New Historical Collections on Important Figures and Organizations in the Georgist Movement

The Henry George Birthplace, Archive, and Historical Research Center recently uploaded two new historical collections: Father Edward McGlynn and the Dr. McGlynn Monument Association and the National Single Tax League and Party, 1890-1934. Both collections provide key insight into prominent figures and organizations associated with the movement to tax land values in the United States.

Father Edward McGlynn and the Dr. McGlynn Monument Association

This collection contains historical documents on the life and work of Father Edward McGlynn, whose outspoken efforts on behalf of George and the single tax movement led him to be excommunicated and then re-communicated in his lifetime and during the reign of Pope Leo XIII.

“Between Two Popes,” 1887. Copy of cartoon that appeared in Puck. [Original on display at the Henry George Birthplace.]
“Between Two Popes,” 1887. Copy of cartoon that appeared in Puck. [Original on display at the Henry George Birthplace.]
As detailed in the Collection Finding Aid:

Father McGlynn and Henry George first met in 1882 at the height of the Irish Land League’s popularity in the United States.  Led by Fenian activist Michael Davitt (1846-1906), the League formed in the wake of the 1879 Famine to lobby Parliament for comprehensive land reform in Ireland. In 1882, McGlynn ignored a direct order from Cardinal John McCloskey, the Archbishop of New York, not to speak at Land League rally in Cleveland.

Unlike his superiors, McGlynn believed the situation in Ireland as well as the acute poverty and inequality that plagued America’s urban centers required the direct involvement of organized religion and that involvement required something more than the provision of charity.  McGlynn recalled his state of mind on the eve of his first meeting with George:

I began to feel life made a burden by the never ending procession of men, women, and little children coming to my door begging not so much for alms as employment, not asking for food, but asking for influence and letters of recommendation…And I felt that no matter how much I might give them…I could accomplish nothing.  I began to ask myself ‘Is there not Remedy? Is this God’s order that the poor shall be constantly becoming poorer in all our large cities, the world over?

McGlynn found such remedy in the single tax.  McGlynn was particularly drawn to the spiritual substance of George’s message and its basis in Christian principles. Within days of their meeting, McGlynn pledged himself to the campaign for land reform.

The collection also contains material from the Anti-Poverty Society, which McGlynn co-founded with George during the former’s excommunication from the Catholic Church.  Shortly after McGlynn’s death in 1900, his supporters began raising funds to erect a monument in his memory.  In Series Four, researchers will find several letters from Sylvester L. Malone, President of the Monument Association as well various flyers and invitations to Association events.

Flyer for McGlynn Monument Association Meeting, May 30, 1904

The National Single Tax League and Party, 1890-1934

This collection contains material produced by the two main national organizations committed to the enactment of the single tax at the local, state, and national levels: the National Single Tax League and the National Single Tax Party (later, the Commonwealth Land Party).

The National Single Tax League formed in 1916 after the dissolution of the Joseph Fels Fund Commission, which had since 1909 served as the national coordinating body of the single tax movement. Many of the Fels Fund officers participated in the National Single Tax League, including Daniel Kiefer who served as the first Chairman of the League’s National Commission.

National Single Tax Party

Lacking in financial resources, among other things, the National Single Tax League came under sharp criticism from single taxers from around the country.  In 1918, Joseph Dana Miller, editor of the Single Tax Review called for the creation of a new national body to provide better support to the political efforts to enact a single tax at the state and local levels.  According to Miller,

Now that this movement in a sense must begin all over again, and because we are in a serious time, yet a time fraught with opportunity, the National League is a positive obstacle in the way.  Real work is beginning and this real work must no longer be hampered by activities which are purely fiction, by a paper organization whose chief purpose has been to collect funds to circulate “flimsies,” and to glorify favorites, to starve out local work, and to spend the money of Single Taxers with reckless prodigality. And never in the Bulletin or elsewhere, it may be said, furnishing Single Taxers with detailed statements of expenditures.

Photograph of the National Single Tax League Convention

At a national convention held in June 1919, single taxers established the National Single Tax Party. Series Two of the National Single Tax League and Party Collection contains historical material on the Party including the original platform adopted at the founding convention as well as campaign brochures and flyers.  In 1924, the Party was renamed the Commonwealth Land Party.

 

 

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