Do the Knights of Labor Love Liberty?

Do the Knights of Labor Love Liberty?

[Liberty, February 20, 1886.]

To the Editor of Liberty:(166 ¶ 1)

In Liberty of January 9 I see, in your notice of our friend, Henry Appleton, having become the editor of the Newsman, this precautionary language, or mild censure, from you to him: Will he pardon me if I add that I look with grave doubts upon his advice to newsdealers to join the Knights of Labor? His own powerful pen has often clearly pointed out in these columns the evils of that organization and of all others similar to it. And further own you say: A significant hint of what may be expected from the Knights of Labor is to be found in the address of Grand Master Powderly, the head and front of that body, before its latest national convention. He said in most emphatic terms that it would not do for the organization to simply frown upon the use of dynamite, but that any member hereafter advocating the use of dynamite must be summarily expelled.(166 ¶ 2)

Now, I do not know how much you know about the Knights of Labor, nor do I know how much our friend, Henry Appleton, knows about the Knights of Labor. But this much I am impelled to say after reading your reproving strictures,—that it is neither safe, prudent, or wise to condemn or censure any body of liberty-loving and earnestly truth-seeking people who are associated together to enlighten themselves as to what real Liberty is as well as to what are their most important and highest natural rights, duties, or privileges without a full knowledge of their objects, aims, and their methods to promote and achieve them. I can further confidently say that I have for more than forty years been an earnest seeker for these all-important natural scientific principles as taught or set forth by the most advanced individual thinkers or defenders of Liberty,—real Anarchists, if you please,—and I have found more persons holding said views and seeking the knowledge of these natural, inalienable laws or principles of scientific government among the members of this condemned association or school than I ever found outside of it. And I am confident that I can find more friends and earnest defenders of Liberty in its ranks than I can find outside of it. In fact, this school was founded to place Labor on a scientific basis and teach individual self-government at the expense of the individual without invading or infringing on the rights of others. Therefore, notwithstanding the opinions you have formed or the conclusions you may have arrived at in regard to this association or school, I fully indorse Friend Appleton’s advice to the newsmen as well as all other useful workers who are in pursuit of Liberty, truth, justice, and a knowledge of their natural rights and highest duties. And although the association or school may be composed of a large majority of members who are laboring under the disadvantages of previous superstition, education, or training by the bossism of Church and State, nevertheless I esteem it the best opportunity, opening, or school in which to free them from said superstitions that I have ever met with, and for which the best minds in said school are constantly and earnestly laboring. And pardon me, Friend Tucker, for the suggestion that perhaps, if you knew more about their objects, aims, and methods, you might think better of them than you now do.(166 ¶ 3)

Fair Play.

Criticism from a man like Fair Play, whom I know to be a real knight of labor, whether nominally one or not, is always welcome in these columns, and will always deserve and secure my attention. In attending to it in this special case my first business is to repeat what I have said already,—that I misquoted Henry Appleton, that he has never advised newsdealers to join the Knights of Labor, and that he is as much opposed to the principles and purposes of that order as I am.(166 ¶ 4)

I don’t pretend to know very much about the Knights of Labor, but I know enough already to make it needless to know more. I know, for instance, their Declaration of Principles, and my fatal objections to these principles, or most of them, no additional knowledge of the order could possibly obviate or in any way invalidate or weaken. Of them the preamble itself says: Most of the objects herein set forth can only be obtained through legislation, and it is the duty of all to assist in nominating and supporting with their votes only such candidates as will pledge their support to those measures, regardless of party. Does Fair Play mean to tell me that he knows of any real Anarchist who consents to stultify himself by belonging to a society founded on that proposition? If he does, I answer that that man either does not know what Anarchy means, or else is as false to his principles as would be an Infidel who should subscribe to the creed of John Calvin. Anarchy and this position are utterly irreconcilable; and no man who understands both of them (with the possible exception of Stephen Pearl Andrews) would ever attempt to reconcile them.(166 ¶ 5)

But what are these objects which these liberty-loving people expect to realize by that eminently Anarchistic weapon, the ballot? The Declaration goes on to state them. We demand at the hands of the State (think of an Anarchist demanding anything of the State except its death!):(166 ¶ 6)

That all lands now held for speculative purposes be taxed to their full value. How long since taxation became an Anarchistic measure? It is my impression that Anarchists look upon taxation as the bottom tyranny of all.(166 ¶ 7)

The enactment of laws providing for arbitration between employers and employed, and to enforce the decision of the arbitrators. That is, the State must fix the rate of wages and the conditions of the performance of labor. The Anarchist who would indorse that must be a curiosity.(166 ¶ 8)

The prohibition by law of the employment of children under fifteen years of age in workshops, mines, and factories. In other words, a boy of fourteen shall not be allowed to choose his occupation. What Anarchist takes this position?(166 ¶ 9)

That a graduated income tax be levied. How this would lessen the sphere of government!(166 ¶ 10)

The establishment of a national monetary system, in which a circulating medium in necessary quantity shall issue direct to the people without the intervention of banks; that all the national issue shall be full legal tender in payment of all debts, public and private; and that the government shall not guarantee or recognize private banks, or create any banking corporations. If Fair Play knows of any Anarchists who have subscribed to this, I wish he would furnish their addresses. I should like to send them Colonel Greene’s Mutual Banking and the keen and powerful chapter of Lysander Spooner’s Letter to Grover Cleveland which treats of the congressional crime of altering contracts by legal-tender laws. Perhaps they might thus be brought to their senses.(166 ¶ 11)

But need I, as I easily might, extend this list of tyrannical measures to convince Friend Fair Play that, however much I might know about the Knights of Labor, I could not think better of them than I now do?(166 ¶ 12)

The trouble is that Fair Play and reformers generally do not yet know what to make of such a phenomenon in journalism as a radical reform paper which, instead of offering the right hand of fellowship to everything calling itself radical and reformatory, adopts a principle for its compass and steers a straight course by it. They all like it first-rate until its course conflicts with theirs. Then they exclaim in horror. I am sorry to thus shock them, but I cannot help it; I must keep straight on. When I launched this little newspaper craft, I hoisted the flag of Liberty. I hoisted it not as a name merely, but as a vital principle, by which I mean to live and die. With the valued aid of Fair Play and others, added to my own efforts, it has been kept flying steadily at the masthead. It has not been lowered an inch, and, while I have strength to defend it, it never will be. And if any man attempts to pull it down, I care not who he may be, Knight of Capital or Knight of Labor, I propose, at least with mental and moral ammunition, to shoot him on the spot.(166 ¶ 13)