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Source: Leslie’s Weekly
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Two Kinds of Anarchists”
Author(s): Gladden, Washington
Date of publication: 28 September 1901
Volume number: 93
Issue number: 2403
Pagination: 278, 291

Gladden, Washington. “Two Kinds of Anarchists.” Leslie’s Weekly 28 Sept. 1901 v93n2403: pp. 278, 291.
full text
anarchism; anarchism (public response); anarchism (dealing with).
Named persons
Peter Kropotkin; Herbert Spencer; Leo Tolstoy.
“Specially Contributed to Leslie’s Weekly by the Rev. Washington Gladden.”

Editorial is accompanied by a photograph of the author on p. 278.


Two Kinds of Anarchists

     ANARCHISTIC ideas, in the violent form, prevail in this country to a very limited extent. Anarchists are divided into two classes—the intellectual or theoretical anarchists, whose idea it is that the power of government should gradually be lessened until it is practically extinct, but who do not approve of violence, and the revolutionary anarchists, who propose to wipe out all existing social and political institutions. Count Tolstoï is an anarchist of the first type, and his fundamental principle is non- resistance. He does not believe in any kind of force or compulsion. Prince Kropotkin, as I understand, is an anarchist of this type; he does not, I believe, approve of violence, though he did make a speech to the Haymarket anarchists in Chicago, which they applauded. I do not know what he said.
     The other group of revolutionary anarchists has nests in several places—in Paterson and Hoboken, N. J., in some portions of New York City, in Chicago, and probably in other cities where Italians, Poles, and Russians congregate. I think that their numbers are small. Anarchy has not even threatened to assume the proportions of an insurrection. The valorous offer of the old soldiers to volunteer for its suppression is patriotic but superfluous. There is no need of an army. The police can manage the business anywhere.
     The intellectual anarchism is not at all a dangerous thing, so long as it sticks to its principles. The belief that that is the best government which governs least is a common and harmless belief. The motto under the title of the old Congressional Globe used to be: “The World Is Governed Too Much.” Herbert Spencer and his school of political philosophers may be called anarchists; they believe in constantly restricting the sphere of government.
     This is a rather belated theory, for all the tendencies are toward the extension, rather than the restriction, of the sphere of government; but there is no harm in preaching it if one believes it. If one doesn’t believe in the use of force, and refuses to use it himself, and does all that he can to dissuade others from using it, I do not see that he is a dangerous person in society. It will be well for anarchists of this class to find another name. All we can ask of them is that they keep themselves free from all relations with those of the other class. No man has any right to make a speech to a gang of assassins for any other purpose than to denounce assassination.
     But these revolutionary anarchists, the anarchists of the pistol, the poniard, and the running noose; the anarchists who are opposed to government because it uses force, but whose entire programme consists in the use of force in the most cowardly and infernal ways—these are the people who are outside the pale of reason and humanity; their words and deeds prove them impervious to all rational and humane motives; they are the sworn foes of society, and it is absurd for society to harbor and protect combinations of men whose only purpose in life is the destruction of the order which protects them. Society must, in its own defense, do what it can to make such combinations impossible. It is preposterous to say that society has not the right of self-protection. Any legal refinements which stand in the way of this primary right should be swept away.
     Legal action should be taken by both the national and State governments. The national government should [278][291] make it a crime, punishable with death, for any one to attempt to destroy the life of the President—perhaps, also, of certain other high officials of the government; and the States should all make laws defining anarchy of the revolutionary kind, describing all such organizations as traitorous conspiracies, and forbidding, under heavy penalties, all associations or assemblages for such purposes. It is monstrous that men should meet and take counsel together, under the protection of our laws, for ends which involve the subversion of all law and the murder of men whose only crime it is that they represent law.
     Now I can partly understand, though I can by no means justify, the existence of anarchy in some European countries. But that it finds lodgment here and ripens its plots of destruction on our soil; that its emissaries and agents abide here in haunts well known and go forth from our gates unchallenged upon their errands of assassination is a fact shameful and astounding. Perhaps the tragedy by which our own chief ruler has been stricken down may lead us to question whether the limits of liberty are not somewhat strained by the permission of such conspiracies.
     There should not, it seems to me, be much difficulty in coming to a distinct understanding with this class of persons. The tribe must be exterminated. There must be no dallying or temporizing. This is the first and the last and the only thing to do. I do not believe in any harsh or unjust punishment, but the action of the law should be prompt, swift, and sure. When groups of men here and there in American cities adopt the theory that their function is to scatter through society firebrands, arrows, and death, with no other purpose than that society shall be overthrown, there is simply nothing to do but to turn on these people and crush them. Society must not harbor its own avowed destroyers; it must stamp them out. The more promptly, the more relentlessly the thing is done, the more merciful and kind is the deed.



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