) C.S.A might have tried to reopen the slave trade and possibly annex non-white areas to the South. Had it done so, however, the eventual result would have a besieged white minority plagued by John Brown style slave incursions from all sides.
Kenneth R Gregg - 4/18/2005
"Tucker sided with the Allies against the Central Powers during the First World War. Do you know why he did so? And did he ever express regret over this stance?"
I thought about including material on this, but decided the post was long already.
Rudolf Rocker, author of the brilliant "Nationalism and Culture," discusses the matter in his "Pioneers of American Freedom" (ibid., pp. 136-138. I highly recommend this work--the bibliographical material is quite valuable for the researcher of libertarian anarchism). Following the fire which destroyed his bookstore and all of his papers, he went to Europe never to return again. There were offers for reimbursement so that he could continue, but he declined them.
Rocker says (ibid, p. 138): "During the first World War, he vigorously defended the cause of England and France, for he regarded the whole policy of Germany as a deliberate preparation for the conquest of Europe. Always an ardent friend of French culture, he regarded a German victory as a real disaster for Europe's future, and the beginning of a reaction whose end none could foretell."
In some ways, Tucker had become a lost soul, maintaining relationships with a number of old libertarian friends (John Henry MacKay being the most important), but feeling that his efforts had little impact, that preparing the next generation of anarchists was more important, but he was not in a position to be their teacher. Tucker said in the 1920's:
"[T]he economic solution proposed by Anarchism...and there is no other solution--will remain a thing to be taught to the rising generation, that conditions may be favorable to its application after the great levelling. But education is a slow process, and for this reason we must hope that the day of readjustment may not come too quickly.
Anarchists who endeavor to hasten it by joining in the propaganda of State Socialism or revolution make a sad mistake indeed. They help to so force the march of events that the people will not have time to find out, by the study of their experiences, that their troubles have been due to the rejection of competition. If this lesson shall not be learned in season the past will be repeated in the future..." (p. 137)
Just a thought.
Kenneth R Gregg - 4/18/2005
Quite right Gus,
I haven't come across this quote from Alexander Stephens before, but it clearly shows the depth of the hatred of freedom by the political leaders of the C.S.A., which could well have been known as the "Confederate Socialists of America." There has always been speculation as to whether C.S.A. would have survived without becoming more socialist and less free in order to preserve the "peculiar institution." With slavery prohibited everywhere except for the C.S.A., could slavery have been maintained?
Just a thought.
Mark Brady - 4/18/2005
Thank you for a very informative post about a major figure in the individualist anarchist tradition. As I'm sure you're well aware, although you don't mention it, Tucker sided with the Allies against the Central Powers during the First World War. Do you know why he did so? And did he ever express regret over this stance?
Gus diZerega - 4/18/2005
Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence.
Here is what Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy had to say about it.
"Jefferson in his forecast had anticipated this [slavery] as the 'rock upon which the old Union would split.' He was right. . . . But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen of the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. . . . These ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. . . .
Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its corner stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery - subordination to the superior race - is his natural and normal condition.
This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth."
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