Free States of America
Flag flown by the Free States
Motto: "Liberty is not the Daughter But the Mother of Order" (Unofficial)
"Live Free or Die!" (Unofficial)
|Government||Autonomous anarchist confederation|
|Historical era||Continental Revolutionary War|
|27 March 1917|
|28 April 1921|
|10 million (Claimed)|
The Free States, also known as the Free States of America and Harmania after its founder Moses Harman, was a short-lived attempt to form a stateless anarchist society during the Continental Revolutionary War. Its de facto territory consisted of the northwest territory of the later United Commonwealth, as well as occupied parts of much of Tournesol, and minor sections of Brazoria and Superior. The territory existed roughly from 1917 to 1921, during which time a plethora of “free townhalls” and libertarian communes operated under the protection of the Patriotic Insurrectionary Army, also known as the Blue Army, under Moses Harman and others. The Blue Army and allies, collectively nicknamed “the Blues” in the ensuing struggle against the Landonist “Greens”, was formed largely of Anglo-American farmers from the Northeast and Middle America, Italian immigrants in the Midatlantic, and Black “exoduster” descendants of former slaves who settled in the Midwest. At its height the Free States boasted allegiance from some 10 million people, although their inability to coordinate their efforts into substantial territorial strongholds, aside from a de facto territory around Missouri and the Mississippi River, led to their eventual division and subjugation by the Continentalist Party , leading to the founding of the United Commonwealth.
The Free State was established with the capture of Kansas City on 27 March 1917. An Insurrectionary Staff was set up in the city, creating the territory’s de facto capital for much of the war, although the capital was also moved to Springfield, Missouri for long durations, as well as other towns. The territory self-organized along anarchist principles, with references to “government” being highly contentious; the Blue Army prefered the nomenclature of referring to their leadership as a purely military role, with the de facto heads of the territory claiming to be purely military strategists and advisors. All towns and cities occupied by the Blue Army were “liberated” from state control, and were notified that no authority would be imposed on the town by the Blue Army. Upon liberation, inhabitants would be notified that the occupying force “does not serve any political party, any power, any dictatorship. On the contrary, it seeks to free the region of all political power, of all dictatorship. It strives to protect the freedom of action, the free life of the people, against all exploitation and domination. The Harmanist Army does not, therefore, represent any authority. It will not subject anyone to any obligation whatsoever. Its role is confined to defending the freedom of the people. The freedom of Americans belong to themselves, and should not suffer any restriction.”
In late 1920 the Landonist advance on Ottumwa, Iowa marked the end of the independence of the Free States, although a small scale guerilla campaign would continue into the start of 1921. The final leadership of the Blue Army, amounting to 54 officers and advisors, fled into Manitoba via Superior on 28 April 1921, a date which marks the formal dissolution of the Free States. Remnants of the Blue Army would continue to fight on for the remainder of the year in small numbers.
Politics[edit | edit source]
The American anarchist movement has its roots in the early mythos surrounding the founding of the United States; the idea of a select few pioneers building the country from the ground up through sheer determination, unabridged by the constraints of an overbearing, central authority. In the early development of the country this was exemplified by Jeffersonian democracy, which advocated for an agrarian primacy, and priority to the "yeoman farmer", "planters", and the "plain folk" of the fledgling new nation. Thomas Jefferson’s vision included the territorial expansion of the United States to the west, most notably through the Louisiana purchase, with the goal of establishing farm land for a growing class of yeoman farmers, in a land that would act as an economic safety valve for those crowded in the coastal east. Despite the fears of the New England-based Federalist Party, which sought to maintain dominance politically and economically, the Jeffersonians viewed the west as a land ideal for republican society based on agricultural commerce, which would promote self-reliance, virtue, and autonomy. Prominent American anarchist Benjamin Tucker would reference this directly, defining individualist anarchism as "unterrified Jeffersonianism". This would later be influential to the idea of Manifest Destiny, the cultural belief which held that American settlers were destined to expand across the continent, due to the special virtue of the American people and their institutions. The War of Contingency and the American Civil War that preceded it bruised the concept of American exceptionalism, but nonetheless it did not deter westward settlement or its romanticization. Josiah Warren - considered one of the fathers of American anarchism - would comment in 1870 that, “the American people are descendants of those seeking personal liberties [...] the Great Experiment propensity to unite these peoples has shown that they will continue to forge their own paths, and that those united states will become individual.” In 1876, toward the end of the Long Depression that ensued after the Panic of 1873, President Grant would coin the “rugged individualism”, for the American individual’s self-reliant and independent nature.
Prominent anarchist writer and historian William Smith defined American anarchism as a philosophy that, "stresses the isolation of the individual—his right to his own tools, his mind, his body, and to the products of his labor. To the artist who embraces this philosophy it is 'aesthetic' anarchism, to the reformer, ethical anarchism, to the independent mechanic, economic anarchism. The former is concerned with philosophy, the latter with practical demonstration. The economic anarchist is concerned with constructing a society on the basis of anarchism. Economically he sees no harm whatever in the private possession of what the individual produces by his own labor, but only so much and no more. The aesthetic and ethical type found expression in the transcendentalism, humanitarianism, and romanticism of the first part of the nineteenth century, the economic type in the pioneer life of the West during the same period, but more favorably after the Civil War". It is for this reason that it has been suggested that in order to understand American individualist anarchism one must take into account "the social context of their ideas, namely the transformation of America from a pre-capitalist to a capitalist society, [...] the non-capitalist nature of the early U.S. can be seen from the early dominance of self-employment (artisan and peasant production). At the beginning of the 19th century, around 80% of the working (non-slave) male population were self-employed. The great majority of Americans during this time were farmers working their own land, primarily for their own needs" and so "individualist anarchism is clearly a form of artisanal socialism [...] while communist anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism are forms of industrial (or proletarian) socialism".
In the 1800s the American anarchism movement received several key influences from European thinkers, such as French political philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, whose words "Liberty is not the Daughter But the Mother of Order" appeared as a motto of the 19th-century anarchist periodical Liberty. Liberty’s editor and publisher, Benjamin Tucker, would also take influence from Max Stirner, being the first person to translate an English translation of Stirner’s The Ego and Its own, among other works. He would also be the first American to use the term libertarian, a term taken from French libertarian communist Joseph Déjacque. Tucker would later be on the forefront of debates within the American anarchist community between the proponents of natural rights - the traditional position of American anarchists - and those inspired by egoist anarchism, which rejected the idea of moral rights in favor of the “right of might” and “right of contract”. The British utopian socialst Robert Owen was also tantamount to American anarchism, with Owens founding the cooperative community of New Harmony, Indiana in 1825, which Josiah Warren was later a resident of.
The emergence and growth of abolitionism was met hand-in-hand with developments of anarchism in the United States, with most early anarchists detesting the slave-based economy of the American south. Early anarchist Josiah Warren envisioned a system antithetical to slavery, whereby value was pegged at the amount of labor one exerted, unlike the extraction of value on the backs of forced labor. Warren coined the term "cost the limit of price", with "cost" here referring not to monetary price paid but the labor one exerted to produce an item. Therefore, "[h]e proposed a system to pay people with certificates indicating how many hours of work they did. They could exchange the notes at local time stores for goods that took the same amount of time to produce". He established an experimental “labor for labor store” known as the Cincinnati Time Store, which used notes backed by the promise to perform labor as the medium of exchange. This store proved successful and ran for three years, before Warren closed its doors in order to focus on the creation of utopian colonies. Another early individualist anarchist was writer Henry David Thoreau, who in his 1849 work Civil Disobedience argued that people should not permit governments to overrule or atrophy their consciences, and that people have a duty to avoid allowing such acquiescence to enable the government to make them the agents of injustice. This work was directly motivated by Thoreau’s disgust for the institution of slavery, as well as other events such as the Mexican-American War. Anarchism via Thoreau began to take an ecological view, advocating for simple living, self-sufficiency, and resistance to the advancement of industrial civilization.
In the decades following the dissolution of the United States, individual settlement of the west intensified, with the eventual states that emerged encouraging this migration in order to secure the border region in the center of the continent. The town of Springfield, Missouri, named by immigrants from Massachusetts - a hotbed of the individual anarchist movement - became one such settlement deeply inspired by the writings of Warren, Thoreau, and later Tucker.