A Remembrance of Bolton Hall
Frederic Cyrus Leubuscher
[Reprinted from The Freeman, January, 1939]
I first met Bolton Hall at one of Henry George's Sunday afternoon
receptions. He was then thirty-three years of age, a tall well-built
athletic man. He had been a member of the Princeton crew. An aquiline
scholar's face, expressing himself well in conversation, though with a
touch, of the brogue, for he was born in Ireland and was almost a
young man when he came to New York with his father, who had been
chosen pastor of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church.
His pleasant brogue first attracted me to him. Then I became
interested in his intensely individualistic philosophy. A believer in
Henry George's solution of social and economic problems, he felt that
the adoption of the Single Tax would ultimately lead to the
philosophic anarchist's ideal of a government limited to police
powers. The only legitimate function of government was to prevent
invasion of each other's rights and all other functions wore an
impertinence and led to such invasions. He spoke of Proudhon who
propounded this philosophy in the eighteenth century, and of Benjamin
R. Tucker, the nineteenth century representative of that philosophy,
whom he knew very well. However, he never took part in the propaganda
of anarchism. He said that pure anarchism could subsist only among a
race of angels and that it might be thousands of years after the
adoption of the Single Tax before human beings became fit for
anarchism. Because of his intense aversion to Marxism he agreed with
Herbert Spencer, who called it "the coming slavery."
Bolton Hall died in Thomasville, Georgia, on December 10, 1938, in
his eighty-fifth year. The next day all the New York newspapers had
long obituaries. From these I borrow the following data, having
eliminated statements of which I am doubtful.
"Bolton Hall was convinced that the only salvation
of the average American lay in an intelligent back-to-land movement,
and he had spent much of his money and passed the greater part of
his time supporting this theory. It was his contention that a man
could support himself and five others on one acre of land.
"'The basic investment is land,' Mr. Hall wrote in The New
Thrift published in 1916. 'For man is a land animal. On the land
he lives and the produce he eats. Away from the land he cannot live
"After a number of smaller experiments, Mr. Hall succeeded in
establishing, in 1910, a working model of Henry George's ideal
community at Scotch Plains, New Jersey, called Free Acres. It still
continues to operate. Situated in the woods of the Watchung Hills,
the farm accommodates approximately two hundred colonists on
"The colony land is not for sale, but is leased to sixty-nine
families at an average charge of $45 a year, plus water tax of $15.
The rent is the same for all, regardless of the type of dwelling
each colonist has.
"From 1897 to 1928 Mr. Hall published seventeen books. Most of
them were full of practical advice and of observations with a
humorous twist. In addition to The New Thrift, his
publications included Things As They Are, 1899; Money
Making in America, 1903; A Little Land and a Living,
1908; What Tolstoy Thought, 1911, and The Gift of Sleep,
1911. Two of his volumes, The Halo of Grief; 1919, and The
Living Bible, 1928, dealt with religious subjects.
"Mr. Hall was born August 5, 1854, in Ireland, and came to
this country with his parents in 1867. He was graduated from
Princeton in 1875, and three years later received his Master's
degree. After a brief venture in the importing business, he took up
the study of law. In 1884 he was married to Miss Susan Hurlbut
Scott, of New York, in Trinity Church."
That Bolton Hall founded the American Longshoremen's Union is well
known. What was not generally known, not even by me who enjoyed his
friendship for over a half century, is this that I heard from his own
lips last year; about 1900 the leaders of the Democratic party in New
York State offered him the nomination for Governor. They told him that
they believed his popularity with the workingmen would elect him. They
demanded a pledge, however, that they would be allowed to dictate his
policies and appointments. Bolton Hall promptly declined the
nomination. He kept silent all these years about the great honor that
had been done him. A smaller man would have boasted.
Soon after the Henry George School of Social Science was formed he
declared that it was the greatest forward stride taken by Single
Taxers since the death of Henry George, and he contributed to it
Bolton Hall is survived by his widow, and by his daughter, Lois, wife
of Gerald Herrick, New York.
Farewell, my friend. I shall miss your words of advice and your dry
humour, uttered even when you were in pain. Individualistic to the
last you could not make so solemn a thing as your last will without
embodying a joke in it.