On Picket Duty

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On Picket Duty


Bibliographic Citation

Benjamin R. Tucker, “On Picket Duty,” Liberty 3 no. 1 (October 25, 1884): 1.


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On Picket Duty.


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I have been so delayed in the publication of this issue of Liberty that I date it a week later thun I otherwise should have done, and shall publish the next issue a fortnight from the date of this one.

“Edgeworth’s” article in the “Truth Seeker” of October 11, entitled “The New Land Projects,” is one of the best and most original criticisms of Henry George’s proposal to nationalize the land that has ever appeared in print.

The course of the “Irish World” in supporting Blaine has driven Thomas Ainge Devyr, the veteran land reformer, from its staff, and he has started a new paper called “Light.” I think “Heat” would have been a more appropriate title. Either Patrick Ford’s skin is uncommonly tough and thick, or his back has become one broad and burning blister under the withering wrath which Mr. Devyr pours upon his apostasy. But I can hardly vouch for the illuminating quality of a journal that in behalf of labor supports one of its chief plunderers, Benjamin F. Butler.

Candidate St. John, says in his letter of acceptance: “If we want an honest, sober government, we must have an honest, sober public, and we can never have an honest, sober people so long as the government sanctions that which makes its citizens dishonest, drunken, and corrupt.” Between these two impossibilities the outlook for honesty and sobriety is disheartening indeed. This is the most perfect specimen of circular logic that I ever came across in print. Its curvature is absolutely flawless. As a gentleman to whom I read the sentence said: “It is Giotto out-Giottoed.” The Prohibitory candidate is evidently worthy of his party. As the latter in its platform made God the source of governmental power and then condemned all opponents of the Declaration of Independence which makes the people the source of all just governmental power, so the former in his letter makes the honesty of the government depend on the honesty of the people, and the honesty of the people depend on the honesty of the government. But how can people who place their faith in compulsion and force be expected to know anything of reason and right P

No man ever fought the principle of liberty with greater [seeming] bitterness than Edmund Burke. All the more surprising is it that he ever could have written the essay,” A Vindication of Natural Society,” which is begun on another page. It was the first work that he published, and is a remarkably strong attack, not simply upon governments, but upon government itself. Later, when he found it necessary to the attainment of his ambition to turn his coat, he did so, and affected to treat his early work as a piece of irony. But the claim is an absurd one, though the world allowed it. There never was a soberer argument. “As a satire,” says John Morley, “the piece is a failure, for the simple reason that the substance of it might well pass for a perfectly true, no less than a very eloquent, statement of social blunders and calamities.” Whatever the author’s intentions, the effect is the same. Allowing that his purpose was ironical, his reasoning is none the less acute and unassailable. Therefore Liberty resurrects this work to embody it in the Anarchistic propaganda.

A new Anarchistic weekly has been blurted in Paris called “Terre et Liberté” (Land and Liberty). The subscription price, including foreign postage, is $1.75 per year. Address “Duprat, 160, Rue Montmartre, Paris.”

It is to be regretted that the “Radical Review” finds itself compelled to publish at irregular intervals for a time because of lack of support. One of the few thoroughly honest journals, it speaks its mind regardless of consequences. There is never the slightest indication of a tendency on the part of its editor* to cater to their subscribers’ prejudices Of such a paper one may hope much. So, with the same earnestness that I would plead for Liberty in danger, I urge all true radicals to extend a helping hand to the brave Mr. and Mrs. Schumm now struggling to keep. their excellent journal afloat.

The American groups of the International Working People’s Association are rapidly increasing in number and growing in influence, and, though a good many of them are groping about in a fog, they are doing much good, especially in those centres where they have begun the publication of a journal. There ought to be an Anarchistic paper in every large city in the United States. The Philadelphia “Zukunft,”’ the New York “Freihiet,” the the Chicago “Budoucnost,” and the Chicago “Arbeiter-Zeitung” (a daily with a weekly edition called the “Vorbote”) are papers representing various. degrees of Anarchism, supported, where not self-supporting, by International groups. There are no regularly organized groups in Boston or in Valley Falls, Kansas, but each of these places has, the one its “Liberty,” and the other its “Lucifer,” published in truest Anarchistic fashion, by individuals with the spontaneous co-operation of friends. The list is growing fast. The latest addition to it is the Chicago “Alarm,” a little more than half as large as Liberty but published twice as often, the price being $1.50 per year. (All subscriptions may be addressed to “A. R. Parsons, 107 Fifth Avenue, Chicago, Illinois.”) The first number was issued October 4, and its contents are in the main very gratifying to earnest thinkers and revolutionists. It has not developed distinctly its positive side as yet, but I am glad to find thus far no trace of State socialism in its editorial utterances, while there are many keen and bold expressions of Anarchistic principles. In short, it seems to have the true ring. The one disagreeable feature I find is the prices it sets on some of the books which it advertises. For instance, it buys “God and the State” of me at wholesale for ten cents per copy, postage paid, and retails it at twenty-five, while I retail it for fifteen. For “An Anarchist on Anarchy,” which I retail at ten cents, it pays me seven cents including postage, and then sells it at fifteen. A pretty healthy profit for Socialists to charge! Of course it is for my interest that the “Alarm” should follow this course, for it enables me to sell more books at retail than I could if the “Alarm” sold them as cheaply as I do, but none the less I dislike to see it. Since writing the foregoing the second number of the “Alarm” has arrived. While, like the first, it abounds in sayings bright and brave and keen and true, it spoils all its support of liberty by opposing the private ownership of capital. Pray, what are all other liberties worth without the liberty to own tools?


Benjamin R. Tucker, “On Picket Duty,” Liberty 3 no. 1 (October 25, 1884): 1.




Tucker, Benjamin Ricketson, 1854-1939, “On Picket Duty,” The Libertarian Labyrinth, accessed October 18, 2019, http://library.libertarian-labyrinth.org/items/show/2469.