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Jo Labadie and His Gift to Michigan

A Legacy for the Masses

Benjamin Ricketson Tucker




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The Water Board Incident

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Special Collections Library
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor


The most significant figure for more than a generation in the anarchist movement was Benjamin Ricketson Tucker, whose journal Liberty (1881-1908) was one of the longest running American anarchist journals. Of Massachusetts parentage, Tucker met the anarchists Josiah Warren and William B. Greene in 1872 at a meeting of the New England Labor Reform League, and in the same year became intimately involved with the radical feminist Victoria Woodhull, notorious for her free love doctrines. With Woodhull and her sister, Tennessee Claflin, Tucker traveled to France in 1873, studied and translated the works of Pierre Joseph Proudhon and Mikhail Bakunin, and became the foremost exponent of individualist anarchism in the United States.

Tucker contributed to and edited Ezra Heywood's The Word, and after his own short-lived Radical Review (1870-1878), found his bearings in Liberty ( 69, 70), where his learning, trenchant style, and fondness for polemics made him an intellectual force. Tucker was an eloquent preacher against state control and for the freedom of the individual to conduct his own personal life without outside interference.

It was Tucker who enlightened Labadie's dilemma with the concentration of power in state socialism. Their extant correspondence covers more than forty years. After a disastrous fire in the printing office ruined Liberty, Tucker moved to congenial France, outside the mainstream of anarchist development, and wrote very little more.