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William Batchelder Greene

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William Batchelder Greene
Born(1819-04-04)April 4, 1819
DiedMay 30, 1878(1878-05-30) (aged 59)
Somerset, England
Occupation(s)Anarchist, minister, political scientist
Known forMutual Banking
Academic background
Alma materHarvard (1841)
ThesisDe cosinuum et sinuum potestatibus secundum cosinus et sinus arcuum multiplicium evolvendis / von Ernst Eduard Kummer (1832)
Academic work
Doctoral studentsPaul Du Bois-Reymond

William Batchelder Greene (April 4, 1819 – May 30, 1878) was an American individualist anarchist, Unitarian minister, soldier, mutualist,[1] promoter of free banking in the United States, and member of the First International.[2]


Born in Haverhill, Massachusetts, Greene was the son of the Democratic journalist and Boston postmaster Nathaniel Greene. He was appointed to the United States Military Academy from Massachusetts in 1835, but he left before graduation. He was made 2nd lieutenant in the 7th infantry in July 1839 and after serving in the second Seminole War resigned in November 1841. Subsequently, he was connected with George Ripley's utopian movement at Brook Farm, after which he met several transcendentalists including Orestes Brownson, Elizabeth Peabody and Ralph Waldo Emerson.[3]

According to James J. Martin in Men Against the State, Greene did not become a "full-fledged anarchist" until the last decade of his life, but his writings show that by 1850 he had articulated a Christian mutualism, drawing heavily on the writings of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's sometimes-antagonist Pierre Leroux (see Equality; 1849 and Mutual Banking; 1850), writing in The Radical Deficiency of Existing Circulating Medium (1857):

The existing organization of credit is the daughter of hard money, begotten upon it incestuously by that insufficiency of circulating medium which results from laws making specie the sole legal tender. The immediate consequences of confused credit are want of confidence, loss of time, commercial frauds, fruitless and repeated applications for payment, complicated with irregular and ruinous expanses. The ultimate consequences are compositions, bad debts, expensive accommodation-loans, law-suits, insolvency, bankruptcy, separation of classes, hostility, hunger, extravagance, distress, riots, civil war, and, finally, revolution. The natural consequences of mutual banking are, first of all, the creation of order, and the definitive establishment of due organization in the social body, and, ultimately, the cure of all the evils. which flow from the present incoherence and disruption in the relations of production and commerce.

In his radical, anonymously published pamphlet Equality, Greene had this to say about equality before the law: "It is right that persons should be equal before the law: but when we have established equality before the law, our work is but half done. We ought to have EQUAL LAWS also". His comments were directed towards the creation of corporations.[4]

Greene spent his final days in Somerset, England. His remains were transported to Boston to be buried at Forest Hills, Roxbury (Jamaica Plain).[5]

Noted works[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Martin, James J. Men Against the State. Ralph Myles Publisher Inc.: Colorado. 1970. pp. 135. “Coming at a time when the labor and consumer groups were experimenting with the ‘associated workshops’ and ‘protective union stores,’ Greene suggested that the mutual bank be incorporated in the movement, forming what he called ‘complementary units of production, consumption, and exchange,…the triple formula of practical mutualism.’ This program of mutualism he considered best adapted to local community level.”
  2. ^ Woodcock, George (1962). Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements. Melbourne: Penguin. p. 434.
  3. ^ Wayne, Tiffany K. (2014). Encyclopedia of Transcendentalism. Infobase Publishing. ISBN 978-1438109169.
  4. ^ Sarat, Austin (September 2016). 10.3M – Rhetorical Processes and Legal Judgments: How Language and Arguments Shape. ISBN 978-1107155503. Retrieved May 14, 2014.
  5. ^ Wilbur, Shawn (November 14, 2007). "Masonic Tribute to William B. Greene". Libertarian Labyrinth. Retrieved July 28, 2019.

Further reading[edit]

(in French) Ronald Creagh (1983). L'Anarchisme aux États-Unis 1826–1896. Coll. Études Anglo-américaines. Pris: Klincksieck. ISBN 2864600234. See Chapter 8. William B. Greene et les origins du mouvement anarchiste dans le Massachusetts. pp. 343–398.

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