Joseph R. Peden, “Australia’s Libertarian Heritage,” The Black Gazette, Summer 1976, vol. 1, no. 1., pp. 23-24. Thanks to the legendary John Zube and his Libertarian Microfiche Publishing.

In freeEnterprise, November, 1975, Mark Tier, commenting upon his visit to the Libertarian Party convention held in New York, observed that:

Before the formation of the Libertarian Party in the United States there was already a widespread and growing libertarian movement. The U.S. was, of course, itself founded on the libertarian tradition. One might say it began a libertarian tradition of its own. Australia has no similar heritage, nor does it have figures such as Lysander Spooner, Benjamin Tucker and other like them scattered through its history.

While I am not familiar in detail with Australian history, I have always had the impression that many of the earliest emigrants to Australia were transported there for essentially political crimes, victims of state tyranny. Is it possible that some libertarian heritage did not emerge in these circumstances? There is at least one episode in the history of the libertarian movement in Australia which left traces in the American libertarian press.

During the late 1880’s and early 90’s American individualist anarchists were in direct contact with a circle of individualist anarchists centred in Melbourne, Australia. A certain David A. Andrade, probably a physician, of South Yarra, Melbourne, sent a letter to Benjamin Tucker, editor of Liberty, the leading individualist anarchist publication in the United States. (Liberty, February 20, 1886). Andrade reported the anarchist movement in Australia to be “still in the womb” — without an organisation, newspaper or any significant forum. Yet there were possibilities: Andrade and an American from Rhode Island, F. P. Upham, had recently identified themselves as anarchists and Mr. Joseph Symes, a radical preacher of atheism, republicanism and reform, had denounced the evil of government so vigorously that he seemed to prepare his audience for the philosophy of anarchism. In his paper, Liberator, Symes seemed to be sowing the seeds of anarchy.

Andrade considered Victoria colony particularly suited for anarchist indoctrination because it suffered grievously from “overlegislation”. “No better hotbed for anarchy could be wished for than State-ridden Victoria”. He described for his American audience, the evil protective tariffs, factory and hours acts, licensing of pubs and the spectre of prohibition, discriminatory acts against the Chinese labourers, compulsory vaccination, and violations of freedom of speech and the press. Tucker commented that “if Doctor Andrade is a fair specimen of Australian anarchists, they make up in quality what they lack in numbers, and will prove indominatable”.

A few months later, Andrade reported the formation of the Melbourne Anarchists Club. Inspired by Andrade, Upham and W.C. Andrade, a small group of anarchists met on May 1, 1886, at the meeting hall of the Australian Secular Association. In a quiet corner, the original three were joined by three others, T.O. Roper, J. MacMillan, and a Miss Wigraf, and in the presence of a few anarchists who “were watching the proceeding with a sort of awe and wonderment”, founded the Melbourne Anarchist Club. David Andrade was chosen as secretary and sole officer and charged with preparing a club circular describing the club’s aims for press and public. It was agreed to meet weekly at the Secular Hall for discussion, and that no resolutions would be passed except with equanimity. A small library of anarchist works was to be offered for circulation. Andrade’s prospectus, published in Liberty, July 3, 1886, declared the Melbourne anarchists opposed to voting and taxation and in favour of “Private cooperation and individual action to foster mutual trust and fraternity among the working people of all ranks” and promised to “turn their attention to their common foes, the Priests and Politicians and their coadjutors”. (Liberty, July 3, 1886).

Soon Andrade was being invited to debate or lecture to the members of the Secular Association and his lecture “What Is Anarchy?” was published by Tucker in Liberty, May 28, 1887. That its content was approved by Tucker wholly is indicated by the absence of Tucker’s usual critical commentary on the views of his contributors. A new publication, Honesty, was also announced. This had become necessary because of quarrels between the anarchists and Joseph Symes, the beleaguered editor of Liberator (already in difficulty with the postal authorities because of his radical content) closed its columns to their views. Tucker agreed to accept and forward subscriptions from American readers. In addition, the Australians were busy distributing anarchist books and pamphlets, many of which they must have purchased from Tucker’s series called “Liberty’s Library”, Fowler, Auberon Herbert, and Josiah Warren as well as Bakunin’s God and the State. Liberty itself was sold to the Australian anarchists by subscription.

By 1888 the quarrel with Symes had led to efforts to expel the anarchists from the Secular Association and they were coming to use the pages of the Australian Radical to reach a wider audience. Its editor, W.R. Winspear, fought for “free land, free credit, free labour and free capital”, and seemed determined to do battle with governmentalism in all its forms”, according to Tucker. Meanwhile, David Andrade was conducting debates before the Australian Socialist League in the Newcastle Hall of Science, and in various radical publications. The editor of the Sydney Freethinker [?] was sympathetic, and Joseph Evison, editor of the New Zealand Rationalist even more so. Tucker reported that more than one eigth of all his sales of books and pamphlets was to Australian customers. (Liberty, September 15, 1888.)

Further references to Andrade and the Australian comrades were infrequent. A certain J.A. Andrews of Richmond, Victoria, wrote to declare that one of Liberty’s frequent contributors, J. William Lloyd had become a communist anarchist, as Andrew himself had about a year earlier. (Liberty, May 18, 1889).  Early in 1890 Tucker reported his pleasure with the progress of individualist anarchism in Australia and declared the Australian Radical “second to none of the best anarchist publications”. (Liberty, May 18, 1889). The last reference I have found come in 1893 when J. William Lloyd reviewed an allegedly realistic novel by David Andrade entitled The Melbourne Riots. Lloyd found it to be inferior fiction and not realistic in any sense. Andrade’s novel centred on the founding of an individualist anarchist “colony”, which Lloyd who had some experience in such ventures declared “utopian” and almost certainly doomed to failure unless men and women of the most exceptional characters could be attracted to it, which he doubted. (Liberty, February, 1893).

Liberty is not indexed and I have not found any further reference to the fate of the Australian anarchists who shared so completely the views of our own American libertarian forbear, Benjamin Tucker. But hopefully this brief report will encourage some Australian comrades to dig further into their own history. They may have a genuine libertarian heritage of their own which is presently unknown to them, and the study of that heritage may enrich and illuminate their present struggle for liberty.

Joseph R. Peden is Professor of History at Baruch College, the City University of New York. He is also the publisher of Libertarian Forum, the American libertarian journal edited by Murray Rothbard.