so i'll be in hartford this weekend, giving a (brief) talk at the north american anarchist studies network inaugural conference at the charter oak cultural center, 3:15ish saturday afternoon. i'll give a version of my interpretation of american anarchism as emerging from radical protestantism and embodying an anti-capitalist individualism. here's a handout.
American Anarchism 1830-1850: Quotations
Our surrounding institutions, customs and public opinion call for conformity: they require us to act in masses like herds of cattle: they do not recognize the fact that we think and feel individually and ought to be at liberty to act individually. But this liberty cannot be enjoyed in combinations, masses and connections in which one cannot move without affecting another. Nothing is more common than such remarks as the following. "No two things are alike." "There can be no rules without exceptions" &c. Yet, we are constantly called upon to conform to rules that do not suit our case, to acquiesce in numerous different opinions all at the same moment, and no laws in the world preserve the liberty of the governed to make exceptions to the rules which they are required to obey. To give others the power to construe laws and make exceptions is equivalent to giving them the power to govern without laws. A little observation will disclose an individuality in persons, times, and circumstances which has suggested the idea that one of our most fatal errors has been the laying down rules, laws, and principles without preserving the liberty of each person to apply them according to the individuality of his views, and the circumstances of different cases. In other words, our error, like that of all the world that has gone before us has been, the violation of individual liberty.
Josiah Warren, The Peaceful Revolutionist (1833)
[W]hoever feels unable or unwilling to forgive all manner of injuries, and the worst of enemies, has no right to rank himself among the followers of Christ; the attempt of men to govern themselves by external rules and physical penalties is and ever must be futile; and from the assumption, that man has the right to exercise oppression over his brother, has proceeded every form of injustice and oppression with which the earth has been afflicted. No one who professes to have the spirit of Christ, can consistently sue a man at law for redress of injuries, or thrust any evil-doer in prison, or fill any office in which he would come under obligation to execute penal enactments - or take any part in military service - or acknowledge allegiance to any human government. The governments of this world are all Anti-Christ; they cannot be maintained, except by military power; all their penal enactments being a dead letter without military power to carry them into effect, are virtually written in human blood.
William Lloyd Garrison, Constitution of the New England Non-Resistance Society (1838)
Political action is of one spirit and intent with military. The weapons of both are violence, and the instrumentalities of both, bloodshed and murder. What is government, after which all political action is aiming, but an armed battery? What is its voice, but the report of cannon - its sanctions, but the bayonet and the halter? . . . It is immoral to strike a man a man, or threaten him, or to ask the sheriff to do it for you - or the militia officer, or the governor as such - or the penal law-maker - or the voter. Moral action is addressed to the moral qualities of a moral being - and does not act physically on the body and animal senses. There is nothing reformatory in animal action. A politician is but a man driver, a human teamster. His business is to control men by the whip and the goad. His occupation would be unlawful and inexpedient toward even the cattle.
Nathaniel Peabody Rogers, "Politics," Herald of Freedom (1843)
Whilst I do what is fit for me, and abstain from what is unfit, my neighbor and I shall often agree in our means, and work together for a time to one end. But whenever I find my dominion over myself not sufficient for me, and undertake the direction of him also, I overstep the truth, and come into false relations to him. I may have so much more skill or strength than he, that he cannot express adequately his sense of wrong, but it is a lie, and hurts like a lie both him and me. Love and nature cannot maintain the assumption: it must be executed by a practical lie, namely, by force.... The tendencies of the times favor the idea of self-government, and leave the individual, for all code, to the rewards and penalties of his own constitution, which work with more energy than we believe, whilst we depend on artificial restraints.... A man has a right to be employed, to be trusted, to be loved, to be revered. The power of love, as the basis of a State, has never been tried. We must not imagine that all things are lapsing into confusion, if every tender protestant be not compelled to bear his part in certain social conventions: nor doubt that roads can be built, letters carried, and the fruit of labor secured, when the government of force is at an end.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Politics" (1844)
Men are morally responsible for all constitutions, institutions, laws, processes and usages which they have pledged themselves to support, or in which they acquiesce without positive remonstrance and disfellowship. Thus if a political compact, a civil or military league, covenant or constitution, requires, authorizes, provides for or tolerates war, bloodshed, capital punishment, slavery, or any kind of absolute injury, the man who swears, affirms, or otherwise pledges himself to support it, is just as responsible for every act of injury done in conformity thereto, as if he himself personally committed it. The army is his army, the gallows his gallows, the whipping post his whipping post, the prison his prison, the slaveholding his slaveholding. When the constitutional majority declares war, it is his war. All the slaughter, rapine, ravages, robbery are his. There is no escape from this terrible moral responsibility but by a conscientious withdrawal from such government, and an uncompromising protest against its fundamental creed and law.
Adin Ballou, Christian Non-Resistance (1846)
If, for instance, a man asserts the value of individual liberty over the merely political commonweal, his neighbor still tolerates him, that is he who is living near him, sometimes even sustains him, but never the State. Its officer, as a living man, may have human virtues and a thought in his brain, but as the tool of an institution, he is not a whit superior to his prison key or his staff. Herein is the tragedy; that men doing outrage to their proper natures, even those called wise and good, lend themselves to perform the offices of inferior and brutal ones. hence come war and slavery in; and what else may not come in by this opening?
Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849)
How can man have the right to dictate law to his equal brother, and kill him if he disobeys? for all human government must fall back on death for execution. Death is personified in every legislature, judge and ruler; the government is but an embodiment of death. No man can be under obligation to do anything because human governments tell him to do it. If they require what is right, we are to do it; not because they require, but because it is right, and not because congress of parliament commands it. . . . As well say, that the only way to make men love us is to hate them, as to say that governments of violence ever did or ever can protect life. They exist by death, and they make of earth a charnel house. The history of all attempts of man to rule over man, to dictate to him a rule of life, and to punish him if he disobeys, demonstrates that an assumption of such power is opposed to nature and to nature's God. They have made earth a scene of blood and carnage.
Henry Clarke Wright, Anthropology or the Science of Man in its Bearing on War and Slavery, by Henry C. Wright (1850)