Friday, August 11, 2006

Alfred B. Westrup, "Liberty," and "Plenty of Money"

I've been reading the Westrups' The New Philosophy of Money (1895), and have been pleasantly surprised. I had read his Citizens' Money (1891) and his contributions to Liberty several years ago and had, perhaps unfairly, considered them largely derivative of the work of William B. Greene. Of course, several years ago I had a much less interesting or thorough understanding of Greene's work, so perhaps it's no surprise that Westrup has provided considerably greater pleasures this time around, in large part because I'm a lot deeper into the debates in which he took part. By the time Westrup began his Mutual Bank Propaganda in earnest, Greene was dead and Ezra Heywood had long since passed through his flirtation with Kellogism and his affiliation with the National Labor Union. Second-phase mutualism was still in the process of drawing together not always compatible elements from Greene, from Josiah Warren, and from the new generation of banking and currency theorists that included Westrup and Herman Kuehn. And that process involved a good deal of sometimes acromonious debates in the pages of Liberty (and elsewhere, as with the Andrews-Tucker debate in the Index).

Westrup is first mentioned in the pages of Liberty on July, 17, 1886. In the "On Picket Duty" column, Tucker writes:

Alfred B. Westrup, of Dallas, Texas, has issued a second and revised edition of a pamphlet published by him several years ago. Its new title is "The Financial Problem: or, the Principles of Monetary Science." The views are practiacally the same as those set forth by Colonel Greene in his "Mutual Banking," but Mr. Westrup has formualted them a little differently. He realizes the superlative importance of the money question, and has gone to the bottom of it. Any one may secure this pamphlet by forwarding twenty-five cents to Mr. Westrup, his address being simply "Dallas, Texas." The Galveston "News," which advocates with marvellous clearness and ability the financial system proposed by Greene and Westrup, makes a rather trivial criticism upon Mr. Westrup's statement that "interest upon money loaned on good security is irrational," seeming to suppose that he applies the adjective "irrational" to the conduct of borrowers and lenders under present financial conditions. Mr. Westrup's meaning clearly is that interest upon money loaned on good security stamps as irrational the monetary system which makes it possible.

There are some interesting details here, not the least of which is that The Financial Problem is not Westrup's earliest publication. Some additional OCLC digging clarifies things a bit. One of the records notes that the pamphlet was: "Originally published as pamphlet, 1879, under title: The abolition of interest, a simple problem." OCLC lists no 1879 publication of The Abolition of Interest, but does list an 1897 edition, 18 pages long. It seems unlikely that Westrup, having revised the work, and enlarged it to 30 pages, would have reprinted this version six years after the publication of the 1891 3rd edition (again, under the title The Financial Problem) and two years after publishing his magnum opus. It seems most likely that the 1897 date is a typo.

Tucker next notes (July 7, 1888, "On Picket Duty") that:

A. B. Westrup's lecture on "The National Banking System," begun in this issue, was given in Chicago, in reply to Banker Lyman B. Gage's defense of that system at one of the "Economic Conferences" held in that city, and made a marked impression.
Westrup's lecture, which was reprinted several times in pamphlet form (see my original bibliography), was also the basis of the pamphlet Citizens' Money (1890, 1891). Liberty ran it in two parts (July 7 and 21) in 1888.

The original occasion for the lecture was the "Economic Conferences between Business Men and Working Men," held in Chicago, and covered in some depth by The Open Court. The August 1888 Unitarian Review listed the following topics announced for presentation:

  1. The Aims of the Knights of Labor, George A. Schilling.
  2. Banking and the Social System, Lyman J. Gage.
  3. The Labor Question from the Stand-point of the Socialist, J. Morgan.
  4. Is the Board of Trade Hostile to the Interests of the Community? Charles L. Hutchinson.
  5. A View from the Labor Sanctum, Jos. R. Buchanan.
  6. Socialism as a Remedy, Franklin MacVeagh.
  7. An American Trade Unionist's View of the Social Question, A. C. Cameron.
Westrup was not the only radical to take notice of the Economic Conferences; Morrison I. Swift (whose career eventually spiraled down from articulate anti-imperialist to anti-semitic eugenicist) mentions them in "The Working People of the Cities, and What the Universities Owe Them (Andover Review, June 1890.) I've started the search for local references to Westrup's 1891 Toledo appearance, to which the Blade gave positive advance notice.

Meanwhile, back in Liberty, J. Wm. Llloyd mentions Westrup's lecture (Sept. 15, 1888), and Westrup published a letter, "What Mutual Banking Would Do," in the same issue, reponding to J. Herbert Foster. This short exchange marked Westrup's entry into the controversies of Liberty's letters pages, where he would be a major player in the "standard of value controversy," starting in 1891. Out of those debates would develop the more mature form of his mutual currency theory, which is presented in full in The New Philosophy of Money. That volume resembles Tucker's Instead of a Book and Greene's Fragments, consisting of collected controversies, previously published material, and new writings, but it is arguably much more coherent than the other works. I'll be posting on online edition of that soon, but as a sort of taster, I'm posting Plenty of Money, the introductory text which Westrup and his wife prepared in 1899. Once I get a chance to collate the items reprinted in The New Philosophy of Money against the original letters and essays, I'll start collecting the otherwise uncollected bits.

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