Liberty Luminants: “Egoism as Taught by Thomas Paine”

I first saw the title in passing in a listing of titles available from the publishers of The Eagle and The Serpent (1898), I was to learn later that Malfew Seklew actually distributed “Liberty Luminants” according to a notice in “The Reformers Yearbook” of 1903. The address given at the time was 213 Grimesthorpe Road, Sheffield.

The collection was published and edited by Henry Bool (1846–1922) in 1902.  “Individualist Anarchist” Bool was British, but lived in Ithaca, NY for about 30 years before returning to England. Bool is the author of For Liberty: The World’s Thinkers and Government, Political Power and Democracy, Freedom, Co-Operation, and Society Without Government.


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We have transcribed one of the first sections from the book:


EGOISM.
AS TAUGHT BY THOMAS PAINE.

“A great part of that order which reigns among mankind is not the effect of government. It had its origin in the principles of society, and the natural constitution of man. It existed prior to government, and would exist if the formality of government was abolished. The mutual dependence and reciprocal interest which man has in man, and all the parts of a civilized community upon each other, create that great chain of connection which holds it together.

“Government is no farther necessary than to supply the few cases to which society and civilization are not conveniently competent; and instances are not wanting to show that everything which government can usefully add thereto, has been performed by the common consent of society without government.

“For upwards of two years from the commencement of the American war, and a longer period in several of the American states, there were no established forms of government. The old governments had been abolished, and the country was too much occupied in defence to employ its attention in establishing a new government; yet, during this interval order and harmony were preserved as inviolate as in any country in Europe. There is a natural aptness in man, and more so in society, because it embraces a greater variety of abilities and resources, to accommodate itself to whatever situation it is in.

“The instant formal government is abolished, society begins to act. A general association takes place, and the common interest produces common security.  So far is it from being true, as has been pretended, that the abolition of any formal government is the dissolution of society, it acts by a contrary impulse, and brings the latter closer together.

“Formal governments make but a small part of civilized life; and when even the beet that unman wisdom can devise is establish, it is a thing more in. name and idea than in fact. It is to the great and fundamental principles of society and civilization—to the common usage universally consented to, and mutually and reciprocally maintained—to the unceasing circulation of interest, which ,paces through its innumerable channels, invigorates the whole mass of civilized man, it is to these things, infinitely more than anything which even the best instituted governments can perform, that the safety and prosperity of the individual and of the whole depends.

“The more perfect civilization is, the :ess occasion has it for government, because the more does it regulate its own affairs and govern itself; but so contrary is the practice of old governments to the reason of the case, that the expenses of them increase in the proportion they ought to diminish. It is but few general laws that civilized life requires, and those of such common usefulness, that whether they are enforced by the forms of government or not, the effect will be nearly the same. If we consider what the principles are that first condense men into society, and what the motives that regulate their mutual intercourse afterwards, we shall find by the time that we arrive at what is called government, that nearly the whole of the business is performed by the natural operations of the parts upon each other.

“Man, with respect to all those matters, is more a creature of consistency than he is aware of, or that governments would wish him to believe. All the great laws of society are laws of nature. Those of trade and commerce, whether with respect to the intercourse of individuals: or of nations, are laws of natural and reciprocal interest. They are followed and obeyed, because it is the interest of the parties so to do, and not on account of any formal laws their government may impose or interpose.” –Rights of Man.


It appears that at some point a second collection of quotes was published and named For Liberty (Liberty Luminants): An Anthology of Revolt. The first was released by Henry Bool himself, out of Ithaca, New York, but this latter collection was published in the UK by Charles William Daniel. Since thre is no date for this second collection,l we cannot say right now if Bool had already moved back to England or not. Wikipedia states “Charles William Daniel (1871-1955) was a writer and publisher who did much to disseminate Tolstoyan and pacifist ideas, and ideas about food reform and alternative medicine, in the first half of the twentieth century.” I’ll let you jump down that rabbit hole further, if you’re inclined.

One source claims that For Liberty was published in 1914. I cannot find anything to confirm or deny that, but because it quites Byington’s translation of Stirner by page number, we know it was published after 1907.

A copy of this latter book is in the Union of Egoists archives.

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