The Life of Benjamin R. Tucker

Disclosed by Himself

4. Youth in Boston, New York, and Europe.

My departure for Boston marks perhaps the most significant period of my life, -- that in which Minerva and Fortuna seem to have entered into conspiracy for the shaping of my destiny. My meeting with Josiah Warren, William B. Greene, Lysander Spooner, Ezra H. Heywood, and Sidney H. Morse proved the pivotal point of my career, and the chance of such meeting would have been remote had I gone to Harvard instead of to the Institute. Cambridge, to be sure, is almost one with Boston, but constant visits to the larger city would have been incompatible with studious life in a Harvard dormitory. Living in the heart of Boston, however, I could in a few moments, with comparatively slight interruption of my studies, reach any gathering-place that promised me entertainment, instruction, or congenial companionship. It was such adjacency that finally put me in touch with teachers of far greater importance to me than any professional body, classical or scientific. By no foresight of mine did I gain this point of vantage. The afore-mentioned goddesses had the matter in hand, and seemed intently "on the job"

My Boarding-House and Its Conveniences.

My presiding deities sent me first to 26 Pemberton Square, a large boarding-house kept by a Mrs. Stearns, where I secured a small room. The situation suited me exactly. Devoted largely to law officers, the square was near the business centre, but practically remote from its noise and bustle. Almost opposite the exit leading to the commercial district was another leading in as few steps to a select residential quarter. The Institute, then on Boyleston Street, was about a mile distant. Thither I walked twice a day, crossing the famous Common and passing by the side of the contiguous Public Garden, thus securing the needed exercise that otherwise I should not have had, averse as I was and still am, to walking without an errand on roads offering neither lovely scenes nor novel sights. Of my somewhat humdrum life and studies at the Institute itself I shall have but little to say, and even that, as a rule, incidentally, when some event or anecdote in this indifferent round connects it with the currents of my primary purpose. It was much more important to me that my boarding-house was near to Faneuil Hall, the "Cradle of Liberty"; was not far from the court-houses, where, on occasion I could continue the custom that I had formed in New Bedford of attending the sessions of the Superior Court, -- a school which I commend to every youth who would learn to discriminate between logic and sophistry, between justice and tyranny; was close by the offices of the leading daily newspapers, in one of which I was destined to pass eleven years of my life; was but a few steps from the Parker House, in whose reading-room any orderly person was welcome to consult a large assortment of metropolitan journals, and where one could almost touch elbows with local notabilities of nearly every shade and sort; and was within easy walking distance of Tremont Temple, Horticultural Hall, and Music Hall, in which for some years, during the winter season, I listened to three, four, and five lectures a week from men and women of world repute. The Public Library, to which I often went to read the magazines and take out books, was less conveniently situated, but I could easily visit it on my return trips from the Institute. My recreation I sought at the theatre and the billiard-room, where I had as occasional companions too commercial employees, one of the a fellow-boarder, Frank Baker, formerly a fellow-student at the Friends' Academy, the other a cousin, William A. Tucker, whom I had often visited for days at a time in the house in which I was born and which his father had bought. About once a month I passed a week-end at my New Bedford home, where my mother, outside of our correspondence had also fortnightly reminders of my existence in the arrival by express of my linen, which was laundered, repaired, and returned under her watchful case, -- a custom that continued to the end of 1873.

On the Road to Atheism, and My Arrival.

On Sunday mornings in general I went either to Music Hall to hear Rev. William R. Alger speak from the platform that during the fifties had served Theodore Parker as a pulpit, or to a small hall where Parker's old adherents still met (pending the building of Parker Memorial Hall) under the leadership of Rev. J. Vila Blake. The teaching of Alger and Blake did not differ materially from that with which Potter in New Bedford had already made me familiar, and which filled me with increasing dissatisfaction. I valued its tendency to the destruction of superstition, but I was beginning to find it half-hearted and inconclusive. The minor absurdities of the orthodox creeds were dealt with triumphantly, but I noted an indisposition to face squarely the questions of origin and destiny. I was acquainted with Spender's doctrine of the Unknowable and I had no expectation of attaining knowledge of the ultimate. But I was asking myself, not "What is Knowable?"; rather, "What is Credible?" Atheism is not a denial of God; it is a disbelief in God. When Noah Webster says that it may be either, he shows a lack of discrimination. "I am" indicates a doctrine, not a dogma. There are three ways of accounting for existence. One premises an eternal and conscious entity, idle and solitary until he or she or it created the universe, which is not eternal, since it had a beginning. A second premises an eternal and conscious universe, either saturated with consciousness or having an undiscovered seat thereof. A third premises an eternal, blind, unconscious universe, in perpetual activity, each moment in it being a necessary effect of all that has gone before and at the same time an absolutely determining cause of all that is to come. The first is ludicrous, preposterous, and cruel. The second is incomprehensible, fanciful, and cruel. The third, not postulating consciousness, cannot be cruel, though it is not exactly enchanting, and it is somewhat less mysterious than the others, having over them the decided advantage of presenting itself to our senses. I believe in the third, because the first and second are to me incredible, and because I can see no fourth. Hence I am an atheist, a determinist, and a materialist. But at the time of which I speak I had not definitively arrived at these conclusions, and it is with the circumstances under which I arrived at them that my story now deals.

One Saturday, scanning the advertisements of the Sunday entertainments, I discovered that debates were held Sunday afternoons in Hospitaller Hall, Washington Street, on subjects religious and philosophical, and at once I decided that this clue must be followed up. Eventually it led me -- and therein lay for me its principal value -- tot he office of the Boston Investigator, an Atheistic weekly founded in 1831 by Abner Kneeland, of which I had heard, but which I had never seen. I found that its editor, Horace Seaver, was the principal participator in the Hospitaller Hall debates, and that its publisher, Josiah P. Mendum, occasionally figured in them also. They upheld the atheistic view against a straight, still, gray-bearded man, Professor Wetherall, who was the protagonist of Roman Catholicism, and a curious individual by the name of Ramsdell, who was always ready to talk but never had anything in particular to say, thereby winning the sobriquet of Ramsdell the Rambler. Others took part occasionally, but these were the "steadies." I attended these debates more or less regularly for a series of years, but do not believe that they contributed much to my mental development, though from time to time they made me personally acquainted with people of some interest. Nor did I find the Investigator itself really invigorating. Horace Seaver was not a stupid man, but, when you had heard him two or three times, he had nothing more to offer you. Both speeches and his editorials were monotonous, and a monotonous editor generally makes a monotonous journal. To me the Investigator's advertising columns were of chief interest. They made known to me a long list of valuable, interesting, and unusual books on sale at the Investigator office, many of which I bought and still have in my library. Among them I especially remember the political and philosophical writings of Thomas Paine. "Volney's Ruins," Frances Wright's "A Few Days at Athens," Hume's Essays, Voltaire's "Philosophical Dictionary," Baron d'Holbach's "System of Nature," and various works of the French Encyclopedists, -- Diderot, d'Alembert, Helvetius, and others. In the Public Library I had already been reading the works of Theodore Parker, which had filled me with great admiration of the man and of his anti-slavery career, but had left me little the richer as a student of philosophy. Parker could tell me nothing that Potter had not told me before. One departure, however, was noticeable Parker addressed his prayers to "Our father and Mother," from which I inferred that the object of his worship shared the peculiarity that was acquired by the son of Hermes and Aphrodite, while engaged in taking a bath. This feature of divinity was novel, but not sufficiently attractive to prevent me from turning with eagerness to those writers on the Investigator's list who disputed divinity's existence. First, among the, for me, was Baron d'Holbach. It was his "System of Nature" that compelled me to dismiss the hypothesis of a created universe. Doubtless in later time, with the aid of scientific progress and especially with the advent of the evolution theory, books still more forceful have been written in this line. But I found d'Holbach sufficiently convincing. Of course the mystery remains. It remains. If retreats as we advance, and must always elude us. But why fall prostrate before it? Awe profits nothing. Worship is vain. It is better to work than to wonder. Concentration of infinity is dangerous. That way madness lies. At least the universe is here; its possibilities are fascinating; to exhaust them is beyond the power of our insatiable curiosity.

It was in the Investigator too, some months later, -- in 1871, I think, -- that I began to hear of a remarkable Westerner by the name of Ingersoll; and in 1872, either in its columns or in a pamphlet bought at its office, I read his lecture on "The Gods." I was delighted. The orator added nothing of great importance to d'Holbach's thought, but reinforced it, and, by a sparkling and prismatic style, made it resplendently picturesque. Thus I was in at the opening of a brilliant and beneficent career, full of high spots, none higher, however, than this first ascent. The event holds a place in my memory beside that of the Dickens reading four years earlier, and again I reflect with no little pride that there are but few persons now living who enjoyed "The Gods" earlier than I. Fifty-six years have rolled away, and this lapse of time has not served to diminish my scepticism. Evidently I had completed the first stage of my emancipation. During the later stages I had little occasion to recur to it, but, to show that I had not forgotten, I may reprint here what, I believe, was my first attempt to render French verse into English, or even at versification of any kind. The original was the work of Jean Richepin, French poet and Academician, and my translation appeared in the fiftieth number of my paper, Liberty, bearing date of September 6, 1884.

The Atheist's Prayer

Who then are you? Speak out at last. The hour is come.
You cannot always keep your tongue within your head.
Appealed to you have all men, wept and wailed have some.
Why have you nothing said?

Why stay you in the sky, huge bronze of livid hue,
With mocking smile on lips that all speech else avoid?
Impenetrable face and phantom form, are you
Of brain and heart devoid?

Why do you nothing say? Why do we see described
No wrinkle, stubborn spectre, on your brow austere?
Why that stupid air and aspect circumscribed?
Are you too deaf to hear?

If you speak not, then try at least to understand.
Despise me, if you will, but let one see, I pray,
Your face relax to show that I may lift a hand
And you know what I say.

To transform into faith the doubt that one o'erpowers
You need but put a yes into those eyes I spy.
You need but make a sign; my hate no longer towers;
It at your feel will die.

O Mystery proud, wrapped in your dismal veils,
He whom men call father should be one indeed.
If you are my creator, in the shades and vales
How can you see me bleed?

How can you see me humbly kneeling on the stone,
My arms stretched toward you, drowned my voice in accents wild,
And yet no tear beneath your cycled trickling down?
Am I, then, not your child?

Alms give, in pity's name! So poor am I and weak!
I am not wicked. Good be thou, and look at me.
My poor love-laden heart has nought that it can seek
But to exhale to thee.

But no! I still see on your face that stupid smile.
My cries, my tears, my insults bear no fruit, I fear.
No, you do not speak; you have no thoughts the while;
You have no ears to hear.

Then, after all, do you exist? When I sound space,
Within the infinite depths your shape I never miss.
Is what I see, perchance, the reflex of my face,
Mirrored in that abyss?

Is it my soul that lends a soul unto the world?
Were my heart's dream no more an object of my thought,
Would you in vain, like image of the wild waves whirled
When sun goes down, be sought?

Yes, yes, your haughty silence now is solved for aye,
But I too long have suffered; revenge is now my share.
These lips henceforth shall be of blasphemy the way,
Never again of prayer.

O God, though floating fog above a field of lies!
O God, thou vain mirage of wishes here below!
Thy glory and thy pride but from our dreams arise.
Without us, thou must go.

In making this translation, it was hardly becoming in me to address the Deity now in the second person singular, now in the second person plural; but I found myself lacking in the technical skill necessary to the maintenance of grammatical consistency.

Zenas T. Haines.

During my early days in Boston I generally carried one of the Investigator's books on my person for reading in spare moments, and such moments often offered themselves while I was awaiting meals. Near the dining-room at my boarding-house a small sitting-room was provided for the momentary accommodation of the over-prompt, -- a class to which I belonged as a result of early training and every-present appetite. This class not being numerous, I usually had the sitting-room to myself. But there were exceptions. One noon, when I, still accounted a new boarder, was reading a book there, pending the announcement of luncheon, my neighbor at table, a sedate gentleman not long past forty, with whom I had conversed but little, strolled in, and began pacing about the room in leisurely fashion. Observing that I was absorbed in my book, and feeling presumably that it was not intrusive to show an interest in the literary taste of a lad of sixteen, he inquired presently what I was reading. "Paine's 'Age of Reason'," answered I, unblushingly. He stopped short in his walk, turned, and looked into my face with an expression on his own that was almost exclamatory. Then, recovering himself, he remarked quietly: "It is a book from which one may derive much benefit." Thus began an acquaintance that soon ripened into friendship, and had a marked influence in shaping my subsequent career. The name of the gentleman was Zenas T. Haines, and I soon learned that he was the night new editor of the Boston Herald, which explained the fact that he never appeared at breakfast. Grave, and a bit sleepy in demeanor, but awake nevertheless to the ridiculous; a little pinched in expression, as one accustomed to physical suffering, but broad in outlook; kindly, sympathetic, helpful to all, and especially disposed to encourage the young, -- such was the man. As we grew familiar through daily contact, he began to pay me little attentions, and one Saturday afternoon invited me to accompany him to Music Hall, where Christine Nilsson was to sing. I heard he in numerous selection, but especially remember Handel's "Angels ever bright and fair," and the familiar "Swanee River." For me her voice remains unequaled. Sad to say, the phonograph had not yet made its appearance; else my estimate could be tested. In any case it stands.

Change of Residence, and New Associates.

It was early in 1871, I think, that Mr. Haines surprised me with the announcement that he had found a new boarding-house at 59 Temple Street, not a great distance from Pemberton Square and a little way back of the State House, and he suggested that I seek accommodation there also. The idea appealed to me, and soon we were installed in our new quarters. The house was kept by a Mrs. Chevaillier, a nervous, brisk, vivacious, and intelligent little woman, who eked out the slender income that she earned as a teacher in the public school by taking a few boarders, being assisted in the conduct of the house by an aged aunt, Miss Helen Clark. She had a daughter, Alzire, about twenty years of age, who suffering from nervous troubles, was not at home steadily, as well as a son, Charles, a year or two my senior and a most brisk and up-and-coming man, who was employed as a salesman in the publishing house and book-store of Little, Brown & Co. Besides Mr. Haines and myself the boarders were three in number: Mrs. Tarbell, an elderly lady in black; William Ben Wright, an exuberant impulsive, and exhilarating Canadian youth of my own age, employed as bookkeeper in a stereotyping establishment and diligently engaged in the study of stenography, -- an art in which he was determined to excel; and a younger boy, short, slender, and delicate, Willie Saxton, whose occupation I forget, and who committed suicide some years later, for what reason I do not know. (Right here I may mention as a coincidence that my old school-fellow, Frank Baker, already spoken of as a boarder at the house of Mrs. Stearns, went afterward to California, and there committed suicide also.) Charley Chevaillier, young Wright, and myself became boon companions, Wright especially sharing in my mental eccentricities, but with more enthusiasm than depth. These eccentricities too were in marked contrast with the atmosphere of the household, the lady members of which were Episcopalians of the "Highest" variety, being devout and almost daily attendants at the neighboring Church of the Advent, were ceremonialism was carried to the farthest limit permissible within the Protestant fold. However a spirit of toleration prevailed. Perhaps the ladies felt that, since Mr. Haines appeared to view the boy's vagaries with equanimity, there was no reason why they themselves should worry. Moreover, I was no longer spoiling for a fight on questions theological. Satisfied that the foundations of my scepticism were unassailable, I was turning my attention more and more to problems sociological. On these matters I had brought with me from New Bedford a curious conglomerate of views already formed. I was a woman suffragist and emancipationist, a prohibitionist and of course a teetotaler, a free trader after having been a protectionist, a believer in an eight-hour law as an adequate solution of the labor problem, at least a doubter as to the sanctity of marriage and without any doubt whatever as to the sanctity of democracy and majority rule. Though sincere and full of good intention, I fear that I was a conceited young prig, who felt that he knew the way and was destined to force other to walk in it.

The Era of My Awakening.

To take the starch out of a prig there is nothing like the transfer from a provincial city to a metropolis. Having had no trouble in keeping at the head of my class in the Friends' Academy, I was not a little surprised at the Institute to find that there were others and to perceive that, if in the first year not more than twenty of my class-mates were to surpass me, I should have every reason to congratulate myself. Similarly, on attending woman's rights conventions only to find, instead of harmony, fierce fights in progress between bold persons like Stephen Foster and his wife, Abby Kelly Foster, on the one hand, and timid persons like Henry B. Blackwell and his wife, Lucy Stone, on the other hand, and, on attending labor conventions and political gatherings of all kinds only to find conflict and clash between "isms" of every variety, I began to suspect that there were "more things in heaven and earth" than I had dreamed of in my philosophy. These struggles were very invigorating, but they left me dreamy. My sympathies were always with the extremists, but nowhere did I find myself on solid ground. Nor did the innumerable lectures to which I listened in the years 1870-71 furnish me with the criterion of which I was in need. They were very interesting and stimulating, and made me familiar with many notable figures, some of which I recognized afterwards in my daily walks. Indeed, I might almost say that the day was an exception when I did not pass in the street either Ralph Waldo Emerson, or Wendell Phillips, or Oliver Wendell Holmes, of Charles Sumner, or A. Bronson Alcott, Alcott's daughter Louisa (the author of "Little Women"), or Julia Ward Howe, or Lucy Stone, or the poet Longfellow, or Henry James (the elder), or Col. T.W. Higginson, or President Eliot of Harvard. Amid these joys I drifted on, until the arrival of "Anniversary Week" in May 1871, when the feasts of reason were so numerous that my escape from mental indigestion was really miraculous. And then came the annual examinations at the Institute, in the course of which I had another encounter with "Billy Rip."

But this story should be prefaced by the relation of an amusing incident that had occurred previously during one of his chemical lectures to the class. To demonstrate the reaction that he was explaining he had begun by pouring into a glass test-tube a certain chemical, to the eye indistinguishable from water. Just at that moment received a summons that compelled him to absent himself from the class-room for a minute or two, leaving the tube standing in a rack. During his absence a front-seat student improved the opportunity to pour the chemical into a sink and replace it with an equal amount of water. The professor, on his return, picked up the tube in one hand, and in the other a bottle containing an acid. "Now, gentlemen," said he, "when I pour in a few drops of this acid, you will observe the forming of a white precipitate." And he suited the action to the word. Nothing happened. He shook the tube. Still no result. Then he added a few more drops and shook again. "Do you notice the precipitate, gentlemen?" he asked. Sundry voiced responded in the negative. "Well," he said, "it takes a practiced eye to see these things." And, emptying the tube, he proceeded to another subject. Of course, no one "cracked a smile," but numerous eyes exchanged knowing glances.

To return now to my encounter, which occurred in the course of a laboratory examination in qualitative analysis. In the chemical submitted to me I found various things, iron among them, and reported accordingly. "But," said "Billy Rip," "there was no iron in it!" I respectfully insisted to the contrary, saying: "The test for iron was unmistakable, sir." Back and forth we had it, for several moments. I was sorely tempted to remark: "You see, sir, it takes a practiced eye to see these things." But I prudently refrained. Finally, however, I said: "Well, sir, I think I must consider my report submitted"; and with that I retired from the scene, fully expecting to be conditioned in chemistry. But I was agreeably disappointed. I pass all my examinations successfully, chemistry included.

The ensuing summer (1871) is almost a blank in my mind. Undoubtedly my parents took me with them on their summer vacation, but where we spent it I am not sure. Probably in Lancaster, New Hampshire, where we certainly passed one vacation, making excursions to Dixville Notch and to the top of Mount Washington.

At all events, October found me in Boston again, beginning my second year at the Institute and at Mrs. Chevaillier's, where the household remained unchanged. My life during the autumn differed but little from that of the previous spring, presenting, however, one new feature in the occasional evening visits that I made to the Herald newsroom to talk with Mr. Haines and watch him at his work. In the winter began the usual course of Sunday afternoon lectures at Horticultural Hall under the auspices of the Free Religious Association, which I attended regularly, finding it delightful and instructive to listen to men like Octavius B. Frothingham, John Weiss, David A. Wasson, Samuel Johnson, and other liberal thinkers of their school, even though I felt that I had passed their stage of emancipation from superstition.

It happened that I visited Mr. Haines in the evening of one of these Sundays. I do not remember what lecturer I had heard, or on what subject he had spoken, but I was so enthusiastic in the expression of my admiration that Mr. Haines suggested that I seat myself at the next desk and write a four-hundred-word report for the morning paper. Taken aback, I said that I had made no notes, and did not feel equal to the task. Pooh-poohing this, Mr. Haines insisted, and, thus encouraged, I made the attempt. The result was satisfactory, and the report appeared the following morning. It was my first contribution tot he press, and probably determined my career, -- a subject to which, as I have said before, I had given hardly a moment's thought.

To me my vocation was a minor matter; my real interest was in my avocation, which was to be the spreading of the truth and the dissipation of error. But it had never occurred to me that I could participate in the exposition of the truth. I had dreamed only of sufficient earnings to enable me to devote my spare time to propaganda in the capacity, if I may say so, of an irreligious colporteur. [sic] I doubt if ever a youth of average intelligence had less personal ambition than myself. I was sincerity incarnate. Disinterested I was not; nobody is; but my interest was in ideas and their advancement.

I once heard Stephen Pearl Andrews say that radicals are not more humane than conservatives, but are distinguished from them by their passion for truth, -- an analytical remark which revealed me to myself. Without disturbing my conviction that truth is of value only as it is conducive to happiness, it made me aware that in my own case the relation between truth and happiness is immediate. Indulgence of this passion is of all intoxications the loftiest. Drink as deep as one may at the Pierian sprig, he does not wallow in the gutter; even though the draught be bitter, he soars in the empyrean. I had always known the thirst, and in this province, if in my other, my disposition was convivial, but the distillation of the beverage I supposed to be quite beyond me. It was Zenas Haines who put the idea into my head when he induced me to write that press report. And one another occasion he drove it farther in, when, finding me reading my daily Tribune in Mrs. Chevaillier's parlor, he remarked: "I expect to see you the managing editor of that paper some day."

"You are joking," said I.

"No, indeed," he rejoined, "I was never more earnest in my life."

But, to tell and spread the truth in points, it is necessary first to know it. I was on the trail, but my quest was still unfinished. Regarding cosmogony, I had rejected the absurd in its entirety, and, without professing certainty, had arrived at a fairly firm belief in the lease improbable of all the theories offered. Further search in this direction was open only to the biologist and anthropologist. Awaiting the production of later evidence in an attitude of hospitality, it nevertheless had become with me a well-nigh settle conviction that every form of existence is subject to the exigencies of life and death, substance alone being indestructible. Such a conclusion commanded a concentration of interest on the problems of sociology. How to order the life that we now enjoy, -- to that must be confined our further effort.

Life, broadly surveyed, falls mainly into two divisions: on the one hand, the mart and the workshops where the individual is in relation with the world at large; on the other hand, the home and the club, where the individual is in relation with his intimates. The first of these confronts us with the industrial or economic problem; the second with what we may call, in the absence of a better name, the domestic problem. Each has its complexities, but, on the whole, the second is much the simpler.

For a year or two I had been reading Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly, led thereto by my interest in the emancipation of woman, and, as a result, I looked with much favor on the doctrine that legal interference with private intimacies, and especially with the relations of the sexes, is sheer impudence, -- that is, impertinence carried to the point of effrontery. Though I held this view on its own merits and by my own inclinations rather than as one of the applications of a well-considered social philosophy, I felt nevertheless that I already had something of a grip on the domestic problem.

As to the economic problem I was all at sea. As a means of securing for labor a greater share of its product, a legal eight-hour day had appealed to me, just as arbitrary, direct, and aggressive measures always appeal to the childish mind, and generally to children of a larger growth. But at the age of eighteen an inquiring mind begins to "put away childish things," and I was becoming dimly conscious that an indirect and automatic solution would be more effective and less revolting.

Not having found it, however, I continued to go, nearly every Wednesday evening, accompanied often by my friend Wright, to a tiny room in Bromfield Street, where the Boston Eight-Hour League held its weekly meetings. There were about a dozen attendants, on an average. The leading spirits were George E. McNeill and Ira Steward. McNeill, trade-union organizer, presided, and Steward, philosopher, expounded. F. A. Hinckley, who afterward became a Unitarian clergyman, was usually present; sometimes, Rev. Jessee H. Jones, an Orthodox divine settled at North Abington, whole-souled sincere, fanatical, a sort of Christian Socialist; often Edward D. Linton, an elderly man who had figured long in social movements, and a younger men, his disciple, E.B. McKenzie, neither or whom I knew, but both of whom I was destined to know and to admire. One meeting was much like another; none very instructive, all rather hum-drum. But a pleasant atmosphere prevailed.

Late in the spring of 1872, I chanced to see a notice in one of the Boston papers that on Sunday, June 30, and Monday, July 1, the New England Labor Reform League would hold a convention in Eliot Hall, corner of Eliot and Tremont Streets, -- two sessions on Sunday and three on Monday. The announcement seemed to come from the secretary, Ezra H. Heywood. Never having heard of the League or its secretary, I approached Ira Steward the following Wednesday evening in search of information concerning them, especially desiring to know whether it were worth my while, to attend the convention.

"Why don't you go and see for yourself?" he asked very pleasantly, by way of reply.

It was a magnanimous suggestion on his part, -- since, as I learned later, the relations between the Boston Eight-Hour League and the New England Labor Reform League were not over-friendly, -- and I did not fail to act on it. The afternoon of Sunday, June 30, found me at Eliot Hall, in a seat well toward the front, awaiting the proceedings with a high degree of curiosity. The audience was moderate in size and thoughtful in appearance. The president of the League at that time was John Orvis, a well-known disciple of Fourier, who, I believe, had been a member of the famous Brook Farm community. Probably he was in the chair that afternoon, but here my memory is a little dim. He, too, I had seen occasionally at the Eight-Hour meetings.

The opening remarks were made by the secretary, Mr. Heywood, who also presented a series of resolutions very denunciatory in tone, and not of a character to convey to a new-comer a clear idea of the League's purposes, which were set forth later in a much calmer and more orderly fashion in another set of resolutions offered by Edward D. Linton. Mr. Heywood's manner, on the other hand, was not at all violent; on the contrary, it was very attractive. He was a tall and rather lank New Englander, with a fine profile and a full blond beard and flowing hair. A little angular in his movements, his presence on the platform nevertheless was easy and almost graceful. His delivery was slow and measured, but without hesitancy, and his appearance was that of a scholar and a gentleman.

While he was speaking, my eyes fell on a simple old man seated two rows in front of me, whose Socratic features wore an expression of shrewdness and good humor. Suddenly Mr. Heywood, indicating this figure with a gesture, referred to the presence in the hall of "Josiah Warren, notable for his forty years' pilgrimage through the wilderness of American transgressions." From that introduction dates the real beginning of my career, as is acknowledge, on the dedicatory page of a large volume of selections from my writings published twenty-one years later under the titled "Instead of a Book," in these words: "To the Memory of My Old Friend and Master, Josiah Warren, Whose Teachings were My First Source of Light, I Gratefully Dedicate this Volume."

At a table in the hall, where some of the literature of the League was displayed for sale, I bought Warren's work, "True Civilization," William B. Greene's "Mutual Banking," Lysander Spooner's "No Treason," Heywood "Yours or Mine" and "Uncivil Liberty," and copy of The Word, a tiny monthly published and edited by Heywood at Princeton, Massachusetts, of which three numbers had then been issued.

The impression made upon me by the Sunday sessions was sufficient to induce my reappearance Monday forenoon. As I was ascending the stairs leading to the hall, Mr. Heywood, coming up behind me, remembering doubtless my presence and attention of the day before, and perhaps wondering at this sustained interest on the part of a youth of eighteen, laid a friendly hand on my shoulder, and asked me some question calculated to elicit the cause of my curiosity. My answer and subsequent conversations during the day led up to the fact that Heywood and his wife were running a summer boarding-house at Princeton, and the further fact that he was conducting there, under the name Co-operative Publishing Company, a publishing business for the propagation of his ideas. He told me that Josiah Warren was living in his house, and suggested that, if I were to engage board there for a week in the course of the summer, I would have an excellent opportunity for studying the movement in which I was showing an interest. I saw at once that it would be a good thing for me; I did not fail to see (nor did Heywood) that it would be a good thing for the boarding business; and I promised to consider the matter.

Before the opening of the Monday morning session, a man came walking down the aisle whose presence would have made him notable in any company. He was tall; of large frame, though not especially stout; and was apparently about sixty-five years of age. His hair, beard, and moustache were white and smoothly trimmed, and he had a very high forehead, a decisive mouth, and eyes that were twinkling as well as wonderfully piercing. He was strikingly handsome, and wore a black velvet coat that became him remarkably. When he mounted the platform and took the chair, I realized that he must be Col. William B. Greene, the vice-president of the League. That he was a wonderful presiding officer I had abundant proof throughout that day and on many subsequent occasions.

The League had been formed in 1869, and its early meetings had been conducted on the usual democratic plan, any resolutions that were presented being submitted to the vote of the audience present, regardless of membership. The method was soon found to be incautious and disastrous. Eight-hour advocates and trade-unionists attended in force; and introduced and passed resolutions not at all in keeping with the purpose of the League's founders. It became necessary, therefore, to adopt a new plan. The League existing for propagandism rather than political action, it was decided that resolutions should be offered for discussion only, and that no questions should be put to vote. Resolutions more desirable for the reason that, being carefully considered in advance and presented in the form of printed proof-slips, they were generally given in full by the newspapers, while speeches suffered from condensation and misrepresentation.

In the long run the new plan proved workable, but was very shocking at first to those accustomed to determining the truth or falsity of a proposition by a counting of noses, and gave rise to amusing incidents. I remember that, on one occasion, Mr. F.A. Hinckley, whose name I have mentioned before, arose to offer an amendment. Col. Greene, being the chair, informed him that amendment were not in order, but that any remarks that he might like to make in criticism of the resolutions would be welcome.

"But," said Mr. Hinckley, "suppose that I insist on my amendment, and that it is put to vote and adopted; what then?"

Col. Greene responded: "If the chair knows himself, and he thinks he does, the questions will never come to a vote."

"Are the members of this audience to understand then," inquired Mr. Hinckley, "that they are here simply as guests of the managers of this meeting?"

"Well," said Col. Greene, "if the gentleman insists on an answer to that question, I shall have to inform him that he is a good deal more than half right."

Whereupon Mr. Hinckely threw his overcoat over his arm, and marched out, with an air that seemed to say that under no circumstances would he so humiliate himself as to become the guest of any one whomsoever.

At another time, Julius Ferrette, a bishop of the Greek Church who sometimes made long and rambling speeches, was addressing the League. Col. Greene, again in the chair, had occasion to remind him that he was wandering far afield. It happened that he was just broaching a topic dear to the heart of Mrs. Angela T. Heywood, who rose in indignant protest against the chair's interference, claiming that all social problems were intimately connected, and that it was impossible to separate them.

"Time being limited," Col. Greene explained, "the range of discussion must be limited also. I do not deny, however, that the lady is right. It is perfectly true that one can begin with Bishop Ferrette's watch-chain (which was rather conspicuous) and reason to the archangels; but it cannot be done on the platform of this League during the occupancy of the chair." Mrs. Heywood subsided, which was not characteristic of her. It was Col. Greene's courtly manner and polite banter than always carried the day. Of the art of decision without offense, he was a master. His light irony disarmed. One forgot the firmness of his chin under the charm of the twinkle in his eye.

At this point it may be well to explain that the organization of the League, with its formidable list of vice-presidents, secretaries, treasurer, and executive committee, was mere facade. The same may be said of its national counterpart, the American Labor Reform League, whose conventions were held in New York. The two boards consisted largely of the same men and women, distributed in a different order. There was no sham about it, since all the officers authorized the use of their names; but, in reality, so far as activity and management were concerned, the secretary, Ezra H. Heywood, was "the whole show." For instance, in February 1873, I was elected treasurer of the New England League. Let it not be inferred, however, that a single cent ever passed through my hands, or that an accounting was ever made. And the other officers were similarly inactive, except, of course, that the chair was always occupied by the president or one of the vice-presidents.

Heywood fixed the dates of the conventions, which invariably began on a Sunday, and prepared the resolution, which, in the case of the New England League, were considered the previous Saturday evening at the residence of Col. Greene, -- in the earlier years a fine house at Jamaica Plain (a Boston suburb); and in the later a suite of rooms at the Parker House. The little gathering passed for a meeting of the executive committee, but the members were not summoned, those attending being Heywood and myself sometimes accompanied by William Ben Wright. We were treated sumptuously, but the chief treat was Col. Greene's conversation. Sometimes, for a few moments, his wife or daughter was present. The former had been Anne Shaw, known in her youth as "the belle of Boston." She belonged to an old family of Abolitionists, and was a sister, I believe, of Col. Robert G. Shaw, who fell in the Civil War at the head of the first negro regiment enlisted, and in whose memory a fine monument, the work of St. Gaudeno, stands opposite the Boston State House. To see the stately, but unassuming, couple enter the Parker House restaurant, arm in arm, was a sight for the gods, who, however, did not monopolize it, for I sometimes enjoyed it myself.

So much pretence as was involved in the show of organization outlined in the previous paragraph may not have been unpardonable, since it was necessary to the securing of a hearing. Thus heralded, a convention drew an audience that a single name, unless that of a great celebrity, would have failed to attract, and apparently few felt defrauded, since many came again.

In my own case, however, a continuance of interest was commanded less by what I heard at my first convention than by the literature that I purchased, especially Warren's book, the full title of which was" "True Civilization: A Subject of Vital and Serious Interest to All People; but most immediately to the Men and Women of Labor and Sorrow." When I found in the preface, written 1852 by no less a personage than Stephen Pearl Andrews, the following sentence: "I do not hesitate to affirm that there is more scientific truth, positively new to the world, and immensely important in its bearings upon the destiny of mankind, contained in this work than was ever before consigned to the same number of pages'; and when, in the early ages of the work itself, I found this of the sentence: "Disconnecting all interests, and allowing each [individual] to be absolute despot or sovereign over his own, at his own cost, is the only solution that is worthy of thought," -- I felt that I must devote careful study to a treatise giving promise of the automatic solution of which I was in search. So, having finished my second year at the Institute, and having again succeeded in passing the annual examinations, I w as in high spirits when I arrived at New Bedford with my package of pamphlets. I was not yet sure whither I was going, but I felt that I was on my way.

My First and Last Dip into Politics.

I could not, however, begin my new study at once. A presidential campaign was on, and I had not yet lost my interest in politics. Four years of Grant and corruption had disgusted me with the Republican party, and the chance of seeing an honest man in the White House in the person of Horace Greeley, whom I had so long admired, made me eager for the fray. In Theodore Tilton's departure from the Independent and his establishment of his new paper, The Golden Age, I found an immediate opportunity for participation, as Tilton, in his youth a Tribune reporter under Greeley, had espoused the cause of his old employer, and was devoting both pen and tongue to his election.

My parents had planned to spend their summer vacation in Bellows Falls, Vermont, and I was to accompany them. But I had still a few weeks in New Bedford, and it occurred to me that a part of that time might well be devoted to a canvass for subscriptions to The Golden Age. Less than a week's work in the city resulted in a list of respectable propositions, -- about thirty names, I believe, -- and without previous consultation with the management of the paper, I dispatched both the addresses and the money, deducting nothing for commissions. I think that my own name was already on the subscription list, but doubtless that fact afforded all the knowledge of my existence that either Tilton or his staff possessed.

Nevertheless, they rose promptly to the occasion. Straightway came a letter from the business manager, -- D.M. Fox by name, if my memory serves one, -- urgently inviting me to take the agency for the entire State of Massachusetts. My refusal, based on the ground that I was soon to accompany my parents to Vermont, must have indicated to Mr. Fox that I was of somewhat tender age. Yet he did not shy at that. "Take Vermont instead," he urged. But I was obliged to decline again. I had been kind only to be cruel. Some years late, on reading in a new poem by Tilton, "Sir Marmaduke's Musing," the line, "All pangs of fair hopes crossed," I wondered if I had not counted for a little in the poor man's disappointments.

However, even in hopelessly Republican Vermont, I had one opportunity, while at Bellows Fall, to lift my feeble voice in the good cause. During our stay, a Greeley & Brown rally drew a large audience, which was addressed by Gen. Judson Kilpatrick, a firm stump orator of no little power. My father and I attended, and, as my father was hard of hearing, we sat in the front row. The speaker, in the middle of an exposure of scandal that had disgraced the Grant administration, suddenly came to a halt through inability to recall the name of a man who had figured in it. The name being necessary to his purpose, he surveyed his audience in a helpless and inquiring manner, and I, seeing his predicament, shouted out the missing word, He looked down at me with some surprise, then thanked me, and proceeded. Of course, my father was delighted, and I proudly reflected that, if Orrin Bates, the New Bedford candy manufacturer, had been present, he would have exclaimed,: "Joe Bigler is still on the band-wagon."

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