Coming to Its Senses

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Coming to Its Senses.

[Lysander Spooner, as "O"]

No longer ago than May 6 the New York "Herald" raved in thus fashion against the Anarchists:

The whole land is filled with horror at the damning deeds of butchery by the Anarchists of the West. Anarchism is a venomous and slimy reptile, and only an iron heel should deal with it.

And on the 7th, 8th, and 9th of May, it had still more in the same strain.

But on the 10th it changed its tone so far as to say:

In a free country men remedy abuses by their votes; and if they reason intelligently, they see that abuses grow mainly because of bad laws, and that the remedy lies not in enacting more laws, but in repealing injurious laws. Whenever any part of the people suffer a real grievance, it will be found that this is a consequence of a law interfering with their liberty of action in some needless way; and that the remedy lies not in more law, but in striking off a law.

Now, such talk as this comes very nearly to Anarchism itself, pure and simple; at least as this writer understands it. He cannot answer for Herr Most, or anybody else, but only for himself.

Such a change, as this of the "Herald," in a single day, is really coming to one's senses very fast. And inasmuch as the "Herald" has now set its face in the right direction, we hope it will go forward fearlessly, like the honest and true friend of the people, which it so often tells us that it really is.

But if it is going to procure the repeal of all the "bad laws," from which "any part of the people suffer a real grievance," or which "interfere with their liberty of action in some needless way," we can inform it that it has undertaken a very heavy task.

We hope, however, that it will not be disheartened at the magnitude of the labor before it. If it cannot do all that is needed, in the way of procuring the repeal of "bad laws," it can, without doubt, do a great deal. All we ask of it is, that it will do what it can. And when it shall have done all it can, we think it will no longer have occasion to lose any sleep on account of Anarchy or Anarchists. We do not know of an Anarchist — we doubt if there be one — in this, or any other country — who asks for anything more than the repeal of all "bad laws." And if the "Herald" will but be honest with itself and the people, we would be almost willing to pledge ourselves in advance to abide by the "Herald's" own opinion of what are, and what are not, "bad laws."

Will the "Herald" now go on with the duty it has so plainly prescribed for itself?

This outbreak at Chicago, whether the actors in it were good or bad men, is a very small one, compared with those that have proceeded from "bad laws" in this and other parts of the world; and a very small one, too, in comparison with those that will succeed it, here and elsewhere, unless the "bad laws" are repealed.

Is not the duty of the "Herald" a plain one? And is it not a duty which the "Herald" has very much neglected?


  • Lysander Spooner, “Coming to Its Senses,” Liberty 4, no. 3 (May 22, 1886): 5.