A Gratifying Discovery.

A Gratifying Discovery.

[Liberty, May 31, 1884.]

Liberty made its first appearance in August, 1881. Of that issue a great many sample copies were mailed to selected addresses all over the world. Not one of these, however, was sent from this office directly to Nantucket, for I had never heard of a radical on that island. But, through some channel or other, a copy found its way thither; for, before the second number had been issued, an envelope bearing the Nantucket postmark came to me containing a greeting for Liberty, than which the paper has had none since more warm, more hearty, more sympathetic, more intelligent, more appreciative.(169 ¶ 1)

But the letter was anonymous. Its style and language, however, showed its writer to be a very superior person, which fact, of course, added value to the substance of its contents. The writer expressed his unqualified approval of the political and social doctrines enunciated in the first number of Liberty (and certainly in no number since have those doctrines been stated more boldly and nakedly than in that one), saying that these views had been held by him for years, and that the advent of an organ for their dissemination was what he had long been waiting for. He gently chided Liberty, nevertheless, for its anti-religious attitude, not so much apparently from any counter-attitude of his own or from any personal sensitiveness in that direction, as from a feeling that religious beliefs are essentially private in their nature and so peculiar to the individuals holding them as to exempt them from public consideration and criticism. After admonishing Liberty to abandon this objectionable feature of its policy, the letter closed by saying that I did not need to know the writer’s name, but, for the dollar enclosed, I might send the paper regularly to the Post Office Box No. 22, Nantucket, Mass.(169 ¶ 2)

Only the substance of the letter is given above, the manuscript having been inadvertently destroyed with an accumulation of some others some time ago. To the given address Liberty has regularly gone, and I never failed to wonder, when mailing-day came, as to the identity of the mysterious Nantucketer.(169 ¶ 3)

Lately came the revelation. It will be remembered that a death occurred in Nantucket a few weeks ago which attracted the attention of the whole country and occasioned columns of newspaper tribute and comment. In reading the various obituaries of the deceased, I learned that he was a man who had thought much and written radically on political subjects with a most decided trend toward complete individual liberty, that, nevertheless, he had been brought up in the Roman Catholic church, and to the end of his life was outwardly connected with it, though refusing on his death-bed to admit the priests to his presence for the administration of the sacrament; and that, though a member of a profession which necessarily made him a public man, he had always shunned publicity and notoriety in every way possible.(169 ¶ 4)

As these facts simultaneously presented themselves, the thought suddenly flashed upon my mind that I had found the holder of Box No. 22. Through a relative visiting Nantucket I instituted inquiries at the post-office on that island, and was promptly notified that the box in question had been rented for the past few years by the late Charles O’Conor. It was as I expected. The text of his letter, alas! is gone, but not its substance from my memory. The extracts from his published writings soon to appear in these columns will show how extreme a radical he was in his attitude towards governments, although in them he never expressed the fundamental thought acknowledged in his letter to me. Perhaps he regarded that as too strong meat for babes.(169 ¶ 5)

I am no hero-worshipper in the usual sense of that term, and among the friends of Liberty there are a number of humbler men than Charles O’Conor, whose approval I value even more highly than his; but none the less is it with extreme gratification that I now authoritatively record the fact that the great lawyer whose wonderful eloquence and searching intellectual power kept him for two decades the acknowledged head of the American bar, far from being the Bourbon which an ignorant and dishonest press has pictured him, was a thorough-going Anarchist.(169 ¶ 6)