1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to sidebar
Source link: http://archive.mises.org/4628/the-origins-of-individualist-anarchism-in-the-us/

The Origins of Individualist Anarchism in the US

February 1, 2006 by

Murray Rothbard details the forgotten history of radical individualist thought in the US. Colonial America did not set out deliberately to be the land of the free. On the contrary, it began in a tangle of tyranny, special privilege, and vast land monopoly. Territories were carved out either as colonies subject directly to the English Crown, or as enormous land grabs for privileged companies or feudal proprietors. What defeated these despotic and feudal thrusts into the new territory was, at bottom, rather simple: the vastness of the fertile and uninhabited land that lay waiting to be settled.


Curt Howland February 1, 2006 at 2:32 pm

The Pennsylvania section had been posted previously, I’m glad to read it in context. Thank you.

jeffrey February 1, 2006 at 2:59 pm

Actually that previous posting on the PN issue was from Conceived in Liberty but the texts are similar. He must have submitted this to this journal while he was working on CONCEIVED.

Incidentally, the first leather (cowhide, not bonded) edition of the History of Economic Thought just arrived in our offices. All I can say is wow! We will have only 200 sets, and since we just approved this one copy, they bindery will work on the remaining ones–by hand, one by one. It will become available in a few weeks.

Wild Pegasus February 1, 2006 at 5:18 pm

Uninhabited? Is this a joke?

- Josh

Roy W. Wright February 1, 2006 at 9:21 pm

Ohhhh boy.

GMB February 1, 2006 at 10:02 pm

Probably it had some truth to it Josh considering that so many of the Indians would have been killed off by the European diseases.

Peter February 2, 2006 at 12:45 am

How many Indians were there before the Europeans arrived? The US is pretty sparsely populated today, so if Wild Pegasus is to be taken seriously, there must have been, what?, a couple of billion, at least? And they were all killed off by European diseases? Wow!

GMB February 2, 2006 at 4:44 am

It would be a bit cumbersome if you were putting all these provisos in all the time. I’m sure the writer was not trying to be flippant to the natives. He was likely just trying to show how a principle works itself out. A way that liberty flourished against the designs of the powerful.

P.M.Lawrence February 2, 2006 at 5:00 am

While distance and geography played a large part in these developments, there was also the bad behaviour of, for instance, the Pennsylvanian settlers who ripped off those like William Penn who helped settle them there. It’s a gross misreading of his position (among those of many others) to call it despotic and feudal (I’m assuming that “feudal” was meant to be pejorative, although true feudalism before it was captured by vested interests in the middle ages was in fact a very free system).

If Penn had exercised his rights as proprietor to quitrent, he would simply have billeted his own officers on defaulting tenants’ land, agisting his livestock on it. That was what quitrent was – a payment compounding for the exercise of these retained rights over property.

The case of the Hudson Valley Patroons also shows that it wasn’t simply geography, but location. The tenants were at all times free to move to new land, yet preferred to stay with access to the river trade. They freed themselves from their freely accepted tenancies by rigging the political system, expropriating the descendants of those who had helped their ancestors settle there.

So in point of fact, although geography did indeed help liberty, much of this was in fact a gloss for theft.

Incidentally, the usual situation that emerges isn’t general liberty, but rather a free population that joins forces with the system to kick away the ladder after them. They end up with at least de facto secure liberty, at the price of stopping that way out against later comers – the ecological niche has been filled. Cases include the cossacks and the maroons.

Kenneth R. Gregg February 2, 2006 at 2:45 pm

You might be interested in Lewis Janes’ essay on Samuell Gorton: http://cdl.library.cornell.edu/cgi-bin/moa/sgml/moa-idx?notisid=AFJ3026-0024-38

I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that it may have been part of Murray’s source for his material, although it’s not referenced in this article. Like MNR, I’ve had a lot of interest in early American history, although I’ve done more on the Am Rev.

Just a thought.
Just Ken

Angelo February 2, 2006 at 3:11 pm

Excellent article. When the part about Pennsylvania was first posted on here in “Pennsylvania’s Anarchist Experiment”, that was perhaps the first thing I read to really help me sympathetic to anarchism, and eventually led me to believe in it amd reject the state.

Randall McElroy February 9, 2006 at 2:42 pm

Ironically, Wikipedia says that FDR, Bush I, and Bush II are all her descendents.

Randall McElroy February 9, 2006 at 2:42 pm

Er, Anne Hutchinson’s descendents.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: