• The Origins of Individualist Anarchism in America

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    Libertarians
    tend to fall into two opposing errors on the American past: the
    familiar “Golden Age” view of the right-wing that everything was
    blissful in America until some moment of precipitous decline (often
    dated 1933); and the deeply pessimistic minority view that rejects
    the American past root and branch, spurning all American institutions
    and virtually all of its thinkers except such late nineteenth-century
    individualist anarchists as Benjamin R. Tucker and Lysander Spooner.

    The truth
    is somewhere in between: America was never the golden “land of
    the free” of the conservative-libertarian legend, and yet it managed
    for a very long time to be freer, in institutions and in intellectual
    climate, than any other land.

    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. Not only relative freedom,
    but even outright anarchist institutions grew up early in the
    interstices between the organized, despotic English colonies.

    ALBEMARLE

    There is
    a good possibility that for a couple of decades in the mid-seventeenth
    century, the coastal area north of Albemarle Sound in what is
    now northeastern North Carolina was in a quasi-anarchistic state.
    Technically a part of the Virginia colony but in practice virtually
    independent, the Albemarle area was a haven for persons chaffing
    under the despotic rule of the English Crown, the Anglican Church
    and the large planter aristocracy of Virginia. Roger Green led
    a Presbyterian group that left Virginia proper for Albemarle,
    and many Quakers settled in the area, which specialized in growing
    tobacco.

    This semi-libertarian
    condition came to an end in 1663, when the English Crown included
    Albemarle in the mammoth Carolina land grant bestowed on a group
    of eight feudal proprietors. Little is known of pre-1663 Albemarle,
    since historians display scant interest in stateless societies.[1]

    “ROGUE’S
    ISLAND”

    Undoubtedly
    the freest colony in America, and the major source of anarchistic
    thought and institutions, was little Rhode Island, which originated
    as a series of more or less anarchic settlements founded by people
    fleeing from the brutal politico-religious tyranny of the Puritans
    of Massachusetts Bay (who referred to the new territory as “Rogue’s
    Land”). Unsettled and untouched by the land grants or the Crown,
    the Rhode Island area provided a haven close to the Massachusetts
    Bay settlement.

    Providence,
    the first refugee settlement, was founded in 1636 by the young
    Reverend Roger Williams. A political and especially a religious
    libertarian, Williams was close to the Levellers — that great
    group of English laissez-faire individualists who constituted
    the “extreme left-wing” of the republican side in the English
    Civil War. At first, the Williams settlement was virtually anarchistic.
    As Williams described it, “the masters of families have ordinarily
    met once a fortnight and consulted about our common peace, watch
    and plenty; and mutual consent have finished all matters of speed
    and pace.”

    But this
    anarchistic idyll began to flounder in a tragically ironic trap
    that Williams had laid for himself and his followers. Williams
    had pioneered in scrupulously purchasing all the land from the
    Indians voluntarily — a method of land acquisition in sharp
    contrast to the brutal methods of extermination beloved by the
    Puritans of Massachusetts Bay. But the problem was that the Indians
    had erroneous theories of property. As collective tribes they
    laid claim to vast reaches of land on which they had only hunted.
    Not having transformed the land itself, they were not entitled
    to all of the land that they sold.

    Hence, Williams
    and his group, by purchasing all of this unsettled land, willy-nilly
    acquired these illegitimate land titles. Thinking that he had
    been generous, voluntaristic and libertarian, Williams (and his
    group) fell into the trap of becoming a feudalistic group of landowners.
    Instead of automatically acquiring the land in Providence that
    they homesteaded, later settlers had to purchase or rent the land
    from the original Williams claimants. The result was that Williams
    and his original colleagues, who had formed “The Fellowship,"
    found themselves in the position of being oligarchic rulers of
    Providence as well as Providence’s land “monopolists.” Once again,
    as so many times in history, land-monopoly and government went
    hand in hand.

    While a libertarian,
    Williams never became an explicit anarchist, even though he established
    an anarchistic community in Providence. The honor of being the
    first explicit anarchist In North America belongs to Williams’s
    successor, a leading religious refugee from Massachusetts, Anne
    Hutchinson. Anne and her followers, who had become far more numerous
    a band of heretics than Williams had amassed, emigrated to the
    Rhode Island area in 1638 at the suggestion of Williams himself.
    There they purchased the island of Aquidneck from the Indians
    and founded the settlement of Pocasset (now Portsmouth).

    Anne soon
    became restive at Pocasset, seeing that her follower and major
    founder of the settlement, the wealthy merchant William Coddington,
    had quickly established his own theocratic rule over the infant
    colony. For Coddington, as “judge” of the settlement, based his
    decrees and rulings on the “word of God," as arbitrarily interpreted
    by himself.

    Coddington,
    this time far more explicitly and consciously than Williams, founded
    his dictatorial power on his deed of purchase of the island from
    the Indians. Since his was the only name on the deed of purchase,
    Coddington claimed for himself all the “rights” of land monopolist
    and feudal lord, allotting no rights to homesteading settlers.

    Anne Hutchinson,
    not yet an anarchist, now launched a political struggle against
    Coddington in early 1639 forcing him to give the entire body of
    freemen a veto over his actions. In April, Coddington was forced
    to agree to elections for his post as Governor, a position that
    he had expected to be his permanently by feudal right. Anne’s
    husband, William Hutchinson, defeated Coddington in the elections,
    and Coddington and his followers left Pocasset to found a new
    settlement called New Port at the southern end of the island.
    The victorious Hutchinsonians adopted a new constitution, changing
    the name of the town to Portsmouth, and stating that (1) all male
    inhabitants were equal before the law; (2) Church and State were
    to be kept separate; and (3) trial by jury was to be established
    for all.

    Immediately
    thereafter Coddington declared war upon Portsmouth and at the
    end of a year of turmoil, the two groups agreed to unite the two
    settlements. Coddington was once more chosen as governor, but
    with democratic institutions and religious liberty guaranteed.

    From the
    point of view of social philosophy, however, the important consequence
    of this struggle with Coddington was that Anne Hutchinson began
    to reflect deeply on the whole question of liberty. If, as Roger
    Williams had taught, there must be absolute religious liberty
    for the individual, than what right does government have to rule
    the individual at all? In short, Anne Hutchinson had come to the
    conclusion of the “unlawfulness of magistry government.”

    As Anne’s
    biographer Winifred Rugg put it: “She was supremely convinced
    that the Christian held within his own breast the assurance of
    salvation … For such persons magistrates were obviously
    superfluous. As for the others, they were to be converted, not
    coerced.”

    Anne persuaded
    her husband to resign as one of Coddington’s major assistants
    in the colony. In 1642, soon after his resignation, William Hutchinson
    died. Deprived of her husband and disgusted with all government,
    Anne left Rhode Island to settle at Pelham Bay, near New York
    City. There, in the late summer of 1643, Anne and her family were
    killed by a band of Indians, who had been set upon by the Dutch
    of New York.

    But while
    Anne Hutchinson was dead, her ideas lived on. Some of her followers,
    headed by Anne’s sister Mrs. Catherine Scott, headed the new Baptist
    movement in Rhode Island, which, as we shall see, was later to
    erupt as a highly important movement of Baptist anarchists.

    One of the
    most interesting individualists of the American colonial period
    was Samuell Gorton. An English clothier, his libertarian political
    and religious views and individualistic spirit got him persecuted
    in every colony in New England, including Providence and Portsmouth.
    An opponent of theocracy, and indeed of all formal religious organizations,
    Gorton opposed all transgressions of government against the rights
    guaranteed by English common law. Fleeing Anglican England, Gorton
    successively had to escape from Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Portsmouth,
    and Providence. In the Providence incident Roger Williams began
    to display that totalitarian temperament, that impatience with
    anyone more individualistic than he, that was later to turn him
    sharply away from liberty and towards statism. Williams agreed
    to the expulsion of Gorton from Providence, declaring that Gorton
    was “bewitching and bemadding poor Providence … with his
    unclear and foul censures of all the ministers of this country…”

    Accused of
    being “anarchists,” denounced by Governor Winthrop of Massachusetts
    Bay as a “man not fit to live upon the face of the earth,” Gorton
    and his followers were forced in late 1642 to found an entirely
    new settlement of their own: Shawomet (later Warwick) which he
    purchased from the Indians. There the little settlement was under
    continued threat of aggression by their mighty Massachusetts neighbor.
    While Gorton was not explicitly an anarchist, the little town
    of Shawomet lived in an anarchist idyll in the years that it remained
    a separate settlement.

    In the words
    of Gorton, for over five years the settlement “lived peaceably
    together, desiring and endeavoring to do wrong to no man, neither
    English nor Indian, ending all our differences in a neighborly
    and loving way of arbitration, mutually chosen amongst us.” But
    in 1648, Warwick joined with the other three towns of Rhode Island
    to form the colony of the “Providence Plantation.” From that time
    on Warwick was under a government, even though this was a government
    far more democratic and libertarian than existed anywhere else.
    As a respected leader of the new colony, now considered “fit to
    live” in Rhode Island, Gorton managed to abolish imprisonment
    for debt, lower the term of indentured service, and even to be
    the first to abolish slavery in America, even though abolition
    turned out to be a dead letter.

    After two
    decades of struggle against the aggressions of Massachusetts,
    Roger Williams was finally able, in the mid-1650s, to win immunity
    for Rhode Island, by gaining the protection of the victorious
    republican revolutionaries of England. At the time of winning
    its protection from Massachusetts, Williams described the colony
    as having “long drunk of the cup of as great liberties as any
    people that we can hear of under the whole heaven.” “Sir,” Williams
    added, writing to his libertarian English friend Sir Henry Vane,
    “we have not known what an excise means; we have almost forgotten
    what tithes are, yea, or taxes either, to church or commonwealth.”

    Yet it was
    almost immediately after this triumph that Williams savagely turned
    on the liberty of the colony he had founded. Why the shift? Several
    reasons can be found: first, the inevitable corruptions of governmental
    power on even the most libertarian of rulers; and second, Williams’s
    impatience with those even more libertarian than he. But a third
    reason has to do with the loss of liberty in England.

    For two decades,
    Roger Williams had worked closely with the most libertarian and
    individualistic groups in the revolutionary movement in England;
    but now, just as the laissez-faire, individualist “left” seemed
    to have triumphed, England suddenly moved precipitously rightward
    and stateward under the new dictatorship of the Independent Oliver
    Cromwell. The shift away from liberty in England was embodied
    in Cromwell’s brutal suppression of the Levellers, the leaders
    of libertarianism in the Revolution. With the mother country sliding
    away from liberty and into dictatorship, the aging Williams undoubtedly
    lost much of his previously firm grip on libertarian principle.

    Williams’s
    shift from liberty was first revealed in 1655, when he suddenly
    imposed a system of compulsory military service on the people
    of Rhode Island. It was in reaction to this violation of all the
    libertarian traditions of Rhode Island that a vigorous opposition
    developed in the colony — an opposition that eventually
    polarized into outright individualistic anarchism.

    Heading this
    move toward anarchism was the bulk of the Baptists of Rhode Island.
    Led by the Reverend Thomas Olney, former Baptist minister of Providence,
    and including also John Field, John Throckmorton, the redoubtable
    William Harris, and Williams’s own brother Robert. This group
    circulated a petition charging that “it was blood guiltiness,
    and against the rule of the gospel to execute judgement upon transgressors,
    against the private or public weal.” In short, any punishment
    of transgressors and/or any bearing of arms was anti-Christian!

    Williams’s
    response was to denounce the petition as causing “tumult and disturbance.”
    The anarchists thereupon rose in rebellion against Williams’s
    government, but were put down by force of arms. Despite the failure
    of the revolt, the 1655 elections of a few months later, elected
    Thomas Olney as an assistant to the inevitably re-elected Williams,
    even though Olney himself had led the uprising.

    Williams
    proceeded to aggrandize statism still further. The central government
    of the colony decided to bypass the home-rule right of the individual
    towns to finance the colony, and appointed central officials to
    levy general taxes directly upon the people. Laws against “immorality”
    were also strengthened, with corporal punishment to be levied
    for such crimes as “loose living.” The anti-immorality laws were
    probably a part of an attempt by Williams to curry favor with
    the Puritanical Oliver Cromwell. Most ominously, after Cromwell
    had ordered Rhode Island to punish “intestinal commotions,” the
    colony swiftly passed a law against “ringleaders of factions”
    who were thereafter to be sent to England for trial.

    Baptist anarchism,
    however, continued to intensify in Rhode Island. One of the new
    adherents was none other than Catherine Scott, a leading Baptist
    preacher and the sister of Anne Hutchinson. In this way, Anne’s
    lone pioneering in philosophical anarchism before her death had
    planted a seed that burst forth a decade and a half later. Also
    adopting anarchism were Rebecca Throckmorton, Robert West, and
    Ann Williams, wife of Robert. Finally, in March 1657, the crackdown
    on freedom of speech and dissent arrived. Williams hauled these
    four anarchist opponents into court, charging them with being
    “common opposers of all authority.” After this act of intimidation,
    however, Williams relented and withdrew the charges. But Williams
    had accomplished the singular purpose of his repression: the frightened
    anarchist leaders lapsed into silence.

    The formidable
    William Harris, however, could not be frightened so readily. Harris
    circulated a manuscript to all the towns of Rhode Island, denouncing
    all taxation and “all civil governments.” He called upon the people
    to “cry out, No lords, No masters.” Harris predicted that the
    State, which he called “the House of Saul," would inevitably grow
    weaker and weaker, while the “House of David” (namely Harris and
    his followers) would grow stronger and stronger. Harris also condemned
    all punishments and prisons, all officials and legislative assemblies.

    William Harris
    was now hauled into court by the Williams administration. He was
    charged with “open defiance under his hand against our Charter,
    all our laws … Parliament, the Lord Protector [Cromwell]
    and all governments.” Instead of quieting under repression as
    had Mrs. Scott and the others, Harris swore that he would continue
    to maintain his anarchism “with his blood.” Persistently refusing
    to recant, Harris reiterated his interpretation of Scripture,
    namely that “he that can say it is his conscience ought not to
    yield subjection to any human order amongst men.” The General
    Court found Harris guilty of being “contemptuous and seditious,”
    and the evidence against Harris and his son was sent to England
    in preparation for a trial for treason.

    The treason
    trial never materialized, because by good fortune the ship carrying
    the evidence to England was lost at sea. But Harris was finally
    sufficiently cowed to abandon his anarchism. He turned instead
    to a lifelong harassment of the hated Roger Williams through endless
    litigation of land claims.[2]

    PENNSYLVANIA:
    THE HOLY EXPERIMENT

    The third
    great example of anarchism in colonial America took place in Pennsylvania.
    This was William Penn’s “Holy Experiment” for a Quaker colony
    that would provide “an example [that] may be set up to the nations.”
    While religious liberty was guaranteed, and institutions were
    relatively libertarian, Penn never meant his new colony, founded
    in 1681, to be anarchistic or anything of the like.[3]
    Curiously, Pennsylvania fell into living and functioning anarchism
    by happy accident.

    Lured by
    religious liberty and by cheap and abundant land, settlers, largely
    Quaker, poured into Pennsylvania in large numbers.[4]
    At the end of eight years 12,000 people had settled in the new
    colony. The first touch of anarchy came in the area of taxation.
    While low excise and export duties had been levied by the Pennsylvania
    Assembly in 1683, Governor Penn set aside all taxes for a year
    to encourage rapid settlement. The next year, when Penn wanted
    to levy taxes for his own personal income, a group of leaders
    of the colony persuaded Penn to drop the tax, in return for them
    personally raising a voluntary gift for his own use. William Penn
    returned to England in the fall of 1684, convinced that he had
    founded a stable and profitable colony.

    One of his
    major expectations was the collection of “quitrents” from every
    settler. This was to be in continuing payment for Penn’s claim
    as feudal landlord of the entire colony, as had been granted by
    the Crown. But Penn, like the proprietors and feudal overlords
    in the other colonies, found it almost impossible to collect these
    quitrents. He had granted the populace a moratorium on quitrents
    until 1685, but the people insisted on further postponements,
    and Penn’s threatened legal proceedings were without success.

    Furthermore,
    the people of Pennsylvania continued to refuse to vote to levy
    taxes. They even infringed upon the monopoly of lime production,
    which Penn had granted to himself, by stubbornly opening their
    own lime quarries. William Penn found that deprived of feudal
    or tax income, his deficits from ruling Pennsylvania were large
    and his fortune was dissipating steadily. Freedom and a taxless
    society had contaminated the colonists. As Penn complained, “the
    great fault is, that those who are there, lose their authority
    one way or other in the spirits of the people and then they can
    do little with their outward powers.”

    When Penn
    returned to England, the governing of the colony fell to the Council
    of Pennsylvania. Although Penn had appointed Thomas Lloyd, a Welsh
    Quaker, to be president of the Council, the president had virtually
    no power, and could not make any decisions of his own. The Council
    itself met very infrequently, and no officials had the interim
    power to act. During these great intervals, Pennsylvania had no
    government at all — as indicated by the fact that neither
    quitrents nor taxes were being levied in the colony.

    Why did the
    Council rarely meet? For one thing because the Councilors, having
    little to do in that libertarian society and being unpaid, had
    their own private business to attend to. The Councilors, according
    to the laws of the colony, were supposed to receive a small stipend,
    but as was typical of this anarchistic colony, it proved almost
    impossible to extract these funds from the Pennsylvanian populace.

    If the colonial
    government ceased to exist except for the infrequent days of Council
    meetings, what of local governments? Did they provide a permanent
    bureaucracy, a visible evidence of the continuing existence of
    the State apparatus? The answer is no; for the local courts met
    only a few days a year, and the county officials, too, were private
    citizens who devoted almost no time to upholding the law. To cap
    the situation the Assembly passed no laws after 1686, being in
    a continuing wrangle over the extent of its powers.

    The colony
    of Pennsylvania continued in this de facto state of individualist
    anarchism from the fall of 1684 to the end of 1688: four glorious
    years in which no outcry arose from the happy citizens about “anarchy”
    or “chaos." No Pennsylvanian seemed to believe himself any the
    worse for wear.

    A bit of
    government came to Pennsylvania in 1685, in the person of William
    Dyer who was the appointed Collector of the King’s Customs. Despite
    frantic appeals from William Penn to cooperate with Dyer, the
    Pennsylvanians persisted in their anarchism by blithely and consistently
    evading the Royal Navigation Laws.

    It is no
    wonder that William Penn had the distinct impression that his
    “Holy Experiment” had slipped away from him, had taken a new and
    bewildering turn. Penn had launched a colony that he thought would
    quietly follow his dictates and yield him a handsome feudal profit.
    By providing a prosperous haven of refuge for Quakers, Penn expected
    in return the twin reward of wealth and power. Instead, he found
    himself without either. Unable to collect revenue from the free
    and independent-minded Pennsylvanians, he saw the colony slipping
    quietly and gracefully into outright anarchism — into a
    peaceful, growing and flourishing land of no taxes and virtually
    no State. Thereupon, Penn frantically tried to force Pennsylvania
    back into the familiar mold of the Old Order.

    In February
    1687 William Penn appointed five Pennsylvanians as commissioners
    of state. Assigned to “act in the execution of the laws, as if
    I myself were there present.” The purpose of this new appointment
    was “that there may be a more constant residence of the honorary
    and governing part of the government, for keeping all things in
    good order.” Penn appointed the five commissioners from among
    the leading citizens of the colony, and ordered them to enforce
    the laws.

    Evidently
    the colonists were quite happy about their anarchism, and shrewdly
    engaged in non-violent resistance toward the commission. In the
    first place, news about the commission was delayed for months.
    Then protests poured into Penn about the new commission. Penn
    soon realized that he had received no communication from the supposedly
    governing body.

    Unable to
    delay matters any longer, the reluctant commissioners of state
    took office in February 1688. Three and one-half years of substantive
    anarchism were over. The State was back in its Heaven; once more
    all was right in William Penn’s world. Typically, the gloating
    Penn urged the commissioners to conceal any differences among
    themselves, so as to deceive and overawe the public “Show your
    virtues but conceal your infirmities; this will make you awful
    and revered with ye people.” He further urged them to enforce
    the King’s duties and to levy taxes to support the government.

    The commissioners
    confined themselves to calling the Assembly into session in the
    spring of 1688, and this time the Assembly did pass some laws,
    for the first time in three years. The most important bills presented
    to the Assembly by the Council and the Commissioners, however,
    was for the reimposition of taxes; and here the Assembly, at the
    last minute, heroically defied Penn and the government, and rejected
    the tax bills.

    After a brief
    flurry of State activity in early 1688, therefore, the State was
    found wanting, taxes were rejected and the colony lapsed quickly
    back into a state of anarchism. Somehow, the commissioners, evidently
    exhausted by their task, failed to meet any further, and the Council
    fell back into its schedule of rare meetings.

    In desperation,
    Penn acted to appoint a Deputy-Governor to rule Pennsylvania in
    his absence. Thomas Lloyd, President of the Council, refused the
    appointment, and as we saw from the reluctance of the commissioners,
    no one in happily anarchic Pennsylvania wanted to rule over others.
    At this point, Penn reached outside the colony to appoint a tough
    old non-Pennsylvanian and non-Quaker, the veteran Puritan soldier
    John Blackwell, to be Deputy-Governor of the colony. In appointing
    him, Penn made clear to Blackwell that his primary task was to
    collect Penn’s quitrents and his secondary task to reestablish
    a government.

    If John Blackwell
    had any idea that the Quakers were a meek people, he was in for
    a rude surprise. Blackwell was to find out quickly that a devotion
    to peace, liberty, and individualism in no sense implied an attitude
    of passive resignation to tyranny — quite the contrary.

    Blackwell’s
    initial reception as Deputy-Governor was an augur of things to
    come. Sending word ahead for someone to meet him upon his arrival
    in New York, Blackwell landed there only to find no one to receive
    him. After waiting in vain for three days, Blackwell went alone
    to the colony. When he arrived in Philadelphia on December 17,
    1688, he found no escort, no parade, no reception committee. After
    having ordered the Council to meet him upon his arrival, Blackwell
    could find no trace of the Councilor of any other governmental
    officials. Instead he “found the Council room deserted and covered
    with dust and scattered papers. The wheels of government had nearly
    stopped turning.”[5]

    Only one
    surly escort appeared, and he refused to speak to his new
    Governor. And when Blackwell arrived at the empty Council room,
    his only reception was a group of boys of the neighborhood who
    gathered around to hoot and jeer.

    The resourceful
    Pennsylvanians now embarked on a shrewd and determined campaign
    of non-violent resistance to the attempt to reimpose a State on
    a happy and stateless people. Thomas Lloyd, as Keeper of the Great
    Seal, insisted that none of Blackwell’s orders or commissions
    were legally valid unless stamped with the Great Seal. And Lloyd,
    as Keeper, somehow stubbornly refused to do any stamping. Furthermore,
    David Lloyd, the clerk of the court and a distant relative of
    Thomas’s, absolutely refused to turn over the documents of any
    cases to Blackwell, even if the judges so ordered. For this act
    of defiance Blackwell declared David Lloyd unfit to serve as court
    clerk and dismissed him. Thomas promptly reappointed David by
    virtue of his power as Keeper of the Great Seal. Moreover, out
    of a dozen justices of the peace named by Blackwell, four bluntly
    refused to serve.

    As the revolutionary
    situation intensified in Pennsylvania, the timid and shortsighted
    began to betray the revolutionary libertarian cause. All of the
    Council except two now sided with Blackwell. Leader of the pro-Blackwell
    clique was Griffith Jones, who had allowed Blackwell to live at
    his home in Philadelphia. Jones warned that “it is the king’s
    authority that is opposed and [it] looks to me as if it were raising
    a force to rebel.” On the Council, only Arthur Cook and Samuel
    Richardson continued to defy the Governor.

    Blackwell
    was of course appalled at this situation. He wrote to Penn that
    the colonists were suffering from excessive liberty. They had
    eaten more of the “honey of your concessions than their stomachs
    can bear.” Blackwell managed to force the Council to meet every
    week in early 1689, but he failed to force them to agree to a
    permanent and continuing Councilor from every county in Philadelphia.
    Arthur Cook led the successful resistance, pointing out that the
    “people were not able to bear the charge of constant attendance.”

    The climax
    in the struggle between Blackwell and the people of Pennsylvania
    came in April 1689, when the Governor introduced proceedings for
    the impeachment of Thomas Lloyd, charging him with high crimes
    and misdemeanors. In his address, Blackwell trumpeted to his stunned
    listeners that William Penn’s powers over the colony were absolute.
    The Council, on his theory, existed not to represent the people
    but to be an instrument of Penn’s will. Blackwell concluded his
    harangue by threatening to unsheathe and wield his sword against
    his insolent and unruly opponents.

    Given the
    choice between the old anarchism or absolute rule by John Blackwell,
    even the trimmers and waverers rallied behind Thomas Lloyd. After
    Blackwell had summarily dismissed Lloyd, Richardson and others
    from the Council, the Council rebelled and demanded the right
    to approve of their own members. With the entire Council now arrayed
    against him, the disheartened Blackwell dissolved that body and
    sent his resignation to Penn.

    The Councilors,
    in turn, bitterly protested to Penn against his deputy’s attempt
    to deprive them of their liberties. As for Blackwell, he considered
    the Quakers agents of the Devil, as foretold in the New Testament,
    men “who shall despise dominion and speak evil of dignities.”
    These Quakers, Blackwell charged in horror, “have not the principles
    of government amongst them, nor will they be informed…”

    Faced with
    virtually unanimous and determined opposition from the colonists
    Penn decided against Blackwell. For the rest of the year, Blackwell
    continued formally in office, but he now lost all interest in
    exerting his rule. He simply waited out his fading term of office.
    Penn in effect restored the old system by designating the Council
    as a whole as his “deputy governor.” Replacing vinegar with honey
    Penn apologized for his mistake in appointing Blackwell, and asserted,
    “I have thought fit … to throw all into your hands, that
    you may all see the confidence I have in you.”

    Pennsylvania
    soon slipped back into anarchism. The Council, again headed by
    Thomas Lloyd, met but seldom. When a rare meeting was called it
    did virtually nothing and told William Penn even less. The Assembly
    also met but rarely. And when Secretary of the colony William
    Markham (a cousin of Penn, who had been one of the hated Blackwell
    clique) submitted a petition for the levying of taxes to provide
    some financial help for poor William Penn the Council totally
    ignored his request.

    Furthermore,
    when Markham asked for a governmental organization of militia
    to provide for military defense against a (non-existent) French
    and Indian threat, the Council preserved the anarchistic status
    of the colony by blandly replying that any people who are interested
    could provide for their defense at their own expense. Anarchism
    had returned in triumph to Pennsylvania. The determined non-violent
    resistance of the colony had won a glorious victory.

    Penn, however,
    refused to allow the colony to continue in this anarchistic state.
    In 1691 he insisted that a continuing deputy-governor be appointed,
    although he would allow the colony to select a governor. The colony
    of course chose their resistance hero Thomas Lloyd, who assumed
    his new post in April. After seven years of de facto anarchism
    (with the exception of a few months of Council meetings and several
    months of Blackwellite attempt to rule), Pennsylvania now had
    a continuous, permanent head of government. “Archy” was back,
    but its burden was still negligible for the Assembly and the Council
    still met but rarely and, above all, there was no taxation in
    the colony.

    But the virus
    of power, the canker of archy, once let loose even a trifle, feeds
    upon itself. Suddenly, as a bolt from the blue, the Council in
    April 1692 passed a new bill for the reestablishment of taxation
    and the revered Governor Lloyd concurred in this betrayal. The
    question now reverted to the popularly elected Assembly, always
    the political stronghold of liberty in the province. Would they
    too succumb? The freemen of Philadelphia and of Chester sent the
    Assembly petitions strongly protesting the proposed imposition
    of taxation. They urged the Assembly to keep “their country free
    from bondage and slavery, and avoiding such ill methods, as may
    render themselves and posterity liable thereto.” Heeding these
    protests, the Assembly refused to pass a tax law. De facto
    anarchy was still, though barely, alive.

    Anarchy,
    however, was by now doomed, and governmental oppression, even
    without taxes, quickly returned to Pennsylvania. This new outcropping
    of statism was stimulated by opposition from a split-off from
    Quakerism headed by the scholarly Scottish Quaker George Keith,
    the outstanding Quaker minister of the middle colonies and the
    schoolmaster at Philadelphia. He was religiously more conservative
    than the bulk of the Quakers, leaning as he did toward Presbyterianism,
    but politically he was more individualistic. Stimulated by the
    anarchism he found in Pennsylvania, Keith quickly concluded logically
    from the Quaker creed that all participation in government
    ran counter to Quaker principles.

    The return
    of Pennsylvania to government in the spring of 1691 especially
    provoked George Keith. How, he asked, could a Quaker minister
    like Thomas Lloyd, professing belief in non-violence, serve as
    a governmental magistrate at all, since the essence of government
    was the use of violence? A telling point: in short, Keith saw
    that Quaker non-violence logically implied, not only refusal to
    bear arms, but complete individualistic anarchism.

    Finally,
    in the fall of 1692, the Keithian “Christian Quaker” faction was
    expelled from the body of Quakers. And to their shame, the main
    body of Quakers, after having been persecuted widely for their
    religious principles, reacted to a split in their own ranks
    in the very same way. Keithian pamphlets were confiscated and
    the printers arrested; Keith himself was ordered to stop making
    speeches and publishing pamphlets “that have a tendency to sedition,
    and disturbance of the peace, as also to the subversion of the
    present government.” Three Keithian leaders including Keith himself,
    were indicted for writing a book denouncing the magistrates, and
    the jury was packed with the friends of the Quaker rulers. Despite
    Keith’s pleas that Quakers are duty-bound to settle all their
    disputes peacefully and voluntarily, and to never go to court,
    the men were convicted and fined (though the fines were never
    paid), and denied the right to appeal to the Council or to the
    provisional court. Government was back in Pennsylvania —
    with a vengeance.

    Taxation
    would very soon be back too. William Penn, a close friend of the
    recently deposed King James II of England, was in deep political
    trouble at court. Angry with Penn, peeved at the anarchism and
    the pacifism of the colony, and anxious to weld the northern colonies
    into a fighting force for attacking the French in Canada, King
    William, in late 1692, named Benjamin Fletcher governor of both
    New York and Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania, no longer under the proprietary
    of William Penn, was now a royal colony.

    Governor
    Fletcher assumed the reins of government in April 1693. As in
    other royal colonies, the Council was now appointed by the Governor.
    Fletcher convened the Assembly in May, and was able to drive through
    a tax bill because of his and the Council’s power to judge all
    the existing laws of Pennsylvania, and of a threat to annex the
    colony to New York. Taxes had arrived at last; archy was back
    in full force, and the glorious years of anarchism were gone.[6]

    But a flurry
    of anarchism remained. In its 1694 session, the Pennsylvania Assembly
    decided to allocate almost half its tax revenue to the personal
    use of Thomas Lloyd and of William Markham, whom Fletcher had
    appointed as his Deputy-Governor. Infuriated, Fletcher dissolved
    the Assembly. After a year of imposition, taxes had again disappeared
    from Pennsylvania.

    Disgusted,
    Fletcher lost interest in Pennsylvania, which after all these
    years was decidedly a poor place for raising tax revenue. The
    colony returned to its old quasi-anarchistic state, with no taxes
    and with a Council that did little and met infrequently. But,
    meanwhile, William Penn was campaigning energetically for returning
    to his feudal fiefdom. He abjectly promised the King that Pennsylvania
    would be good: that it would levy taxes, raise a militia, and
    obey royal orders. He promised to keep Fletcher’s laws and to
    keep Markham as governor. As a result the King restored Pennsylvania
    to the ownership of Penn in the summer of 1694, and by the spring
    of the following year, Markham was installed as Deputy-Governor
    under the restored Penn proprietary. But in the spring 1695 session,
    the now elected Council again refused to consider any tax bill.

    The Assembly
    continued to refuse to pass a tax bill for another year and a
    half. With the exception of one year, Pennsylvania thus remained
    in a quasi-anarchist state of taxlessness from its founding in
    1681 until the fall of 1696: fourteen glorious years. Governor
    Markham was only able to push through a tax bill at the end of
    1696 by a naked usurpation of the powers of government: decreeing
    a new constitution of his own, including an appointed Council.
    Markham was able to purchase the Assembly’s support by granting
    it the power to initiate legislation and also to raise the property
    requirement for voting in the towns, thus permitting the Quakers
    to exclude the largely non-Quaker urban poor from having the vote.

    A libertarian
    opposition now gathered, led by Arthur Cook (Thomas Lloyd now
    deceased). It included a coalition of former Keithians like Robert
    Turner and old Blackwell henchmen like Griffith Jones. The opposition
    gathered a mass petition in March 1697, signed by over a hundred,
    attacking the imposed constitution, the increase in suffrage requirements
    in the towns, and particularly the establishment of taxation.
    When the opposition Councilors and Assemblymen, elected as a protest
    under a separate set of votes under the old constitution, were
    summarily rejected, Robert Turner denounced this threat to “our
    ancient rights, liberties and freedom.” Turner particularly denounced
    the tax bill of 1696, and urged that the tax money seized from
    its rightful owners “by that unwarranted, illegal and arbitrary
    act, be forthwith restored.” But all this was to no avail. Pennsylvania
    soon slipped into the same archic mould as all the other colonies.
    The “Holy Experiment” was over.

    BIBLIOGRAPHICAL
    NOTE

    None of this
    material has ever appeared in any work on the history of individualist
    anarchism in the United States. James J. Martin’s excellent Men
    Against the State
    (DeKalb, Ill., Adrian Allen Associates,
    1953) does not go back before the nineteenth century. In any case,
    Martin’s methodology prevents him from acknowledging these men
    and women of the seventeenth century as anarchists, since he believes
    Christianity and anarchism to be incompatible. Neither Rudolf
    Rocker’s Pioneers
    of American Freedom
    (Los Angeles, Rocker Publications
    Committee, 1949) nor Henry J. Silverman’s (ed.) American
    Radical Thought: The Libertarian Tradition
    (Lexington,
    Mass., D, C. Heath Co., 1970) touches on the colonial period.
    The only history of individualist anarchism that deals with the
    colonial period is the pioneering work by Eunice Minette Schuster
    Native
    American Anarchism
    (1932, rep. by New York, De Capo Press
    1970). Schuster deals briefly with the religious views of Anne
    Hutchinson and the Quakers, but deals hardly at all with their
    political ideas nor with the institutions that they put into practice.
    Corinne Jacker’s The
    Black Flag of Anarchy
    (New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons,
    1968) only sharply condenses Schuster.

    [Libertarian Analysis,
    Winter 1970, Vol. 1, No. 1., pp. 14–28]

    The author’s
    bio in Libertarian Analysis read: “Murray N. Rothbard
    is a professor of economics at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn.
    He is the editor of the Libertarian Forum. His most recent
    book is Power
    and Market
    .” Comment
    on the blog
    .

    [1]
    The lack of recordkeeping in stateless societies — since
    only government officials seem to have the time, energy, and
    resources to devote to such activities — produce a tendency
    toward a governmental bias in the working methods of historians.

    [2]
    He was one of the original band that had helped Williams found
    Providence.

    [3]
    1657 was the year that the first Quaker landed in Rhode Island
    from England. It is no surprise that within a decade this new
    individualistic sect had converted a majority of Rhode Islanders,
    including most of the former Baptists and Hutchinsonians.

    [4]
    Particularly remarkable was the treatment of the Indians by
    Penn and the Quakers. In striking contrast to the general treatment
    of Indians by white settlers, the Quakers insisted on voluntary
    purchase of Indian land. They also dealt with the Indians as
    human beings, deserving of respect and dignity. As a consequence,
    peace with the Indians was maintained for well over half a century;
    no drop of Quaker blood was shed by the Indians. Voltaire wrote
    rapturously of the Quaker achievement; for the Indians, he declared,
    “it was truly a new sight to see a sovereign William Penn to
    whom everyone said ‘thou’ and to whom one spake with one’s hat
    on one’s head; a government without priests, a people without
    arms, citizens as the magistrates, and neighbors without jealousy.”

    [5]
    Edwin B. Bronner, William
    Penn’s “Holy Experiment”
    (New York, Temple University
    Publications, 1962), p. 108.

    [6]
    One reason for the failure of any Pennsylvania resistance to
    the new regime was that the unity of the colonists had foundered
    on the rock of the Keithian schism. One beneficial result of
    royal rule was the freeing of Keith and his friends. Keith,
    however, returned to England, and with his departure the Keithian
    movement soon fell apart. The final irony came in later years
    when Keith, now an ardent Anglican minister in America, his
    former Quakerish individualist anarchism totally forgotten,
    helped to impose a year’s imprisonment on grounds of sedition
    against the established Anglican Church of New York, upon the
    Reverend Samuel Bownes of Long Island.

    Murray
    N. Rothbard
    (1926–1995) was the author of Man,
    Economy, and State
    , Conceived
    in Liberty
    , What
    Has Government Done to Our Money
    , For
    a New Liberty
    , The
    Case Against the Fed
    , and many
    other books and articles
    . He
    was also the editor – with Lew Rockwell – of The
    Rothbard-Rockwell Report
    .

    Murray
    Rothbard Archives

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