My friend Shawn Wilbur, an intellectual historian and a mainstay of the libertarian left, has been putting volumes of the 19th century progressive paper Liberty online in PDF form. Here’s the archive so far and here’s Shawn’s post on the state and future of the project.
This is fascinating material and the pages are full of sharp, thoughtful, combative, often witty writing, e.g. (from the first issue), “Formerly the price of Liberty was eternal vigilance, but now it can be had for fifty cents a year.”
It’s not as if the paper is an oracle to show us the way out of our current cultural and political impasse: it’s dogged by many rather regressive 19th C. ideas. For instance, the issue for 10/14/1881 devoted some front page space to deriding the idea of women’s suffrage (here’s a PDF link to that issue), an idea whose time was overdue even then.
But the archive is already a rich resource for an often-neglected stream of American intellectual history and promises to become richer still as Shawn adds more content, text versions (more readable than PDFs and searchable) etc.
I like the quiet moxie with which they state their purpose in the first issue (PDF link).
LIBERTY enters the field of journalism to speak for herself because she finds no one willing to speak for her. She hears no voice that always champions her; she knows no pen that always writes in her defence; she sees no hand that is always lifted to avenge her wrongs or vindicate her rights. Many claim to speak in her name, but few really understand her. Still fewer have the courage and opportunity to fight for her. Her battle, then, is her own to wage and win. She accepts it fearlessly, and with a determined spirit.
Her foe, Authority, takes many shapes, but, broadly speaking, her enemies divide themselves into three classes: first, those who abhor her both as a means and as an end of progress, opposing her openly, avowedly, sincerely, consistently, universally; second, those who profess to believe in her as a means of progress, but who accept her only so far as they think she will serve their own selfish interests, denying her and her blessings to the rest of the world; third, those who distrust her as a means of progress, believing in her only as an end to be obtained by first trampling upon, violating and outraging her. These three phases of opposition to Liberty are met in almost every sphere of thought and human activity.
Fortunately, these words were written long ago and have no relevance to our modern world today with its hybrid cars and adjustable-interest loans and stuff.