Emma Goldman: Comments
on Her Reflections on Louis F. Post

Mason Gaffney

[Reprinted from the Land-Theory discussion group, Spring 2001]

The following excerpt from Emma Goldman's autobiography, Living My Life (Chapter 51, Volume Two, published by Alfred A Knopf Inc. in 1931) was posted to the Land-Theory discussion group. Economics professor Mason Gaffney responds below.

"The room I was assigned to on the island already contained two occupants, Ethel Bernstein and Dora Lipkin, who had been rounded up at the raid of the Union of Russian Workers. The documents discovered there consisted of English grammars and text-books on arithmetic. The raiders had beaten up and arrested those found on the premises for possessing such inflammatory literature.

"To my amazement I learned that the official who had signed the order for our deportation was Louis F. Post, Assistant Secretary of Labor. It seemed incredible. Louis F. Post, ardent single-taxer, champion of free speech and press, former editor of the Public, a fearless liberal weekly, the man who had flayed the authorities for their brutal methods during the McKinley panic, who had defended me, and who had insisted that even Leon Czolgosz should be safeguarded in his constitutional rights -- he now a champion of deportation? The radical who had offered to preside at a meeting arranged after my release in connexion with the McKinley tragedy, now favouring such methods? I had been a guest at his home and entertained by him and Mrs. Post. We had discussed anarchism and he had admitted its idealist values, though he had doubted the practicability of their application. He had assisted us in various free-speech fights and he had vigorously protested by pen and voice against John Turner's deportation. And he, Louis F. Post, had now signed the first order for deporting radicals!

"Some of my friends suggested that Louis F. Post, being an official of the Federal Government, could not go back on his oath to support the mandates of the law. They failed to consider that in accepting office and taking the oath he had gone back on the ideals he had professed and worked for during all his previous years. If he were a man of integrity, Louis F. Post should have remained true to himself and should have resigned when Wilson forced the country into war. He should have resigned at least when he found himself compelled to order the deportation of people for the opinions they entertained. I felt that Post had covered himself with ignominy.

"The lack of stamina and backbone on the part of such American radicals was tragic. But why expect a braver stand from Louis F. Post than from his teacher Henry George, the father of single-tax, who had failed my Chicago comrades at the eleventh hour? His voice carried great weight at the time and he could have helped to save the men in whose innocence he had believed. But political ambition proved stronger than his sense of justice. Louis F. Post was now following in the footsteps of his admired single-tax apostle.

"I sought comfort in the thought that there still were some single-taxers of integrity and moral strength. Bolton Hall, Harry Weinberger, Frank Stephens (my comrades in many free-speech fights), Daniel Kiefer, and scores of others had stood their ground -- against war and the new despotism.

"Frank Stephens, arrested as a conscientious objector, had in protest even declined to accept bail. Daniel Kiefer was another libertarian of true metal. Liberty was a living force in his private life as in his public activities. He was one of the first single-taxers to take an active part against America's entry into the war and against the "selective" draft. He heartily abhorred renegades of the type of Mitchell Palmer, Newton D. Baker, and other weak-kneed Quakers and pacifists. Nor did he spare his friend Louis F. Post for his betrayal.


Louis F. Post probably did more than any single person to minimize deportations during the "Deportations Delirium of 1920," as he called it. He maintained his official position in order to block deportations that were not strictly legal, to the letter. For this, the fascist types impeached him. His trial was a dramatic event, in which he prevailed, because he had been scrupulous and punctilious about insisting on due process.

Emma Goldman, as I recall, had actually committed some of the crimes of which she was accused, and was therefore deportable.

It seems unfair and ungracious and egocentric for Goldman to trash a good man because he could not, by sacrificing himself and the thousands whom he did save, save her from her own follies.

At any rate, I highly recommend that anyone tempted to follow Goldman's judgments at least read Post's account in his book, The Deportations Delirium of 1920.

As for George and Haymarket, there is little reason why a New Yorker should be required to take a position on a fight in Chicago, of which he had no first-hand knowledge. Gov. John Peter Altgeld, who finally did pardon the surviving accused, did so on the grounds that they did not have a fair trial - not that he knew them to be innocent. Altgeld remained a good friend of George, and sympathized with George's views - see Ray Ginger's bio of Altgeld.