Manifesto by Josiah Warren
Individualist Anarchism: From the Ground Up
Josiah Warren, thought of as the first individualist anarchist in America, provides a statement outlining his philosophy of individual sovereignty and the practical implications of that philosophy compared to what one faces within an "artificial combination"i.e., a society or statewhich presumes to deny individual sovereignty ultimately at the expense of everyone. This version of Warren's Manifesto is from a 1952 private printing and includes an introductory comment by Joseph Ishill.
Josiah Warren was undoubtedly the first American
anarchist; as such he devoted most of his life towards the betterment of
mankind. In spite of his individualistic tendencies which are so characteristic
of the spirit of our old American pioneers, he was heart & soul for
ALL, and for a society where peace and tranquility would be the dominant
It is also true that Josiah Warren was by nature and tradition a born rebel
against all injustices & human hardships. His writings have shown the
way toward liberation & annihilation of all archaic forms of slavery,
and above all, he stood fast on his conviction of the SOVEREIGNTY OF THE
The entire world is today, as never before, under a total eclipse of confusion
and disillusionment, due mostly to the manifestation of a perverted "ism",
which has darkened almost the entire horizon of the universe and which seeks
to destroy ruthlessly all democratic principles based on truth & justice.
This too, we hope, shall pass into oblivion.
By bringing to light again this important document,
we thought it might fill a gap long missed by students interested in libertarian
subjects! And I am certain that a scholar like Dr. Paul Eltzbacher, who
wrote his interesting work, 'Anarchism,' would have made good use of any
of Josiah Warren's material, but unfortunately none was available in Europe
or elsewhere, with the exception of U.S., where little, if any, can still
be traced at some historical shrine. Apropos of this neglect by our librarians
everywhere, I should like to quote a few lines from the Introduction to
his great work on 'Anarchism': "At present there is the greatest lack
of clear ideas about Anarchism and, that not only among the masses, but
among scholars and statesmen..." and a little further in the same Introduction
he says: "Anarchistic writings are very scantily represented in our
public libraries. They are in part so rare that it is extremely difficult
for an individual to acquire even the most prominent of them."
This was written about half a century ago; it is still considered by ardent
followers of this philosophy as the most authentic and reliable study on
this subject. There is an American edition of this work, published by Benjamin
R. Tucker (1908), but it is long out of print.
As to Josiah Warren's own publications I like to quote here from another
great scholar and bibliophile, Dr. Max Nettlau. The following is extracted
from an unpublished letter addressed by him to Ewing C. Baskette, dated
May 26, 1936, in which he mentions one of Warren's early publications: 'The
Peaceful Revolutionist' (1833):
"I should like to know who has ever seen it? If there is a copy anywhere,
it should be mostly treasured and removed to one of the most important libraries
in New York or Washington."
Unfortunately, neither of these two libraries have it listed. I shall do
my utmost to reprint other items by this author, as time and effort will
Manifesto [A Rare And Interesting
An impression has gone abroad that I am engaged
in forming societies. This is a very great mistake, which I feel bound to
Those who have heard or read anything from me on the subject, know that
one of the principal points insisted on is, the forming of societies
or any other artificial combinations IS the first, greatest, and most
fatal mistake ever committed by legislators and by reformers. That all these
combinations require the surrender of the natural sovereignty of
over her or his person, time, property and responsibilities, to the government
of the combination. That this tends to prostrate the individual-To
reduce him to a mere piece of a machine; involving others in responsibility
for his acts, and being involved in responsibilities for the acts and sentiments
of his associates; he lives & acts, without proper control over his
own affairs, without certainty as to the results of his actions, and almost
without brains that he dares to use on his own account; and consequently
never realizes the great objects for which society is professedly formed.
Some portion, at least, of those who have attended the public meetings,
know that EQUITABLE
is founded on a principle exactly opposite to combination; this principle
may be called that of Individuality. It leaves every one in undisturbed
possession of his or her natural and proper sovereignty over its
own person, time, property and responsibilities; & no one is acquired
or expected to surrender any "portion" of his natural
liberty by joining any society whatever; nor to become in any
way responsible for the acts or sentiments of any one but himself; nor is
there any arrangement by which even the whole body can exercise any government
over the person, time property or responsibility of a single individual.
Combinations and all the institutions built upon them are the inventions
of Man; and consequently, partake of more or less of man's shortsightedness
and other imperfections; while EQUITABLE COMMERCE is a simple development of principles, which, although
new to the public, are as old as the creation, and will be as durable.
This understanding is very natural; because, all attempts at radical reformation
known to have been founded on combinations; the failure of all these
has destroyed confidence, and the public, not being aware of any other principle,
conclude that this is another proposal of the same kind and must fail like
the rest. I respect their judgment and believe with them, that every attempt
to improve their social condition by the formation of societies or any artificial
combination (however ingeniously devised, however purely intended or honestly
conducted,) must and will defeat their own objects and disappoint all who
are engaged in them.
The failure of the experiments on the community system in New Harmony during
the two years trial from 1825 to 1827, sufficiently proved this to my mind,
& led to the conviction that the process of combination is not capable
of working out the great objects of society; but, the opposite principle,
that of Individuality and the process of DISCONNECTION,* after much
close and severe investigation
*The great principle of human elevation
was perceived to be the SOVEREIGNTY OF EVERY INDIVIDUAL over his or her
Person and Time and Property and Responsibilities.
That this was impracticable where these were connected. DISCONNECTION, or
Individualisation of these, therefore, appeared to be the process
required. A habitual respect to this Individual Sovereignty, it was
perceived, would constitute EQUITABLE moral commerce. The question
then arose, how could this complete sovereignty of the individual over its
own time and property be preserved through the process of exchanging them
in the pecuniary commerce of society? This great point was settled by the
idea of time for time, or Labor
were found to possess or to lead to all the redeeming and regenerating powers
necessary for the complete solution of the great social problem.-Indeed
they appeared to promise too much to believe, too much hope; so much, that
the discoverer (if we must so call him) dare not communicate his thoughts
to his intimate acquaintances for fear of being accounted insane. His only
course, therefore, was to prove everything in PRACTICE previously
to bringing it before the public.
A whole new course of investigations and experiments were then commenced;
the first of which was the "Time Store" in Cincinnati which
was opened in May, 1827. This was conducted three years, when it was wound
up for the purpose of carrying the principles into all the commerce of life;
and the interval between that time and the present has been employed (as
far as private circumstances would permit) either in further developments
or in preparation for them.
for Labor-DISCONNECTING all natural wealth
from labor each pricing his own by what it Costs him; but not overstepping
the natural bounds of his individuality by setting a price on the Value
of his article or labor to the receiver of it. The DISCONNECTION of Cost
from Value laid the foundation of Equitable pecuniary Commerce.
This new commerce required a circulating medium DISCONNECTED from money
of all kinds, and representing Labor only; and thus the laborer becomes
EMANCIPATED from money and tyranny.
The principles have been applied to the management and education of children,
which go to show the radical mistake and the great cause of defeat on this
The principles have also been applied to the purchase and sale of land &
almost all other kinds of property, and to the interchange of almost all
kinds of labor including that of merchants, lawyers, physicians, teachers,
the conductor of a boarding house, etc., through every step of which, the
sovereignty of the individual was strictly preserved and invariably
respected. No legislation of any description assumed control over the individual
in any case whatsoever; and such was the complete individuality of action
that hundreds dealt at the Time Store without understanding much of its
principles or its objects; but they perceived that it was their interest
to do so, thus demonstrating that the business of the community can be brought
into this condition by a natural and irresistible process; without combination,
without organisation, without laws, without government, without the
surrender of any "portion" of the natural liberty
of the individual; demonstrating also that reformation need not wait till
the world becomes learned: but the practical operation constitutes
a process of re-education which no one can estimate without experience,
and which the learned
are most backward in acquiring.
Such, too has been the complete individuality of action throughout all the
experiments that although hundreds have taken some part in them, they are
in no way distinguished as a sect, a party or a society; the public in general
do not and will not know them; excepting so far as each individual chooses
to identify himself or herself with these principles.
Public influence is the real government of the world. Printing makes this
governing power; therefore, among the preparations for the general introduction
of these subjects are a simplification of printing and printing apparatus
which brings this mighty power to the fireside and within the capacities
of almost any one of either sex who may choose to use it; thus is this and
every other subject of real reformation rendered independent of the
common press whose conductors are generally too much absorbed or too much
interested in things as they are, too much under public influence or too
superficial in their habits of thinking to do this subject justice in its
The experiments and preparations are now concluded, and the results are
on record or in the possession of living witnesses, and are now becoming
the groundwork of practical operations in this
neighborhood. Those who wish to become acquainted with the subject can obtain
the particulars at the public meetings or by reading THE EQUITABLE COMMERCE GAZETTE which is to be published for this purpose; but the following
are some of the most prominent features of EQUITABLE COMMERCE.
It goes to establish a just and permanent principle of trade which puts
an end to all serious fluctuations in prices and consequently, to all the
insecurity and ruin which these fluctuations produce; and to build up those
who are already ruined.
It tends to put a stop to all kinds of speculation.
It has a sound and rational circulating medium, a real and definite
representative of wealth. It is based exclusively on labor as the
only legitimate capital. This circulating medium has a natural tendency
to lessen by degrees the value and the use of money, and finally to render
it powerless; and consequently to sweep away all the crushing masses of
fraud, iniquity, cruelty, corruption and imposition that are built upon
The circulating medium being issued only by those who labor, they would
suddenly become invested with all the wealth and all the power; and those
who did not labor, be they ever so rich now, would as suddenly become poor
It opens the way to employment for those who
want it, by simple arrangement which has a natural tendency to keep the
supply in rational proportion to the demand.
It solves the great and difficult problem of machinery against labor. On
this principle, in proportion as machinery throws workmen out of employment,
it works for them; and the way is always open to a new employment,
as equitable commerce abolishes profit on mystery, disregards the customary
apprenticeships and brings all kinds of knowledge within the reach of those
who want it.
The necessity of every one paying in his own labor for what he consumes,
affords the only legitimate and effectual check to excessive luxury, which
has so often ruined individuals, states and empires; and which has now brought
almost universal bankruptcy upon us.
Equitable commerce furnishes no offices to be filled by the ambitious and
aspiring, no possible chance for the elevation of some over the persons
or property of others; there is, therefore, no temptation here for such
persons; and they will not be found among the first to adopt EQUITABLE COMMERCE. It appeals,
first, to the most oppressed, the humble, the down-trodden, & will first
be adopted by them and by those who have no wish to live upon others, and
by those whether among the rich or poor whose superior moral or intellectual
qualities enable them to appreciate some of the unspeakable blessings that
would result from such a state of human existence.
These are some of the most prominent features of EQUITABLE COMMERCE; and will be perceived that
they are precisely the features which a great, redeeming revolution ought
to possess: but they are so extraordinary, so out of the common course and
current of things that they will be denounced by some as visionary and impracticable.
I am prepared for all this, and I am also prepared to prove that
all the most important applications of the principles HAVE BEEN made; and
have proved themselves sound beyond all successful contradictions; and to
show that upon these principles, it is perfectly practicable for almost
any person to begin at once to enjoy some of the advantages herein set forth;
and by degrees to emancipate himself or herself from the crushing iniquity
and suffering of (what is called) civilized society; and this without joining
any society or in any other way surrendering any "portion"
of his or her natural and "inalienable" sovereignty over
their person, time or property, and without becoming in any way responsible
for the act or sentiments of others who may be transacting business on these
New Harmony, Nov. 27, 1841.
It has now become a very common sentiment, that there is some deep and radical
wrong somewhere, and that legislators have proved themselves incapable of
discovering, or, of remedying it.
With all due deference to other judgments, I have undertaken to point out
what seems to constitute this wrong and its natural, legitimate and efficient
remedies; and shall continue to do so wherever and whenever the subject
receives that attention and respect to which its unspeakable importance
appears to entitle it; and it is hoped that some, who are capable of correct
reasoning will undertake to investigate, and, (if, they can find a motive,)
to oppose EQUITABLE
and thereby discover and expose the utter imbecility-the surprising
weakness of any opposition that can be brought against it. Opposition, in
order to be noticed must be confined to this subject, and its natural
tendencies: DISCONNECTED with all others, and all merely personal considerations.
I decline all noisy, wordy, confused,
and personal controversies. This subject is presented for calm study and
honest enquiry; and, after having placed it (as I intend to do) fairly before
the public, shall leave it to be estimated by each individual according
to the particular
measure of understanding, and shall
offer no violence to his individuality by any attempt to restrain, or to
urge him beyond it.
This Manifesto was originally written & published by Josiah Warren in
1841, and which was incidentally, printed by the author on one of his own
The present reprint is from a photostat copy supplied by Mr. Ewing C. Baskette,
for which we gratefully thank him for having discovered this rare historical
It was handset with the Garamond and Cloister Oldstyle both were casted
by the American Type Founders.
The Oriole Press
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