Critics & Crusaders: A Century of American Protest

By Charles A. Madison | Go to book overview

BENJAMIN R. TUCKER


INDIVIDUALIST ANARCHIST

BENJAMIN R. TUCKER, chief exponent of individualist anarchism or the doctrine of the stateless society, had his roots deep in Yankee idealism. Of Colonial and Quaker ancestry, born in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, in 1854, when the agitation for the abolition of Negro slavery was reaching its crest, he grew up in an atmosphere of social reform. He was a very bright child and was early stimulated by the radical preaching of the Unitarian minister whose church he attended. He became "a daily devourer of the New York Tribune from the age of twelve," when Horace Greeley was at his best as the journalistic spokesman for American liberalism. During his early teens he studied the writings of Darwin, Spencer, Buckle, Mill, Huxley, and Tyndall, and all of them strengthened his nonconformist tendencies. He also went regularly to the winter lectures at the New Bedford Lyceum, and heard such advanced speakers as Wendell Phillips, Garrison, and Emerson. By the time he graduated from the Friends School in 1870 he was, much more than his fellows, eager to reform the world. His parents persuaded him to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he remained for three years, more absorbed in social problems than in the study of engineering. A chance meeting with the aged Josiah Warren, the pioneer anarchist, so sharpened his interest in individual liberty that he decided to make it his prime concern. Many years later he had this to say of his adolescent zeal:

I naturally took a decided stand on all religious, scientific, political and social questions, and cherished a choice collection of chaotic and

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