Blogs > Liberty and Power > Happy Birthday, Francis Wrigley Hirst

Jun 10, 2005 2:42 am

Happy Birthday, Francis Wrigley Hirst

Only an exceptionally well-informed reader will recognize the name of F. W. Hirst, whose stalwart advocacy of personal freedom, free trade, and peace during the first half of the twentieth century, and especially during the First World War and its aftermath, surely earns him an honored place in the pantheon of individual liberty.

Today let us celebrate the life of Francis Wrigley Hirst (“Frank” to his family), who was born on June 10, 1873, at Dalton Lodge, two miles east of Huddersfield in the West Riding of Yorkshire. After a long and fruitful life, he died at Singleton in Sussex on February 22, 1953.

The weekly periodical Truth described him as “one of the greatest libertarians of all time” for his work as an apostle of civil liberty and personal freedom. A book of reminiscences by his family and friends appeared in 1958, in which his lifelong friend and brother-in-law, J. E. Allen, wrote that he had a “genius for friendship” and the historian G. P. Gooch declared, “I have never known a man whose character and convictions underwent less change with advancing years.”

Hirst was a prolific writer, skillful biographer, and scholarly exponent of basic principles, who devoted his life to the cause of individual liberty when at times it must have seemed that collectivism had triumphed. It is therefore appropriate that today we salute Francis Wrigley Hirst as a valiant defender of the Cobdenite tradition of peace and free trade.

You can read my account of his life here.

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More Comments:

Tim Sydney - 8/21/2007

Thank you.

Mark Brady - 8/12/2007

Tim, thanks for the advice. This link works.

Tim Sydney - 8/12/2007


Your FEE biography of Hirst seems to have been removed. Would it be possible to resurrect it somehow?

Tim Sydney - 7/19/2007

Here is a great quote from FWH's "Political Economy of War" (1915) that I think is great.

“It was argued that the magnitude of the national debt in 1816 need cause no alarm because most of the national creditors were British taxpayers, “ and a debt owing by one part of the community to another is in effect no debt at all.” This resembles the defence of a housebreaker, who, being convicted of carrying off a shopkeeper’s money, replied that it had caused no loss, for he had used the money to buy goods from his victim’s shop.”

It reminds me of the old joke about the man convicted of murdering his parents who seeks mercy from the court on grounds that he's an orphan!

Kenneth R Gregg - 6/10/2005

I agree completely, Mark.

Francis W. Hirst is one that should be better known by the current generation of libertarians. He was consistently opposed to war and far more hard-core than the bulk of the older British classical liberals of his time on economics and civil liberties.

Hirst lived through two generations of wars, The Boer War, WWI and WWII and, unlike many libertarian-inclined people today, did not throw out civil or economic liberties in the name of national defense. Liberventionists should hang their heads in shame when in the presence of someone with the stature of a Hirst.

Just a thought.
Just Ken