Excerpted from the book;
Individual Liberty: Selections From the Writings of Benjamin R. Tucker
Vanguard Press, New York, 1926
Kraus Reprint Co., Millwood, NY, 1973.
C.L.S., the editor and compiler of this book, has known Benjamin R. Tucker personally since 1891, having entered his employ at that time in the mechanical department of Liberty, Mr. Tucker's journal for the exposition of Individualist Anarchism. After that time and until the final suspension of publication of Liberty, C.L.S. contributed many articles to the columns of that periodical, both signed and unsigned, usually in the editorial department. For a considerable period he had complete editorial charge, during Mr. Tucker's absence. Thus the present work has been performed by one who has entire familiarity with Liberty's philosophy and who perhaps at present has a closer sympathy with Mr. Tucker's ideas than any other person in America.
Mr. Tucker has written that "the editor is well chosen, and his qualifications for the job undeniable." He does, however, request that the volume shall be prefaced by a statement that he, "while gratefully acknowledging the good will that has inspired the publication," has had no hand in the work of abridgment, and that the project has been executed without his express sanction or approval, although the publisher's action is "above reproach."
In justice to Mr. Tucker, however, it should be stated that he emphatically protested against the elimination of the words of his opponents in the controversies, since he had always been scrupulously exact in presenting their ideas in full; but the limited scope of this volume made such omission imperative.
A word as to the title of this book. Tucker's life work is devoted to the exposition of the rights of the Individual. As a title for the journal which he used as a medium of expression for thirty years, he chose Liberty . It seems fitting that these two words, standing as they do for the highest aspirations of mankind, should be joined together in a title for this compilation of Tucker's libertarian and, anarchistic teachings.
For a number of years practically all of the literature of Individualist Anarchism has been out of print. The great bulk of whatever matter there was had, of course, been in the hands of Benjamin R. Tucker, and up to 1908 it was being constantly augmented by him. But when, in January of that year, his entire wholesale stock of publications, manuscripts, etc., and nearly all of his plates were wiped out by fire, the loss was irreparable, and little attempt has been made to replace any of the material destroyed.
The demand for something representative of Individualist Anarchism has become so insistent that it has been determined to produce at least one volume of the best matter available, and in that volume to attempt to cover the whole subject.
The nearest that any book ever came to answering that description is Tucker's "Instead of a Book", first published in 1893, culled from his writings in his periodical, Liberty, and out of print since 1908. This closely printed volume of nearly 500 pages was composed of questions and criticisms by his correspondents and by writers in other periodicals, all answered by the editor of Liberty in that keen, clear-cut style that was the delight of his adherents and the despair of his opponents.
In casting about for material for the proposed volume, therefore, no other writings than those of Benjamin R. Tucker could for a moment be considered, and it is no exaggeration to say that they stand high above everything else that has been written on the subject, not even excepting the works of Josiah Warren, Proudhon, and Lysander Spooner, or of any other person who has ever attempted to expound the principles of Individualist Anarchism.
Mr. Tucker is an educated and cultured man. His literary style is both fluent and elegant, his statements concise and accurate, his arguments logical and convincing, and his replies terse yet courteous. The reader is never at a loss to know what he means. There is not a word too much or too little. Every sentence is rounded and complete - not a redundant syllable or a missing punctuation mark. What he writes is a joy to read, even when the reader himself is the victim of his withering sarcasm or caustic satire.
A brief resume of Mr. Tucker's life will serve to indicate the background of his remarkable personality. He was born in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts, April 17, 1854, the son of Abner R. Tucker, owner and outfitter of whale ships and later a grocer in New Bedford. His mother was Caroline A. Cummings, his father's second wife, and Benjamin was their only child. The father was of Quaker parents and the mother was a Unitarian, and an able, progressive and radical woman, her father having been a pronounced admirer of Thomas Paine.
At two years Tucker was reading English fluently and at four gleefully discovered that the Episcopal Prayer Book had misquoted the Bible. At sixteen he had finished the course at the Friends' Academy, and, while at first refusing to go to any college, he finally spent two years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Boston). After hearing Josiah Warren speak and Col. William B. Greene quote Proudhon at a convention of the New England Labor Reform League in Boston in 1872, he soon became an Anarchist and translated Proudhon's "What Is Property?" from the French. In 1877 he edited The Word in Princeton, Massachusetts, while its editor, Ezra H. Heywood, was in prison. In 1878 he estabIished and conducted for a year The Radical Review in New Bedford. In the same year he joined the editorial staff of the Boston Daily Globe, remaining for eleven years.
In 1881 he founded Liberty, which he continued to publish, with some irregularity and several suspensions, until 1908, the last issue appearing in April of that year, a few months after the disastrous fire. In 1892, when he assumed editorial duties on The Engineering Magazine, he removed Liberty to York, where it was published until its final suspension. Since that time Tucker has been living in France.
"Instead of a Book" was deemed unsuitable for reproduction in its present form because it contains so many articles dealing with local and current events. It was decided that Individualist Anarchism could better be expounded by presenting the words of Mr. Tucker alone, eliminating the voluminous, letters of his correspondents and many more or less personal matters that crept into the discussions, with just enough explanatory matter written by the editor to indicate what drew forth the arguments advanced by Liberty's editor and to connect up the loose ends. In many cases Mr. Tucker has so carefully restated the position of his adversary that it has been unnecessary for the editor to repeat it.
The compiler has therefore mereiy attempted to weld together the different sections and weave the various articles into a more or less continuous whole. The task has proved to be diffcult beyond all preconception, and that it has been performed with complete success it would be presumptuous to assert.
In Mr. Tucker's controversies with his correspondents and others, occasional allusions to persons and matters not involved in the discussion have entered. These, while perfectly pertinent wben his opponents' remarks were given, add little to the force of the arguments for the Anarchistic position which it is the purpose of this volume exclusively to set forth, and they have therefore generally been excised, in spite of the fact that they constitute some of Mr. Tucker's most pungent writing.
In some places this method of treatment has made it necessary to eliminate parts of paragraphs and even parts of sentences. This elision has not been indicated by asterisks or otherwise, because the frequency of such instances would have made the matter too disconnected; while the main object of this volume is to present, as nearly as possible, an unbroken exposition. It is considered that this proceeding is entirely unobjectionable, since the essential arguments are thus expressed just as clearly, and of course more concisely, than in the complete original.
"Instead of a Book" contained only material published in Liberty previous to 1893, so the columns of Liberty since that date have been resorted to for some additional material.
The editor wishes to acknowledge his indebtedness to those comrades, all plumb-liners of the period when Liberty was the venerated medium for the exchange of their ideas, who have aided him, by advice and hard work, in the preparation of this volume, the index thereto having been prepared by the same person who performed that service for "Instead of a Book".
Los Angeles, California.