Heywood saw what he believed to be a disproportionate concentration of capital in the hands of a few as the result of a selective extension of government-backed privileges to certain individuals and organizations.
He believed that there should be no profit in rent of buildings. He did not oppose rent, but believed that if the building was fully paid for that it was improper to charge more than what is necessary for transfer costs, insurance, and repair of deterioration that occurs during the occupation by the tenant. He even asserted that it may be incumbent on the owner of the building to pay rent to the tenant if the tenant keeps his residency in such a condition that saved it from deterioration if it were otherwise unoccupied. Heywood believed that title to unused land was a great evil.
Heywood's philosophy was instrumental in furthering individualist anarchist ideas through his extensive pamphleteering and reprinting of works of Josiah Warren, author of True Civilization (1869), and William B. Greene. In 1872, at a convention of the New England Labor Reform League in Boston, Heywood introduced Greene and Warren to eventual Liberty publisher Benjamin Tucker.
In May, 1872 Heywood, a supporter of women's suffrage and free love activist Victoria Woodhull's free speech rights, began editing individualist anarchist magazine The Word from his home in Princeton, Massachusetts. He was tried in 1878 for mailing "obscene material" – literature attacking traditional notions of marriage – at the instigation of postal inspector Anthony Comstock. Convicted of violating the 1873 Comstock Act, he was sentenced to two years' hard labor.
He was pardoned after six months by President Hayes in response to massive protests by sympathizers and free speech advocates. Arrested four more times following his release, Heywood died of tuberculosis within a year of his final release from prison.
- Anarchism in the United States
- Anarchism and issues related to love and sex
- Faneuil Hall
- Pioneers of American Freedom: Origin of Liberal and Radical Thought in America
- The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison: From disunionism to the brink of war, 1850-1860, ISBN 0674526635, pg. 545.
- The Free Love Movement and Radical Individualism by Wendy McElroy.
- Passet, Joanne Ellen (2003). Sex radicals and the quest for women's equality. University of Illinois Press. p. 45.
- Uncivil Liberty: An Essay to Show the Injustice and Impolicy of Ruling Woman Without Her Consent (1873) by Ezra Heywood – one of first individualist feminist essays, by Ezra Heywood (with an introduction by James J. Martin)
- Chapter V of James J. Martin's Men Against the State[dead link] contains a large section called Ezra Heywood, Pamphleteer
- Ezra Heywood & Benjamin R. Tucker by Martin Blatt
- A biography of Heywood on the anniversary of a protest at his arrest
- A chronology of Emma Goldman's life and the anarchist movement