Liberty and the Great Libertarians
In 1913, Charles T. Sprading (1871-1959) wrote a book of remarkable prescience that anticipated the systematic development of an American libertarian tradition. He called it Liberty and the Great Libertarians. What he provided was a biography and intellectual analysis of some thirty great thinkers. Most valuable is his extraordinary job of editing. He chooses the best and most enlightening of their writings and brings them to life.
The thinkers covered include Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, William Godwin, Wilhelm von Humboldt, John Stuart Mill, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Josiah Warren, Max Stirner, Henry D. Thoreau, Herbert Spencer, Lysander Spooner, Henry George, Benjamin Tucker, Pierre Kropotkin, Abraham Lincoln, Auberon Herbert, G. Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Maria Montessori, and others.
Now, not all of these people would be considered libertarians by the modern understanding. Some even called themselves socialists, as absurd as that may sound to us today. But they all exhibited in their writings a deep and abiding attachment to the idea of human liberty. They agree in the primacy of the individual. They agreed that the greatest threat to individual rights is the state. And they believed in fighting for these rights. They believed in the freedom of assembly, freedom of press, freedom of religion, freedom to think and act. They hated war and social control. They rejected every form of authoritarianism, and, in all these areas, they made huge contributions.
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