4

Benjamin Tucker writes in the first chapter, page 15, of Individual Liberty:

And it is an ideal that can be as little advanced by the forcible expropriation recommended by John Most and Prince Kropotkine as retarded by the brooms of those Mrs. Partingtons of the bench who sentence them to prison; an ideal which the martyrs of Chicago did far more to help by their glorious death upon the gallows for the common cause of Socialism than by their unfortunate advocacy during their lives, in the name of Anarchism, of force as a revolutionary agent and authority as a safeguard of the new social order.

To what Mrs. Partingtons and to what martyrs of Chicago does Tucker allude here?

2 Answers 2

5

A Dictionary of English Phrases has an entry for 'Dame Partington's broom,' which redirects the reader to 'Mrs Partington':

Mrs. Partington: the personification of impotent prejudice.
From a personage invented by Sydney Smith in a speech at Taunton in 1831, who at a time of storm and high tide took out her mop in order to sweep away the Atlantic.

Here is the original speech:

"I do not mean to be disrespectful but the attempt of the Lords to stop the progress of reform reminds me very forcibly of the great storm of Sidmouth and of the conduct of the excellent Mrs Partington on that occasion.

"In the winter of 1824, there set in a great flood upon that town - the tide rose to an incredible height - the waves rushed in upon the houses, and everything was threatened with destruction. In the midst of this sublime and terrible storm, Dame Partington, who lived upon the beach, was seen at the door of her house with mop and pattens, trundling her mop, squeezing out the sea water and vigorously punching away the Atlantic Ocean. The Atlantic was roused.

"Mrs Partington's spirit was up; but I need not tell you that the contest was unequal. The Atlantic Ocean beat Mrs Partington. She was excellent with a slop or a puddle, but she should not have meddled with a tempest."

I have no idea about the martyrs of Chicago.


For fun, here's the poem version:

DAME PARTINGTON stood on the shore, As stern as old woman could be:
And her wonderful mop she bore,
With which to sweep back the sea.

Before her crept up the tide,
Behind her arose the towers
That rise in stately pride Round Isis's mystic bowers :

To mask each yawning gap,
Where the rampart is crumbling down;
On her head was a trencher cap,
On her back was a Master's gown.

Proudly that gown she wore,
As one of her worth aware;
And her mop-handle bore
"Tests” carved in letters fair.

Now and anon she backed,
"High and dry," from reach of the brine,
To save her reticule, packed
With Articles Thirty-and-Nine,

In the which, as her ballast and stay,
And sheet-anchor she seemed to confide,
As in forcible-feeble way
She apostrophised the tide :

If it's coming-let it come,
DAME PARTINGTON is here!
Wild waves might frighten some :
DAME PARTINGTON knows no fear!

"These waves may rise and roar,
And with weaker bars make free;
But e'er they flood this shore,
They've to deal with my mop and me!"

(Not the whole thing, which is available here)

0
4

The martyrs of Chicago are the anarchists executed after the Haymarket affair. Their executions were widely touted in the anarchist/socialist/leftist literature of their day.

3
  • Could you explain a little - for example, how this is connected to socialism?
    – bobble
    Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 3:14
  • @bobble Anarchists and socialists are often considered in the same breath, and more so at the time of this book. Tucker himself, the author, was an anarchist who saw anarchism as part of socialism.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 17:02
  • @Randal'Thor that sounds like information which should be in the answer, along with at least a gloss for why their deaths "did far more to help by their glorious death upon the gallows for the common cause of Socialism than by their unfortunate advocacy during their lives, in the name of Anarchism, of force as a revolutionary agent and authority as a safeguard of the new social order."
    – bobble
    Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 17:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.