Anarchy in the United States

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Anarchy in the United States is a phenomenon that existed mostly in colonial times. Historical records of it are superficial, since historians tend to display scant interest in stateless societies.[1] Nonetheless, Murray Rothbard and other historians have identified instances of it. Among them, the coastal region of North Carolina north of the Albemarle Sound in what was then Virginia was a congregating point for those who wished to escape the control of England or the Anglican Church or even wealthier residents of Virginia until 1663. Other major regions of anarchy were located in Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and the American West.

Rhode Island[edit]

The state of Rhode Island was founded on anarchic ideals by Roger Williams and a group endeavoring to flee from the oppression by the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay.

Subsequent political struggles in the area now known as Portsmouth led to more explicit anarchism in the person of Anne Hutchinson, who settled in Rhode Island in 1638 and who would become the first explicit anarchist in North America. Resisting the efforts of William Coddington, one of her followers, to establish himself as ruler over the area, Hutchinson forced an election for governor in which her husband, William Hutchinson, claimed the title. Residents under William Hutchinson were guaranteed certain freedoms: equality among men before the law, the separation of Church and State, and the right to jury trial. The struggles firmed Hutchinson's opposition to any kind of magistry government, and she passed her philosophies on to her sister, Catherine Scott, who in turn influenced the Baptist anarchists.

Also in Rhode Island, Shawomet (later Warwick) was anarchistic for more than five years before becoming part of Providence Plantation.


Pennsylvania was not intended to be anarchistic, but became so after founder William Penn temporarily set aside all taxes to encourage rapid development. Residents not only resisted the restoration of taxes but also ignored Penn's lime monopolies, and after Penn retreated to England the colony was essentially without governance from Fall 1684 to 1688. An Assembly appointed by Penn attempted to restore taxes and assert government in 1688, but although a few laws were passed, taxes were not restored and efforts to govern the colony subsided. Penn next attempted to reassert control through the appointment of John Blackwell, but the people nonviolently resisted and eventually forced Blackwell to resign and Penn yielded governance of the colony to itself until 1691, when he insisted that the colonists select a governor, with his own appointed deputy governor. Government was restored to the colony in 1691, although they managed to hold off taxes, aside from a period between April 1693 and 1694, until 1696.

The American western frontier[edit]

Private production of law has occurred, for instance, in American frontier associations that moved west at a rate that far outpaced the geographic expansion of formal local, state, territorial, and federal governments. Law and legal systems were established by land claim clubs, cattlemen's associations, wagon trains, and mining camps. Violence arrived on a large scale with the arrival of the state, as the U.S. Army began attacking American Indians (a conflict that spilled over onto civilians) and the state took over the lawmaking and law enforcement functions.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Origins of Individualist Anarchism in America. Murray N. Rothbard. Libertarian Analysis, 1970. Digital version in