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|Benjamin Ricketson Tucker|
[This announcement appeared in Benjamin R. Tucker's Liberty, January 1, 1887 (Volume IV, No. 13, Whole No. 91.) In the end, only one volume of the projected fifty appeared, the first volume of the System of Economical Contradictions, which Tucker had partially published in his Radical Review.]
After many years’ waiting and preparing of the way, I am about to attempt the execution of a purpose which I have had steadily in view ever since I first became an Anarchist,--the translation into English and publication of Proudhon’s complete works. In 1873, when, by the kind advice of Colonel William B. Greene, I began an examination of Proudhon’s writings, I knew no more about the thought of the great French philosopher and economist than Herbert Spencer knew about it when he made bold to criticise it in his “Social Statics.” In fact, I shared with nearly all people in America and England the misinformation regarding him that, having once said that “property is robbery,” he was therefore a Communist and a most ferocious one. But, thanks to Colonel Greene, I read Proudhon’s discussion with Bastiat on the question of interest, and then the famous “What is Property?” and great indeed was my astonishment at finding in them, but presented in very different terms, the identical ideas which I had already learned from Josiah Warren, and which, evolved by these two men independently, will be as fundamental in whatever social changes henceforth come over the world as has been the law of gravitation in all the revolutions of physical science which have followed its discovery,--I mean, of course, the ideas of Liberty and Equity. Moreover, as I continued in my reading, I found that Proudhon had not, like Warren, confined himself to the bare elucidation of the principles, but had discussed in their revolutionary light nearly every subject touching the welfare of mankind, bringing to this herculean work a mastery of style, a skill of dialectics, and a wealth of learning entirely beyond the limits attainable by the simple and untutored, though wonderfully lucid, mind of Warren.
However it may be with other kinds of wealth, no one will dispute, I think, that the satisfaction derived from the possession of knowledge--especially newly-discovered knowledge--is proportional to the degree in which its owner can make others share it. Naturally, then, my first thought was: “What a pity that these unparalleled researches of Proudhon in the realm if sociology should remain a sealed letter to the English-speaking race!” And I said to Colonel Greene: “Why don’t you translate ‘What is Property?’“ His answer was: “Why don’t you?” A mere boy, the thought of my competency for such a task had never occurred to me. But, the suggestion thus deposited in my mind, I turned it over and over and enlarged upon it, until I reached a determination that I could spend my life in no worthier, more helpful, more congenial pursuit than the enrichment of English literature by embodying in it at least an approximate equivalent of the entire product of a master mind in French literature. “What work nobler,” asks the editor of Herr Teufelsdrockh’s biographical documents, “than transplanting foreign thought into barren domestic soil; except indeed planting thought of your own, which the fewest are privileged to do?” Not belonging to the privileged few, I enthusiastically took my place in the second rank and published “What is Property?”
It received a great deal of interest from the press, was read, and is read more and more, by thinking people in all classes of society, can now be found in most of the principal libraries and institutions of learning, and has exercised a marked influence upon the minds foremost in the revolutionary movement. Nevertheless, it did not find a market sufficient to justify me in following it with other works. Reluctant to abandon my design, it occurred to me that I might create a market; that, by presenting the basic thought of Proudhon in simpler shape and applying it to the events uppermost in people’s minds, I might not only directly spread the truth, but arouse an interest to know it in its (as yet) best estate,--the works of Proudhon.
And I started Liberty. It proved to be the very thing, and more. It began directly, not only to accomplish my purpose regarding Proudhon, but to do an invaluable work of its own. Minds here, there, and everywhere were interested, attracted, and won, and the best elements of the progressive schools gradually gathered around it, until now it has, not a very large, but a growing, enthusiastic, earnest, and intelligent body of supporters. These have testified their interest in Anarchistic literature, and have come to try them with the works of Proudhon and to push once more my original design.
Accordingly I shall issue on January 1, 1887, the first number of a monthly periodical to be called the “Proudhon Library,” its purpose being the publication of an English translation, in parts of sixty-four pages, of the entire works of P. J. Proudhon, including his voluminous and very valuable correspondence. A number will be issued on the first day of every month, and, as fast as each work is completed, I will bind it, for such subscribers as will return all the numbers, handsomely and at a trifling cost. The bound volumes will be uniform in every respect with “What is Property?” and there will be not far from fifty in all, averaging four or five hundred octavo pages each. The subscription price is fixed at three dollars a year,--a rate which will enable the subscribers to get the complete works, bound, for nearly fifty dollars less than they would have to pay if they would have to pay if they should wait till the completion of each volume before buying it.
The first work to appear will be that wonderful product of the human intellect entitled: “System of Economical Contradictions: or, Philosophy of Misery.” It consists of two volumes, which will constitute the fourth and fifth in the series. “What is Property?” is the first, and the second and third will appear later. A descriptive circular, giving further details of the project and the list of the works, has been mailed to all the subscribers of Liberty, and any other person may receive one by applying for it. I confidently expect every reader of Liberty to subscribe for the “Proudhon Library,” and all of them who are pecuniarily able, to put their names down for two, three, five, ten, or more copies. If they do this, the enterprise will be an assured success and an immense impetus will be given to the
The publication in English of these fifty volumes, in which the great French Anarchist discusses with a master’s mind and pen nearly every vital question now agitating the world, covering the fields of political economy, sociology, religion, metaphysics, history, literature, and art, not only is a great event in literature, but will mark an epoch in thhe Social Revolution which is now making all things new. Of this Revolution, in fact, Proudhon’s works constitute almost an encyclopaedia. “Nothing has escaped the great thinker,” said Michelet, in reference to them. Can the people of America--the country in which Proudhon is said to have expected his ideas to be first realized--afford to remain in ignorance of them? What do you think, reader? If you, too, think not, will you help to make them known?
BENJ. R. TUCKER.
- Benjamin R. Tucker, “Announcement Extraordinary,” Liberty 4, no. 13 (January 1, 1887): 4.