Mr. Morse Explains

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Mr. Morse Explains.

Dear Tucker:

You asked me if I had said to Appleton that you were waging war merely against the existing State, and I replied, "no."

I am surprised to find in the text of his letter no statement of that color. He seems not alone to fail in so reporting me, but to bring no such charge against you himself. It is his own opinion of the meaning of Anarchism that limits it to political barriers, not yours. He admits that you say it "means more and includes a protest against every invasion of individual right." But, for himself, he is convinced that "it will not do to stretch the scope of Anarchism beyond political government." When he writes, "Now, if Anarchism is merely a protest against the existing State," he is reaffirming his own opinion as to what the word, etymologically regarded, and by what he thinks was Proudhon's restricted use of it, ought to mean. He is not saying what yon mean, but what you should mean, to be, in his opinion, a true Anarchist. He then attempts a quotation from me to support the same view of the case.

I volunteer this explanation. But I might have contented myself by saying that I have never had anything to say about Anarchism being merely a protest against the existing State, or otherwise.

Appleton has got his own ideas and mine mixed. I simply remarked to him on one occasion that I did not see why Most, Parsons and Co. had not as much right to define the word Anarchism as you have. Instead of insisting upon any particular definition myself, it was immaterial to me what definition was etymologically or Proudhonically correct. The meanings of words change and often come to convey quite other than their original thought. They come to mean what people make them mean. For myself, I do not care to make this disputed term stand for one thing or another. I do not for my own purpose have occasion in any way to appropriate it. and should not be unwilling to see it pass out of your vocabulary.

In all of which I am a heretic, yet.

Very truly yours, Morse.

[If Mr. Appleton's last article were to be considered alone, the paragraph in it containing a reference to Mr. Morse could be interpreted as Mr. Morse interprets it. But considered in its relation to Mr. Appleton's preceding article, which Mr. Morse perhaps has forgotten, my own interpretation is much the more rational. In his first article Mr. Appleton's complaint was, not that I used a narrow name to cover a broad idea, but that I was fighting for a narrow idea. I answered him that I was fighting for Anarchism, and that Anarchism, as defined in Liberty, was equal in breadth to what Mr. Appleton prefers to call Individualism. In view of this, Mr. Appleton's paragraph in his last article is properly summed up as follows: "You say Anarchism is broad in its meaning. But this is a 'convenient assumption' [convenient for what, except to avoid the charge that I am fighting for a narrow idea?], not warranted by etymology or by Proudhon. Etymology and Proudhon both make it narrow. Now, if it is narrow and does not necessarily include a protest against authority per se, you, as friend Morse says, have no more right to say that Most, Parsons & Co. are not Anarchists than they have to say that you are not one." Now, to me this amounts to a charge that I am really fighting for a narrow idea, but that, when called to account for it, I "conveniently assume" that my flag covers a broad idea; and that, inasmuch as Most, Parsons & Co. and I are really fighting for the same narrow idea, I have no right to question their Anarchism. If this interpretation is correct, Mr. Appleton does charge me with "waging war merely against the existing State," and cites Mr. Morse as of the same opinion. Hence the form of my question to Mr. Morse, which, however, he has not stated quite correctly or fully. I first asked him if he had ever said that I was waging war merely against the existing State. He replied that he had not, and inquired why I asked. I answered that I asked because Appleton had written an article in which he quoted him as saying that, if Anarchism meant war against the existing State, I had no more right, etc. Thus Mr. Morse was given the statement made by Mr. Appleton, and, if he had remembered the conversation correctly, he would have had no occasion for surprise on reading Mr. Appleton's article. When I had explained why I asked, Mr. Morse still said, as he says now, that he had never said such a thing, and that Mr. Appleton had mixed things up. As to the right of Most, Parsons & Co. to use the word Anarchism in accordance with any definition they may choose to give it, I willingly concede it. But it is equally my right to dispute the accuracy of their definition, and say that they are not Anarchists. To illustrate: I have often heard Mr. Morse use the term "transcendentalism" and defend the doctrine for which that word stands. Now, any positivist has a right to put forth positivistic ideas under the label of transcendentalism, but, if any one were to do so, I fancy that Mr. Morse would complain, and assert that such person was not a transcendentalist. Mr. Morse does not like the term Anarchism, I know, but his opposition to it is of a general nature, arising out of his opposition to labelling doctrines at all, — an idea which logically involves the entire disuse of language. As I do not agree with him in this, I cannot accomodate him by dropping the word. Anarchism from my vocabulary for such a reason. But, on the other hand, he is not at all a heretic, for, while it is a part of the Anarchistic creed that persons not of Anarchistic ideas should not call themselves Anarchists, it is no part of it that persons holding Anarchistic ideas must call themselves Anarchists under penalty of being disfellowshipped. — Editor Liberty.]