William Bailie

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William Bailie (1867-1957) was an Irish-American individualist anarchist writer. Born in Belfast, Bailie emigrated to Manchester as a young man, and then left for the United States in 1891, settling in Boston. In England, Bailie had been a proponent of the communist Anarchism of Peter Kropotkin; but in Boston, Bailie became a friend of Benjamin Tucker, and soon became a leading proponent of individualist anarchism, and a frequent contributor to Tucker's newspaper, Liberty; he was also romantically involved with the Anarchists Helena Born and Helen Tufts Bailie.

Works Online



Paul Avrich (1995), Anarchist Voices

From Paul Avrich (1995/2005), interview with Helena Bailie, in Anarchist Voices: An Oral History of Anarchism in America. Oakland, Cali.: AK Press. 14-15.

Helena Bailie

Freeport, New York, March 26, 1973
Helena Tufts Bailie, Professor of Sociology, Emerita, at Nassau Community College on Long Island, is the daughter of William Bailie (1866-1957), the biographer of the pioneer American anarchist Josiah Warren (1798-1874)39 and an associate of Benjamin R. Tucker, America's leading apostle of individualist anarchism. Her mother, Helen Tufts Bailie (1874-1963), was likewise an anarchist, though not as individualistic as her husband, being a friend of Emma Goldman and involved in the Modern School movement inspired by the execution of Francisco Ferrer in 1909 (see Part Four). Professor Bailie, as she notes in her interview, was named after the anarchist poet Helena Born, a close friend of her parents and frequent contributor to Tucker's journal Liberty .
I was born in 1914 and am a professor of sociology at Nassau Community College, with an A.B. from Radcliffe and a Ph.D. from Columbia. My parents were William Bailie, a member of Benjamin Tucker's circle in Boston, and Helen Tufts Bailie, also a member of Tucker's circle but a friend and admirer of Emma Goldman's as well. Father was born in Belfast in November 1866, the son of a carpenter. His father died in an accident when father was eleven. So he had to go to work. He was apprenticed to a basket weaver. He left Belfast at eighteen for Manchester, where he married his landlady's daughter and had children. He became interested in William Morris40 and Edward Carpenter,41, as well as Kropotkin. He was an avid reader, self-educated, and learned to read French and German. He was an early member of the American Economic Association. He came to Boston and established a wicker-basket firm. He met Tucker through Liberty. His lover, Helena Born, was close to Miriam Daniell, both from Bristol, both contributors to Liberty. Helena (I'm named after her) died of cancer in 1901, having turned Father over to Helen Tufts. Father was later active in the Ethical Society. He was basically a pragmatist and saw himself in the tradition of Jefferson. He opposed socialism because he thought it would lead to bureaucracy.
Mother was from an old New England family. She was a secretary in Louis Brandeis's law office in Boston and later a proofreader for Houghton Mifflin. In 1928 she was expelled from the DAR42 chapter in Somerville, Massachusetts, for criticizing its Red-baiting activities (the chapter was named after her ancestor, Anne Adams Tufts). A typescript of her diary is in the Smith College Women's Collection.
Father had respect for his workers as men and as craftsmen. He allowed them to decide their wages, according to the individual's skills and experience. He himself had started his apprenticeship in Manchester by reading to the men and going out for beer. He kept his business records in code. There was nothing shady about that, but part of his "Mind your own business" philosophy. Father's interests were much broader than anarchism, where Tucker was more concentrated on anarchism. Mother, like Pearl Johnson Tucker, had strong sympathies for Emma Goldman and the anarchist-communists.
One of my first memories of my parents was of their soapboxing in the street for women's suffrage. Their friend, Adeline Champney, taught me to read by the Montessori method.43 Letters and words became my friends. I still love to do word puzzles. Father died in 1957 or 1958, mother around 1963. (She was born January 9, 1874.) Mother was neurotic and unhappy. When mad she wouldn't speak to us for weeks. My younger brother died at three of pneumonia he had caught from me, and she never forgave me.

Máirtín Ó Catháin, A Wee Black Booke of Belfast Anarchism, 1867-1973. (2004).

From "Chapter Two: The Nineteenth Century" of Máirtín Ó Catháin, A Wee Black Booke of Belfast Anarchism, 1867-1973. (2004). Published by ORGANISE!

William Bailie (1867-1957)
‘The anarchist tendency is a necessity of progress, a protest against usurpation, privilege, and injustice’.9
By the time William Bailie wrote these words in 1906, he had already been an anarchist of some 20 years standing with a number of articles, polemics, letters and campaigns to his name. In addition, he had contacts on two continents and several countries, had played a key role in facilitating anarchist propaganda in England and helped bridge the historic ideological gulf between individualist and communist anarchism in north America. We have very little information on William Bailie’s background, although we know from Avrich that he was Belfast-born and emigrated as a young man to Manchester, sometime in the mid-1880s. What his occupationwas is as yet unclear, but he was quickly drawn to the libertarian socialism of William Morris and joined the Manchester branch of the Socialist League. He appears to have been a conscientious and active member who did a lot of work in the branch, and arranged Kropotkin’s lecture in the city in 1890. By then, the Manchester Socialist League was already almost wholly anarchistand this may have partly been due to Bailie’s efforts.10 However, like many other militants of the period a mixture of repression at home and opportunities for revolution on the other side of the Atlantic beckoned and he emigrated tothe US in 1891, settling in [[Wikipedia:Boston|]. It is generally believed that he then made the transfer from anarchist-communist to individualist anarchist, but an examination of Bailie’s interests and his American writings reveals him tohave developed a unique synthesis of these two streams of anarchist thought.11
William Bailie is chiefly known for his biography of the great individualist American anarchist, Josiah Warren (1798-1874), who was a pioneering advocate of mutualism – that system of equality and reciprocation, localised and federated freely into autonomous communities, with an economy based on barter and mutual exchange, so favoured by the ‘father of anarchism’, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. This was superseded in many respectsby the development of anarchist ideas through the collectivism of Bakunin, the communism of Kropotkin and the syndicalism of Pouget and Rocker. However, during Bailie’s time the last of these tendencies was only beginning to emerge, and his chief aim seems to have been to achieve firstly, a re-assessment of Warren as a communist and individualist anarchist, and secondly, to demonstrate that the two schools of thought should and could be combined. The first of these tasks was certainly achieved, despite what has been seen as a biased and one-sided biography by Bailie, and Nettlau has been keen to emphasise Warren, ‘the father of American anarchism’, as a ‘communitarian and individualist’.12
Besides his work as a propagandist, William Bailie participated in other forms of activism. He allied himself with the individualist Benjamin Tucker (1854-1939), and contributed many articles to Tucker’s paper, Liberty which was published from 1881 to 1908 (see list at end of chapter). Tucker waxed and waned through much of his individualism, but he was an enthusiasticsupporter of striking workers though a stern critic of trade unions which he saw as wishing to create an alternative (worker’s) state. This theme of support for militant action by workers and opposition to state socialist trade unionism ran through most individualist analyses of the period and littered the pages of Liberty, though the newspaper encouraged debate and featured a deal of anarchist-communist material over the years. Presumably, Bailie, like his comrade Tucker, supported the major strikes of the period such as at Lawrence, Massachusetts and Cripple Creek in 1894, as well as the Homestead, Pullman and Paterson, New Jersey mass actions. Certainly, his background in libertarian socialism and anarchist communism in an industrial setting had made Bailie more aware of and sympathetic to collective action in general, and he most definitely retained and encouraged a belief in broadening and unifying anarchist thought as well as class solidarity.13 Bailie clearly believed that anarchists should also look at vegetarianism, sexual liberation and women’s liberation, for example, and incorporate elements suchas these into the anarchist agenda. He himself operated a vegetarian restaurant cooperative for a while with his partner, although most of his life he worked as a basketweaver.14
Much more research needs to be done into William Bailie before a proper analysis can be made of his life and politics. Certainly most of it appears to have been lived as an individualist anarchist whose chief concerns were the encroachment of the state into people’s lives, the rise of American imperialism and the domineering conservative morality and jingoistic nationalism of the United States’ power elites. He did, however, maintain a support for workers in struggle and a realisation that personal freedom wastied inexorably to collective and economic freedom. Like the Glasgow anarchists of the 20th century, he was one of the few anarchist thinkers to make the case for an inseparable link between what most of his contemporaries considered diametrically opposed trends of anarchist thought – the egoist or Stirnerite anarchists and the collectivist and/or communist anarchists. This was because he saw the greatest personal freedom of the egoists encouraged in the freedom of economic equality, and that it would please the egoist to work in cooperation with others as a choice, but also as a logical self-interest in order to establish and maintain his or her liberty. He wrote, ‘Egoism implies perfect individualism . . . mutual aid, cooperation, collective effort, often conduce to egoistic satisfaction, to individual welfare. Perfect individualism therefore implies those kinds of conduct’.15 While this is far from an exposition of classical revolutionary or even class struggle anarchism, it does show how Bailie had evolved a fairly unique conception of anarchism uniting the various often mutually antagonistic strands and adding important issues on which he felt it was impingent upon anarchists to take a stand. That such things are now taken for granted by many anarchists and anarchist groups was not down to Bailie, but his important work must have made a significant contribution in time and place.
Articles by William Bailie in the newspaper, Liberty (1881-1908)
Issue No. 235, page 2; Issue No. 236, page 3; Issue No. 238, page 1; IssueNo. 239, page 2; Issue No. 255, page 3; Issue No. 268, page 3; Issue No.272, page 3; Issue No. 389, page 2; Issue No. 391, page 14; Issue No. 393,page 11;
On anarchism – Issue No. 253, page 2;
On capitalism – Issue No. 257, page 1 & 3;
On collectivism – Issue No. 264, page 1 & 3;
On competition – Issue No. 276, page 1;
On crime – Issue No. 231, page 2-3;
On economics – Issue No. 378, page 4-5;
On education – Issue No. 210, page 3-4 and Issue No. 235, page 1;
On government – Issue No. 255, page 1; Issue No. 266, page 1 & 3; Issue No. 375, page 3-4;
On individualism – Issue No. 256, page 1 and Issue No. 263, page 13;
On labour – Issue No. 254, page 1; Issue No. 271, page 1 & 3 and Issue No.272, page 1;
On liberty – Issue No. 258, page 1;
On Loria – Issue No. 376, page 3-4;
On martyrs – Issue No. 217, page 2-3;
On monopoly – Issue No. 368, page 4-5 and Issue No. 371, page 3-4;
On property – Issue No. 259, page 1; Issue No. 260, page 1; Issue No. 261,page 1 & 3; and Issue No. 267, page 1;
On railroad – Issue No. 369, page 3-4;
On sacrifice – Issue No. 227, 3-4;
On socialism – Issue No. 265, page 1 & 3;
On society – Issue No. 223, page 1-4; Issue No. 253, page 1; Issue No. 264,page 1 & 3;
On the state – Issue No. 391, page 26-33;
On wages – Issue No. 274, page 1 and Issue No. 279, page 1;
On war – Issue No. 392, page 43-50;
Clarence Lee Swartz on Bailie – Issue No. 388, page 2 and Issue No. 392, page 50-57;
Benjamin Tucker on Bailie – Issue No. 267, page 1; Issue No. 272, page 2-3 and Issue No. 274, page 1.
9. William Bailie, Josiah Warren: The First American Anarchist: A Sociological Study (New York, 1906), p.xiii.
10. Avrich, p.154; and Quail, p.94; IGI records, which are notcomprehensive, contain only one William Bailie, born in 1867 to Adam Bailie and Mary Coyle, a Belfast family who subsequently re-located to Manchester, though there is no William there in the 1881 Census.
11. William Gary Kline, The Individualist Anarchists: A Critique of Liberalism (Lanham, Maryland, 1987), p.65.
12. Nettlau, p.45 & p.405; and James J. Martin, Men Against the State: The Expositors of Individualist Anarchism in America, 1827-1908 (Illinois, 1953), bibliographical essay; and Kline, p.80.
13. Nettlau, pp.30-42; and Kline, pp.60-1 and p.78.
14. Biographical note on Helen Matilda Tufts Bailie, Helen Tufts Bailie. Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northhampton, Massachussetts, http://asteria.fivecolleges.edu/findaids/sophiasmith/masss130_bioghist.html; Bailie’s papers and those of his partner are kept in Smith College, though focus more on Helen Tufts than William.
15. Kline, pp.65-6 and p.80.