Freedom Circle logo
Freedom Circle

Where Can You Find Freedom Today?

American individualist anarchist, publisher of the 19th century Liberty periodical
See also:
  • FreedomPedia
  • Benjamin Tucker

    Benjamin Ricketson Tucker (17 April 1854 – 22 June 1939) was a 19th century proponent of American individualist anarchism, which he called "'unterrified Jeffersonianism", and editor and publisher of the individualist anarchist periodical Liberty.


    Tucker, Benjamin R. (1854-1939), by Aaron Steelman, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
    Biographical and bibliographical essay
    Benjamin R. Tucker was a writer, an editor, and a publisher. Tucker is arguably the most significant figure in American individualist anarchism. Through his periodical Liberty: Not the Daughter but the Mother of Order, published from 1881 to 1908, Tucker made the case for a stateless society in clear and uncompromising prose ... Tucker's views ... seem somewhat eclectic—if not odd—to modern libertarians. The principal reason lies in Tucker's self-​identified socialism ... In his later years, Tucker became more pessimistic about the chances for libertarian reform.
    Related Topics: Anarchism, Liberty, Socialism


    17 Apr 1854, Benjamin Ricketson Tucker, in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts


    22 Jun 1939, in Monaco

    Biography People: Benjamin Tucker: Brief Biography
    Short essay, photograph and timeline
    In editing and publishing the anarchist periodical, Liberty, Tucker both filtered and integrated the theories of such European thinkers as Herbert Spencer and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon with the thinking of American individualist activists, Lysander Spooner, William Greene and Josiah Warren as well as the uniquely American Free Thought and Free Love movements in order to produce a rigorous system of philosophical- or individualist anarchism.

    Web Pages

    Benjamin Tucker |
    Links to essays, columns and other resources about Tucker


    Anarchism, by Voltairine de Cleyre, Free Society, 13 Oct 1901
    Examines various economic propositions for anarchism (socialist, communist, individualist and mutualist) and opines that all could be tried out
    Josiah Warren ... made his free-life social experiment in small country settlements, far removed from the great organized industries. Tucker also, though a city man, has never had personal association with such industries ... There is Benjamin Tucker–cool, self-contained, critical,–sending his fine hard shafts among foes and friends with icy impartiality, hitting swift and cutting keen,–and ever ready to nail a traitor. Holding to passive resistance as most effective, ready to change it whenever he deems it wise. That suits him; in his field he is alone, invaluable.
    Benjamin Ricketson Tucker, Part 1, by Wendy McElroy, Freedom Daily, Aug 2007
    Biographical essay on Benjamin Tucker from birth to the early years of the periodical Liberty
    Benjamin Ricketson Tucker (1854-1939), defined the radical extreme of American individualism from the post-Civil War era to the first decade of the 20th century ... The man who sold Liberty—both as a commodity and as an ideal—was born on April 17, 1854, in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts ... He later enrolled in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, where he studied engineering for three years ... Tucker attended a meeting of the New England Labor Reform League (NELRL) in Boston, where he met the veteran individualists Josiah Warren and William B. Greene.
    Benjamin Ricketson Tucker, Part 2, by Wendy McElroy, Freedom Daily, Sep 2007
    Biographical essay on Benjamin Tucker from the first issue of Liberty until his death
    Tucker's economic views established him in labor ranks. He staunchly advocated strikes as a strategy as long as force was eschewed. But he also opposed the call from mainstream leaders for pro-labor legislation, which he viewed as another form of violence and an acknowledgement of state authority ... Tucker rejected violence because, until all peaceful avenues of social change had been exhausted, violence only turned the average person away from whatever cause used it ... Tucker did not use the state or other violence to achieve social change ... [H]e so staunchly opposed violence as a strategy that he "outed" those who used it.
    Benjamin Tucker, Liberty and Individualist Anarchism [PDF], by Wendy McElroy, The Independent Review, 1997
    Presents a short biography of Tucker and then the history of the Liberty journal, including its major themes, the debates over Stirnerite egoism vs. natural rights and its literary and international coverage, concluding with commentary
    In Boston, Tucker became politically involved in the 1872 presidential campaign of Horace Greeley and made the acquaintance of the veteran individualist anarchists Josiah Warren and William B. Greene [at] a convention of the New England Labor Reform League in Boston, a veritable hotbed of individualists. ... In 1876, in what may be considered Tucker’s debut into radical circles, Heywood published Tucker's English translation of Proudhon's classic work What Is Property? Shortly afterward Tucker commenced the publication of a freethought periodical entitled Radical Review ... which lasted only four issues.
    Benjamin Tucker, Individualism, & Liberty: Not the Daughter but the Mother of Order, by Wendy McElroy, Literature of Liberty, 1981
    Bibliographical essay covering the people and radical movements that influenced Tucker in his founding and publishing of Liberty, its major themes and contributors
    Coming from a Quaker and radical Unitarian family, Tucker grew up in an atmosphere of dissent and free inquiry. At his parents' prompting, he attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology for three years during which time he became involved in labor reform and convinced that economic reform must underlie all other steps toward freedom. He integrated freethought and free love with this conviction to formulate a system of individualist-anarchism which became identified with him as "philosophical" or "Boston Anarchism." Although he was a prolific writer, virtually all of his work appeared as articles in Liberty ...
    Benjamin Tucker's Liberty, by Carl Watner, Reason, Apr 1979
    Examines several of the themes discussed by Tucker in Liberty, e.g., anarchism, natural rights, monopoly, and how his views changed throughout the years
    Benjamin Tucker (1854-1939), author, editor, and anarchist, started in August 1881 a little fortnightly journal called Liberty. Its purpose was to contribute to the solution of social problems by threshing out the ultimate implications of the battle against authority ... For Tucker, anarchism meant the absence of State and government but not necessarily the abolition of all laws and all coercion. He maintained that anarchists oppose government, not because they disbelieve in punishment of crime and resistance to aggression, but because they disbelieve in compulsory protection.
    Here are 7 lesser-known classical liberal thinkers for your World Philosophy Day, by Kelly Wright, 17 Nov 2016
    Brief profiles of Spencer, Tucker, Spooner, Paterson, Molinari, Garrison and Herbert, together with a reading recommendation for each one of them
    Benjamin Tucker was a 19th century American writer, editor, and publisher, and a self-proclaimed 'individualist anarchist'. Tucker is probably best known for his periodical plainly titled Liberty, which ran for nearly 30 years. Feminist thinker Wendy McElroy would go on to describe Liberty as 'widely considered to be the finest individualist-anarchist periodical ever issued in the English language.' ... Tucker was influenced by and attempted to synthesize the political theories of Herbert Spencer, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and others.
    Introducing Revisionism: An interview with James J. Martin, by Michael Hardesty, Peter Kuetzing, John McCarthy, Steven Springer, Reason, Jan 1976
    Topics discussed include: World War II vs. Vietnam War revisionism, genocide, the definition of "aggression" between nations, the Cold War, Lysander Spooner vs. Benjamin Tucker on natural rights, the Columbus complex and individualist anarchism
    Tucker was a product of a far later time—two generations removed, really, in terms of biology—who ... grew up mainly with European ideas, many of which looked on the idea of natural rights as a sort of comforting fiction. ... If someone wishes to maintain that he has these intangible things called rights, well, what is one to say about it? You can't disprove it—but again there's no way of proving them either. ... Of course Tucker got very angry periodically in hearing these endless word games; the hair-splitting, philosophical vine-climbing discourses on natural rights.
    Leonard P. Liggio (1933–2014), by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 17 Oct 2014
    A memorial tribute to Richman's "favorite teacher"
    I cannot find the words to do [Liggio] justice. So I'll end with the words Benjamin Tucker used to close his obituary to his friend and teacher, Lysander Spooner, "Our Nestor Taken From Us":
    I am at the end of my space, and have not said half that I had in mind. It would be easy to [go on and on]. But I must not do it, I need not do it. Does not his work speak for him as I cannot? It is ours, my readers, to continue that work as he began it. And we shall not have rendered him his full reward of praise unless it shall be said of us, when we in turn lay down our arms and lives, that we fought as good a fight as he and kept the faith as he did.
    Libertarian Feminism: An Honorable Tradition, by Sharon Presley, 2 Dec 2014
    Traces the feminist tradition from individualist anarchists in the 18th, 19th and early 20th century, to the creation in 1973 of the Association of Libertarian Feminists and on to present activism
    The other major outlet for the promulgation of what was then called "the Woman Question" was Benjamin Tucker's individualist anarchist journal Liberty. Though Liberty was not as explicitly oriented toward women's rights as Lucifer, in the 1880s it did devote considerable space to the "sex question." ... "The fundamental idea of Tchernychewsky's work," wrote Tucker in the preface, "is that woman is a human being and not an animal created for man's benefit, and its chief purpose is to show the superiority of free unions between men and women over the indissoluble marriage sanctioned by Church and State."
    Libertarianism: Left or Right?, by Sheldon Richman, Freedom Daily, Jun 2007
    Examines the origin of the political terms "left" and "right" and makes the case that libertarianism is "planted squarely on the Left"
    Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, ... whose adage "Liberty is the mother, not the daughter, of order" graced the masthead of Liberty, the newspaper of the American libertarian and individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker ... [T]he Left was identified with the liberation of workers (broadly defined) ... You can see it in Bastiat, Richard Cobden, John Bright, ... Lysander Spooner, Tucker, and the rest of the early liberals ... Tucker, who proudly accepted the description "consistent Manchester man" (Manchesterism denoted the laissez-faire philosophy of ... Cobden and Bright), called himself a socialist.
    Lysander Spooner, Part 1, by Wendy McElroy, Freedom Daily, Oct 2005
    Lengthy biographical and bibliographical essay; from Spooner's birth to 1850-1860, examining his writings on economics, money, banking, mail delivery and slavery
    The 19th-century individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker called Lysander Spooner "our Nestor," a Greek name denoting "wisdom." ... The photo echoes a description Tucker once offered of his mentor. He wrote, "... A visitor at the Boston Athenaeum Library ... might have noticed ... the stooping figure of an aged man, bending over a desk piled high with dusty volumes ... Had the old man chanced to raise his head for a moment, the visitor would have seen, framed in long and snowy hair and beard, one of the finest, kindliest, sweetest, strongest, grandest faces that ever gladdened the eyes of man."
    Lysander Spooner, Part 2, by Wendy McElroy, Freedom Daily, Nov 2005
    Lengthy biographical and bibliographical essay; this second part is from 1852 to Spooner's death, examining An Essay on the Trial by Jury, the No Treason essays and his subsequent influence
    Upon Spooner’s death, Tucker purchased his printed pamphlets and unpublished manuscripts from the estate. Thereafter, he offered the pamphlets for sale in his periodical ... While he was a student at M.I.T. in the early 1870s, Tucker acted as a focal point around which a group of radicals including such "veterans" as Spooner, Josiah Warren, William B. Greene, and Ezra Heywood gathered. Tucker's first periodical appeared in 1877; The Radical Review lasted through four issues and included three essays by Spooner. A full-blown movement emerged with the publication of Tucker's second periodical, Liberty.
    The Many Monopolies, by Charles W. Johnson, 24 Aug 2011
    Describes four ways in which markets are distorted by government interventions, explains Tucker's "Four Monopolies", examines five present-day monopolies and discusses Tucker's libertarian views
    As a model for analyzing the political edge of corporate power and defending markets from the bottom up, we twenty-first-century libertarians might look to our nineteenth-century roots—to the insights of the American individualists, especially their most talented exponent, Benjamin Ricketson Tucker (1854–1939), editor of the free-market anarchist journal Liberty ... Tucker argued that the stereotypical features of capitalism in his day were products not of the market form, but of markets deformed by political privileges.
    The Myth of 19th-Century Laissez-Faire: Who Benefits Today?, by Roderick T. Long, 10 Jun 2013
    Responds to questions posed by Michael Lind and E. J. Dionne Jr. regarding lack of actual libertarian countries or the supposedly "small government libertarian utopia" in the late 19th century
    In the 1880s, free-market anarchist Benjamin Tucker identified the domination of business interests in the Gilded Age as grounded in a variety of state-imposed monopolies, stressing four in particular: Protectionist tariffs; the monopolization of credit through government control of the money supply; the suppression of competition via informational monopolies (patents and copyrights); and the assignment of titles to land and natural resources on the basis of expropriation and political pull ... Alongside these, Tucker listed the monopolization of security services represented by the institution of the state itself.
    Neither Bullets nor Ballots [PDF], by Wendy McElroy, The Voluntaryist, Oct 1982
    First editorial, describing the two major goals of The Voluntaryist, namely, to construct a theory of voluntaryism and to examine non-political strategies
    [E]arly libertarians such as Benjamin Tucker maintained that one could no more attack government by electing politicians than one could prevent crime by becoming a criminal. Although he did not question the sincerity of political anarchists, he described them as enemies of liberty: "those who distrust her as a means of progress, believing in her only as an end to be obtained by first trampling upon, violating, and outraging her." This rejection of the political process ... was ... based on the insight that no one has the right to a position of power over others and that any man who seeks such an office ... is seeking to join a criminal band.
    The Post Office as a Violation of Constitutional Rights, by Wendy McElroy, The Freeman, May 2001
    Prompted by the announcement of the U.S. Postal Service eBillPay service (now discontinued), surveys the history of mail service vis-à-vis civil rights, from colonial days to the present
    In his periodical Liberty (May 28, 1887), Benjamin Tucker described the situation that confronted his mentor: 'In 1844, he [Spooner] started a private mail between Boston and New York ... charging but five cents a letter between any of these points—a very much smaller sum than the government was then charging. The business was an immediate success and rapidly extending.' ... Tucker dubbed him 'the father of cheap postage in America.' ... Tucker ... added that the reduction in rates that followed Spooner's legal persecution had been a 'sop' thrown to the public to keep them from calling for abolition of the monopoly.
    Robert Anton Wilson, by Jeff Riggenbach, 15 Aug 2011
    Biographical essay, including a lengthy digression on the thought of Ralph Borsodi, founder of the publisher of a magazine co-edited by Wilson in the early 1960's; transcript of "The Libertarian Tradition" podcast of 4 Aug 2011
    Still, [Wilson] was somewhat surprised — pleasantly surprised, of course — to discover that, as he put it,
    the School of Living ... had a great library of radical and off-beat literature. It was there that I found and read all the issues of Liberty, the individualist-anarchist magazine edited [1881–1908] by the brilliant Benjamin R. Tucker ("the clearest mind, ever, in politics," [James] Joyce called him) ...
    The Singular Henry George: Insights and Influence, by David S. D'Amato, 22 Oct 2014
    Discusses George's early life, the main arguments made in his writings and the influence and disagreements he had with contemporary and later radicals
    George shared the idea that true laissez faire would accomplish the goals of socialism with individualist anarchist contemporaries such as Benjamin Tucker. For all their similarities, however, George drew a special ire from Tucker, who criticized George as belonging to 'that class who speak in the name of liberty, but do not know the meaning of the word.' Tucker went so far as to call George 'one of the most dangerous men among all of those now posing as public teachers.' The two sparred in the pages of Tucker's anarchist journal Liberty, debating subjects as diverse as the land question and intellectual property.
    Voltairine de Cleyre: Penitent Priestess of Anarchism, by Jeff Riggenbach, 17 Jun 2010
    Biographical essay, transcript of "The Libertarian Tradition" podcast of 8 June 2010
    This "first libertarian movement," ... was largely [Benjamin] Tucker's creation, centered around his fortnightly paper Liberty, which he published from 1881 to 1908, and his book store, Benj. R. Tucker's Unique Book Shop, which he operated at 502 Sixth Avenue near 30th Street in Manhattan for a couple of years during the first decade of the 20th Century ... [Voltairine] had been a 14-year-old prisoner in a convent school when Benjamin R. Tucker launched his paper Liberty and the first libertarian movement. Within a decade she was writing for Tucker and had become one of the luminaries of his movement.
    What Is the Enemy?, by Sheldon Richman, Freedom Daily, Apr 2006
    Discusses why corporatism, also known as state capitalism or political capitalism, is the "the great institutional threat to liberty"
    Libertarianism is radical not conservative ... Libertarians once were highly sensitive to this point. The great 19th-century champions of the market, such as Benjamin Tucker and the contributors to his Liberty magazine, thought of themselves as free-market socialists because they wanted no part of capitalism, which they viewed as the historical system in which government intervenes in behalf of capital and to the detriment of common workers. The word still denotes that for many, perhaps most, people. (Kevin Carson, a Tuckerite political economist ..., calls himself a "free-market anti-capitalist.")


    The Life of Benjamin R. Tucker: Disclosed by Himself In the Principality of Monaco At the age of 74
    Transcribed by Wendy McElroy from Tucker's manuscript; covers mostly the period from his birth to his late teens
    Whatever may be thought of the verdict thus pronounced by the foremost living dramatist [George Bernard Shaw] upon the man generally admitted to be the foremost living Anarchist, it at any rate encourages me to yield to the pressing solicitation that have reached me from widely-scattered friends and tell the story of my life. ... Were I an artist, I could make it picturesque; being simply an old and weary philosopher, it must needs be garbed in drab, befitting the Quaker blood from which I sprang. Drab or dazzling, the costume covers a personality above the moral law and mentally emancipated, in short an Egoistic Anarchist.


    Faculty Spotlight Interview: Wendy McElroy, by Wendy McElroy, 3 Feb 2011
    Asks McElroy about her hobbies, Murray Rothbard, the Mises Institute, Benjamin Tucker, Auberon Herbert, libertarianism and the feminist movement and her advice for future Austrian scholars
    Who is your greatest inspiration?
    ... In broader terms ... my greatest inspiration has been the 19th century individualist anarchist movement and most specifically Tucker. In my early twenties, ... I indexed Tucker's periodical Liberty ... After a year ... it got so that I could predict the line Tucker would take on almost any issue and, then, I started to predict what his wording would be. But it wasn't merely Tucker with whom I felt an intellectual affinity, of course. It was the cluster of luminaries whom he called mentors (Spooner, Greene, Warren) as well as the up-and-comers who called Tucker mentor in turn (Yarros, Byington).
    Mutualism: An interview with Kevin Carson, by Kevin Carson, 3 Nov 2009
    Topic discussed include: mutualism in theory and practice, worker cooperatives and credit unions, small-scale manufacturing, Henry George, worker-managed firms, Lockean land ownership concepts, labor theory of value and political coalitions
    Could you begin by giving a description of mutualism ...?
    ... Tucker focused almost entirely on the abolition of artificial property rights and privilege in land and credit, assuming that when the legal props to rent and interest were removed and cheap land and credit were universally available, the forms of organization would take care of themselves. He displayed almost no interest whatever in cooperatives, associations for mutual aid, etc., as such. Dyer Lum, John Beverley Robinson, and Clarence Swartz, all heavily influenced by Tucker, supplemented his focus on eliminating monopolies ...


    The Debates of Liberty: An Overview of Individualist Anarchism, 1881-1908, by Wendy McElroy, 17 Dec 2002
    Excerpts available at; partial contents: Benjamin Tucker, Liberty, and Individualist Anarchism - On the State and Politics - On Violence - Egoism v- Natural Rights - Children's Rights - Intellectual Property - Trial by Jury
    Related Topic: Individualist Anarchism
    Liberty, 1881-1908: A Comprehensive Index, by Wendy McElroy (compiler), 1982
    Electronic text available at The Memory Hole; contents: How To Use This Index - Part I: Titles and Periodicals - Part II: Individuals - Part III: Subjects

    Books Authored

    Individual Liberty: Selections from the writings of Benjamin R. Tucker, 1926
    A collection of essays and editorials; contents: Sociology: State Socialism and Anarchism - The Individual, Society, and the State - Economics: Money and Interest - Land And Rent - Trade and Industry
    Publisher's Note: C.L.S., the editor and compiler of this book, has known Benjamin R. Tucker personally since 1891, having entered his employ at that time in the mechanical department of Liberty, Mr. Tucker's journal for the exposition of Individualist Anarchism. ... For a considerable period he had complete editorial charge, during Mr. Tucker's absence. Thus the present work has been performed by one who has entire familiarity with Liberty's philosophy and who perhaps at present has a closer sympathy with Mr. Tucker's ideas than any other person in America.
    Related Topic: Individual Liberty

    The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Benjamin Tucker" as of 2 Jul 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.