Pioneers of American Freedom

Pioneers of American Freedom

Infobox Book
name = Pioneers of American Freedom: Origin of Liberal and Radical Thought in America
translator = Arthur E. Briggs
author = Rudolf Rocker
country = United States
language = English
subject = History of liberal, libertarian, and anarchist thought in the United States
genre = non-fiction
publisher = Rocker Publishing Committee
pub_date = 1949

"Pioneers of American Freedom: Origin of Liberal and Radical Thought in America" is a book by the German anarcho-syndicalist Rudolf Rocker about the history of liberal, libertarian, and anarchist thought in the United States.

Rudolf Rocker, who had been strongly influenced by Benjamin Tucker, [cite journal |last=Gabriel|first=Ralph H.|year=1950 |month=June|title=Review: Pioneers of American Freedom: Origin of Liberal and Radical Thought in America by Rudolf Rocker|journal=The Mississippi Valley Historical Review|volume=37|issue=1|pages=156–158|doi=10.2307/1888796 Pg. 156.] started work on "Pioneers of American Freedom" during World War II. Professor Arthur E. Briggs started translating the book into English from Rocker's native German in 1941. He took over for Rocker's previous English translator Ray E. Chase as he had died. The book was published with the help of the Rocker Publishing Committee in 1949. [cite book |title=Der "geborene" Rebell: Rudolf Rocker - Leben und Werk|last=Wienand|first=Peter|year=1981|publisher=Karin Kramer Verlag|language=German|location=Berln|isbn=3-87956-106-0 Pg. 414.]

The first part of the book consists of a series of essays on the American liberal thinkers Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, and Abraham Lincoln. Rocker emphasizes the importance these men assign to individualism, freedom, and the subordination of the state to the welfare of the individual. This, Rocker claims, is a great similarity between anarchist and liberal thought. [Gabriel 1950, pg. 157.]

The second part deals with American anarchists. Among those covered in the book are Josiah Warren, Stephen Pearl Andrews, Lysander Spooner, William Batchelder Greene, Ezra Heywood, and Benjamin Tucker. Rocker argues that these anarchists' emphasis on "free competition of individual and social forces as something inherent in human nature, which if suppressed will inevitably lead to the destruction of the social equilibrium" distinguishes them from authoritarian socialists. He claims that the problem in modern society is not too much competition, but a lack of it as the result of "the destructive forces of monopoly". Further, Rocker seeks dispel the myth that radicalism in the United States was merely a foreign import, pointing to the fact that most of the thinkers covered by the book were undoubtedly American by descent and born in the New England states. In fact, he argues, they were active "before any modern radical movements were even thought of in Europe" and they were more influenced by the American Declaration of Independence than by any European thinker. [cite journal |last=Dorfman|first=Joseph|year=1950|month=August|title=Review: Pioneers of American Freedom: Origin of Liberal and Radical Thought in America by Rudolf Rocker|journal=The Journal of Political Economy|volume=58|issue=4|pages=362–363|doi=10.1086/256970 and Gabriel 1950, pg. 157-158.]

Roger Nash Baldwin said of "Pioneers of American Freedom": "No American has been able to write such an analysis of our heretics and idealists." [Wienand 1981, pg. 414.] The "Mississippi Valley Historical Review" claimed the essays make no new contribution and considered the discussion of Lincoln inferior. The journal's review does, however, credit Rocker with "bringing together in an orderly discussion of all the important American material on philosophical anarchism before World War I". The "Journal of Political Economy" credits Rocker with writing one of the first treatments of American radical history, considering it a "welcome supplement" to Eunice M. Schuster's "Native American Radicalism". [Gabriel 1950, pg. 157-158 and Dorfman pg. 363.]


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