The War Prayer

This piece was written by Mark Twain in opposition to an earlier war of conquest by the united states military, that against the inhabitants of the philippines just over a century ago.  Perhaps those who believe they can both oppose the war and “support the troops” will be moved to rethink their position after reading it.

It was a time of great and exalting excitement.  The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener.  It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety’s sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came—next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams—visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths.  The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation: “God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest!  Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!”

Then came the “long” prayer.  None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language.  The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory.

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness.  With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher’s side and stood there waiting.  With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, “Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!”

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside—which the startled minister did—and took his place.  During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

“I come from the Throne—bearing a message from Almighty God!” The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention.  “He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import—that is to say, its full import.  For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of—except he pause and think.

“God’s servant and yours has prayed his prayer.  Has he paused and taken thought?  Is it one prayer?  No, it is two—one uttered, the other not.  Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken.  Ponder this—keep it in mind.  If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time.  If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor’s crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

“You have heard your servant’s prayer—the uttered part of it.  I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it—that part which the pastor—and also you in your hearts—fervently prayed silently.  And ignorantly and unthinkingly?  God grant that it was so! You heard these words: ‘Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!’ That is sufficient.  the whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words.  Elaborations were not necessary.  When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory—must follow it, cannot help but follow it.  Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer.  He commandeth me to put it into words.  Listen!

“O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle—be Thou near them! With them—in spirit—we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.  O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it—for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts.  Amen.

(After a pause.) “Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!”

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

Manifesto [A Rare And Interesting Document]

Introductory Note

 Josiah Warren was undoubtedly the first American anarchist; as such he devoted most of his life towards the betterment of mankind.  In spite of his individualistic tendencies which are so characteristic of the spirit of our old American pioneers, he was heart & soul for ALL, and for a society where peace and tranquility would be the dominant factors.

It is also true that Josiah Warren was by nature and tradition a born rebel against all injustices & human hardships.  His writings have shown the way toward liberation & annihilation of all archaic forms of slavery, and above all, he stood fast on his conviction of the SOVEREIGNTY OF THE INDIVIDUAL.

The entire world is today, as never before, under a total eclipse of confusion and disillusionment, due mostly to the manifestation of a perverted “ism”, which has darkened almost the entire horizon of the universe and which seeks to destroy ruthlessly all democratic principles based on truth & justice.  This too, we hope, shall pass into oblivion.

By bringing to light again this important document, we thought it might fill a gap long missed by students interested in libertarian subjects! And I am certain that a scholar like Dr.  Paul Eltzbacher, who wrote his interesting work, Anarchism, would have made good use of any of Josiah Warren’s material, but unfortunately none was available in Europe or elsewhere, with the exception of U.S., where little, if any, can still be traced at some historical shrine.  Apropos of this neglect by our librarians everywhere, I should like to quote a few lines from the Introduction to his great work on Anarchism: “At present there is the greatest lack of clear ideas about Anarchism and, that not only among the masses, but among scholars and statesmen…” and a little further in the same Introduction he says: “Anarchistic writings are very scantily represented in our public libraries.  They are in part so rare that it is extremely difficult for an individual to acquire even the most prominent of them.”

This was written about half a century ago; it is still considered by ardent followers of this philosophy as the most authentic and reliable study on this subject.  There is an American edition of this work, published by Benjamin R.  Tucker (1908), but it is long out of print.

As to Josiah Warren’s own publications I like to quote here from another great scholar and bibliophile, Dr.  Max Nettlau.  The following is extracted from an unpublished letter addressed by him to Ewing C.  Baskette, dated May 26, 1936, in which he mentions one of Warren’s early publications: The Peaceful Revolutionist (1833):

“I should like to know who has ever seen it? If there is a copy anywhere, it should be mostly treasured and removed to one of the most important libraries in New York or Washington.”

Unfortunately, neither of these two libraries have it listed.  I shall do my utmost to reprint other items by this author, as time and effort will permit.

Joseph Ishill

September, 1952

An impression has gone abroad that I am engaged in forming societies.  This is a very great mistake, which I feel bound to correct.

Those who have heard or read anything from me on the subject, know that one of the principal points insisted on is, the forming of societies or any other artificial combinations IS the first, greatest, and most fatal mistake ever committed by legislators and by reformers.  That all these combinations require the surrender of the natural sovereignty of the INDIVIDUAL over her or his person, time, property and responsibilities, to the government of the combination.  That this tends to prostrate the individual—To reduce him to a mere piece of a machine; involving others in responsibility for his acts, and being involved in responsibilities for the acts and sentiments of his associates; he lives & acts, without proper control over his own affairs, without certainty as to the results of his actions, and almost without brains that he dares to use on his own account; and consequently never realizes the great objects for which society is professedly formed.

Some portion, at least, of those who have attended the public meetings, know that EQUITABLE COMMERCE is founded on a principle exactly opposite to combination; this principle may be called that of Individuality.  It leaves every one in undisturbed possession of his or her natural and proper sovereignty over its own person, time, property and responsibilities; & no one is acquired or expected to surrender any “portion” of his natural liberty by joining any society whatever; nor to become in any way responsible for the acts or sentiments of any one but himself; nor is there any arrangement by which even the whole body can exercise any government over the person, time, property or responsibility of a single individual.

Combinations and all the institutions built upon them are the inventions of Man; and consequently, partake of more or less of man’s shortsightedness and other imperfections; while EQUITABLE COMMERCE is a simple development of principles, which, although new to the public, are as old as the creation, and will be as durable.

This understanding is very natural; because, all attempts at radical reformation known to have been founded on combinations; the failure of all these has destroyed confidence, and the public, not being aware of any other principle, conclude that this is another proposal of the same kind and must fail like the rest.  I respect their judgment and believe with them, that every attempt to improve their social condition by the formation of societies or any artificial combination (however ingeniously devised, however purely intended or honestly conducted,) must and will defeat their own objects and disappoint all who are engaged in them.

The failure of the experiments on the community system in New Harmony during the two years trial from 1825 to 1827, sufficiently proved this to my mind, & led to the conviction that the process of combination is not capable of working out the great objects of society; but, the opposite principle, that of Individuality and the process of DISCONNECTION,[1] after much close and severe investigation were found to possess or to lead to all the redeeming and regenerating powers necessary for the complete solution of the great social problem.—Indeed they appeared to promise too much to believe, too much hope; so much, that the discoverer (if we must so call him) dare not communicate his thoughts to his intimate acquaintances for fear of being accounted insane.  His only course, therefore, was to prove everything in PRACTICE previously to bringing it before the public.

A whole new course of investigations and experiments were then commenced; the first of which was the “Time Store” in Cincinnati which was opened in May, 1827.  This was conducted three years, when it was wound up for the purpose of carrying the principles into all the commerce of life; and the interval between that time and the present has been employed (as far as private circumstances would permit) either in further developments or in preparation for them.

The principles have been applied to the management and education of children, which go to show the radical mistake and the great cause of defeat on this important subject.

The principles have also been applied to the purchase and sale of land & almost all other kinds of property, and to the interchange of almost all kinds of labor including that of merchants, lawyers, physicians, teachers, the conductor of a boarding house, etc., through every step of which, the sovereignty of the individual was strictly preserved and invariably respected.  No legislation of any description assumed control over the individual in any case whatsoever; and such was the complete individuality of action that hundreds dealt at the Time Store without understanding much of its principles or its objects; but they perceived that it was their interest to do so, thus demonstrating that the business of the community can be brought into this condition by a natural and irresistible process; without combination, without organisation, without laws, without government, without the surrender of any “portion” of the natural liberty of the individual; demonstrating also that reformation need not wait till the world becomes learned: but the practical operation constitutes a process of re-education which no one can estimate without experience, and which the learned are most backward in acquiring.

Such, too has been the complete individuality of action throughout all the experiments that although hundreds have taken some part in them, they are in no way distinguished as a sect, a party or a society; the public in general do not and will not know them; excepting so far as each individual chooses to identify himself or herself with these principles.

Public influence is the real government of the world.  Printing makes this governing power; therefore, among the preparations for the general introduction of these subjects are a simplification of printing and printing apparatus which brings this mighty power to the fireside and within the capacities of almost any one of either sex who may choose to use it; thus is this and every other subject of real reformation rendered independent of the common press whose conductors are generally too much absorbed or too much interested in things as they are, too much under public influence or too superficial in their habits of thinking to do this subject justice in its commencement.

The experiments and preparations are now concluded, and the results are on record or in the possession of living witnesses, and are now becoming the groundwork of practical operations in this neighborhood.  Those who wish to become acquainted with the subject can obtain the particulars at the public meetings or by reading THE EQUITABLE COMMERCE GAZETTE which is to be published for this purpose; but the following are some of the most prominent features of EQUITABLE COMMERCE.

It goes to establish a just and permanent principle of trade which puts an end to all serious fluctuations in prices and consequently, to all the insecurity and ruin which these fluctuations produce; and to build up those who are already ruined.

It tends to put a stop to all kinds of speculation.

It has a sound and rational circulating medium, a real and definite representative of wealth.  It is based exclusively on labor as the only legitimate capital.  This circulating medium has a natural tendency to lessen by degrees the value and the use of money, and finally to render it powerless; and consequently to sweep away all the crushing masses of fraud, iniquity, cruelty, corruption and imposition that are built upon it.

The circulating medium being issued only by those who labor, they would suddenly become invested with all the wealth and all the power; and those who did not labor, be they ever so rich now, would as suddenly become poor and powerless.

It opens the way to employment for those who want it, by simple arrangement which has a natural tendency to keep the supply in rational proportion to the demand.

It solves the great and difficult problem of machinery against labor.  On this principle, in proportion as machinery throws workmen out of employment, it works for them; and the way is always open to a new employment, as equitable commerce abolishes profit on mystery, disregards the customary apprenticeships and brings all kinds of knowledge within the reach of those who want it.

The necessity of every one paying in his own labor for what he consumes, affords the only legitimate and effectual check to excessive luxury, which has so often ruined individuals, states and empires; and which has now brought almost universal bankruptcy upon us.

Equitable commerce furnishes no offices to be filled by the ambitious and aspiring, no possible chance for the elevation of some over the persons or property of others; there is, therefore, no temptation here for such persons; and they will not be found among the first to adopt EQUITABLE COMMERCE.  It appeals, first, to the most oppressed, the humble, the down-trodden, & will first be adopted by them and by those who have no wish to live upon others, and by those whether among the rich or poor whose superior moral or intellectual qualities enable them to appreciate some of the unspeakable blessings that would result from such a state of human existence.

These are some of the most prominent features of EQUITABLE COMMERCE; and will be perceived that they are precisely the features which a great, redeeming revolution ought to possess: but they are so extraordinary, so out of the common course and current of things that they will be denounced by some as visionary and impracticable.  I am prepared for all this, and I am also prepared to prove that all the most important applications of the principles HAVE BEEN made; and have proved themselves sound beyond all successful contradictions; and to show that upon these principles, it is perfectly practicable for almost any person to begin at once to enjoy some of the advantages herein set forth; and by degrees to emancipate himself or herself from the crushing iniquity and suffering of (what is called) civilized society; and this without joining any society or in any other way surrendering any “portion” of his or her natural and “inalienable” sovereignty over their person, time or property, and without becoming in any way responsible for the act or sentiments of others who may be transacting business on these principles.

[1] The great principle of human elevation was perceived to be the SOVEREIGNTY OF EVERY INDIVIDUAL over his or her Person and Time and Property and Responsibilities.  That this was impracticable where these were connected.  DISCONNECTION, or Individualisation of these, therefore, appeared to be the process required.  A habitual respect to this Individual Sovereignty, it was perceived, would constitute EQUITABLE moral commerce.  The question then arose, how could this complete sovereignty of the individual over its own time and property be preserved through the process of exchanging them in the pecuniary commerce of society? This great point was settled by the idea of time for time, or Labor for Labor—DISCONNECTING all natural wealth from labor each pricing his own by what it Costs him; but not overstepping the natural bounds of his individuality by setting a price on the Value of his article or labor to the receiver of it.  The DISCONNECTION of Cost from Value laid the foundation of Equitable pecuniary Commerce.  This new commerce required a circulating medium DISCONNECTED from money of all kinds, and representing Labor only; and thus the laborer becomes EMANCIPATED from money and tyranny.


New Harmony, Nov. 27, 1841

 It has now become a very common sentiment, that there is some deep and radical wrong somewhere, and that legislators have proved themselves incapable of discovering, or, of remedying it.

 With all due deference to other judgments, I have undertaken to point out what seems to constitute this wrong and its natural, legitimate and efficient remedies; and shall continue to do so wherever and whenever the subject receives that attention and respect to which its unspeakable importance appears to entitle it; and it is hoped that some, who are capable of correct reasoning will undertake to investigate, and, (if, they can find a motive,) to oppose EQUITABLE COMMERCE; and thereby discover and expose the utter imbecility—the surprising weakness of any opposition that can be brought against it.  Opposition, in order to be noticed must be confined to this subject, and its natural tendencies: DISCONNECTED with all others, and all merely personal considerations.

I decline all noisy, wordy, confused, and personal controversies.  This subject is presented for calm study and honest enquiry; and, after having placed it (as I intend to do) fairly before the public, shall leave it to be estimated by each individual according to the particular measure of understanding, and shall offer no violence to his individuality by any attempt to restrain, or to urge him beyond it.


 This Manifesto was originally written & published by Josiah Warren in 1841, and which was incidentally, printed by the author on one of his own made press.

The present reprint is from a photostat copy supplied by Mr.  Ewing C.  Baskette, for which we gratefully thank him for having discovered this rare historical document.

It was handset with the Garamond and Cloister Oldstyle both were casted by the American Type Founders.

The Oriole Press September 1952

Notes From the Last Frontier

Alaskans continue to demonstrate just how much like the rest of the people in the united states they really are.   Despite their reputation as individualist pioneers, they are as supportive of government action and as desirous of government funds as any other americans.  In last year’s election they voted to return Bush and his local allies Lisa Murkowski and Don Young to power, one of the primary justifications for voting for these crooks being that they have proven their ability to bring in more money from the feds than alaskans pay in income taxes.  Without this forcible redistribution of income from the rest of the country to alaska, the economy here would likely be in shambles.

Of course some benefit more than others from this federal largesse, much of which is funneled into the military.  In 2005, the army corps of engineers will spend $682,000,000 across the state, over three times their average annual spending over the last ten years.  There are over 23,000 military personnel stationed here, 10,320 of them on the two military bases in Anchorage.  (Compare this to the 3500 or so employees of Providence Health System Alaska, the largest private employer in the state.)  Spending by military members and their families, civilian employees of the armed forces, and private military contractors are important contributors to a number of local economies and this makes the military popular here, perhaps explaining, at least in part, alaskan voters’ support for the war makers in the last election.  But many alaskans never benefit from this cash (nor do the iraqis and afghans who suffer directly from the training and support provided to american soldiers in this state).

Other recipients of large quantities of money from Washington are the “native” corporations.  Set up by the government years ago in order to settle land claims, these companies claim to serve the needs of indian, aleut, and/or eskimo alaskans.  But, like non-native corporations, these institutions primarily benefit their executives and some of their stockholders, leaving members of the ethnic groups they pretend to represent as the largest category of alaskans living in poverty.  And while they have failed to help most of the people whose resources they purport to steward, some have even been willing to partner with companies like Halliburton, so that these already rich companies can obtain no-bid contracts with the military and other branches of the government.  These partnerships primarily benefit the “non-native” partner, employing few alaskan workers and providing little in dividends to stockholders.

But most alaskans seem to feel that they personally gain in some way from the federal gravy train, so they are content to support the status quo in Washington.  So too on the state and local level.  Last year, a majority voted to keep marijuana illegal, and voters continue to elect politicians who implement policies and supervise bureaucracies that intervene in nearly all aspects of our lives.  While this interference is often justified on the basis of making us safer or healthier, or conserving the natural environment, or improving property values, government action has a lousy record in all these areas, and only seems successful in limiting our freedom and pushing us around.

 Transportation bureaucrats protect our sensibilities by forcing the owners of a small resort to remove roadside signs about which no one ever complained, but which were essential to their ability to make a living; they then make our roads safer by closing an off-ramp essential to the success of a popular coffee shack.  Anchorage politicians protect our neighborhoods by threatening to sabotage funding for Habitat for Humanity because they do not include garages in the homes they build because they see their mission as providing shelter for people, not vehicles.

Officials believe they are conserving natural resources by barring a community center from selling big-game animal mounts they received as gifts.  And they jail someone who kills wild animals in a manner that wildlife cops disapprove of, while other agents organize the slaughter of wolves.  Social workers “help” children by turning them over to the tender care of a foster parent who allows several of them to be bitten by a dog and adoptive parents who systematically abuse a number of others, while imprisoning the biological mother of three other kids after she took them on an unsupervised visit and did them no harm.

 State troopers protect the security of the homeland by arresting peaceable, working immigrants simply because they lack permission slips issued by the feds.  Police here kill “suspects” who pose no threat to them, prosecutors gained a murder indictment (but fortunately failed to get a conviction) in a motor vehicle accident case by failing to present exculpatory evidence to a grand jury, and the superior court has refused to release a prisoner who was exonerated by someone else’s confession.  Meanwhile, local governments put uniformed police in the schools to “protect the children.”

But inept, uncaring, intrusive, and dangerous alaskan government officials and agencies are only following the example of the feds.  Like when land managers started a prescribed burn north of Anchorage this summer, while the city was already suffering from a haze caused by the worst fire season in memory.  Or when they fined someone who used wooden palettes to repair a damaged trail in a national park.  Or when TSA inspectors endanger the people they are supposed to be protecting by confiscating essential equipment like matches and lighters from the luggage of campers, who did not discover they were without the means of starting a fire until they were alone in the wilderness.

And like those at all levels of government, alaska’s state and local politicians do their best to aggrandize the already privileged at the expense of working people who are forced to pay taxes.  This year the state government will give $4,000,000 to the travel industry authority to assist them with marketing projects.  Not to be outdone, the good citizens of Anchorage just authorized the municipality to tax tourists in order to fund the construction of a $93,000,000 convention center downtown.  While those who own and run the tourist industry (and who will be the primary beneficiaries of any money generated by the project) support building this center and claim it is a great investment opportunity, they were unwilling to pay for it themselves.  And why should they, when voters are happy to assist them in robbing visitors to provide the funds?

Even though government at all levels is based on force, theft, hypocrisy, and inefficiency, it is obvious that most people in alaska are more than willing to either support or go along with its dictates and actions.  So it is important to recognize people who have the courage to stand up against an unjust and harmful government policy, as one group did last July.  Although the federal indian health service bars clinics to which they provide funding from providing non-emergency care to people who are not american indian, aleut, or eskimo, the Tanana chiefs conference, which runs 22 rural clinics, decided they will continue to disregard this discriminatory policy and treat all comers for a minimal fee.

In addition, a pissed-off cab driver in Anchorage stood up to the “public safety” bureaucrats and won.  Because he refused to quietly obey, cabbies can no longer be forced to pee in a cup for random drug tests in order to maintain their licenses.  (Of course the state has no business licensing cabs in the first place, but that is a matter for another article.)  Much to the surprise of the politicians, there has been no sudden increase in car accidents or passenger abductions as a result of drunken or drugged drivers.

While most people believe they benefit from having politicians in control of their lives, whatever perks they do receive come at the cost of putting up with constant intrusion, theft, and bullying by agents of the government.  The state, whether in Anchorage, Juneau, or Washington will continue on as it always has until more people, like the Tanana chiefs and the Anchorage cabbie, come to value justice and liberty enough to refuse to obey their elected masters and their cronies.