The quest for freedom has always been a defining characteristic of the American people. That neither constitutionalism nor capitalism has secured complete freedom for every person is demonstrated by media announcements of slavery, oppression, exploitation, and a variety of shortcomings in the economic system. That said, and as this volume seeks to demonstrate through a history of radical commentaries, there have always been bold spirits who fight for such ambitious heights. With changing times, freedom meant different things to those who worked for it. This book in its broadest sense is a history of libertarianism. Each of the libertarians in this full study, extending from William Lloyd Garrison to Eugene V. Debs, fought for the ideal of political economy as a practical ideal. In so doing these major figures at the margins of power expanded the entire field of human rights. Charles A. Madison concludes that radicalism became an ideology in the search for freedom. The zeal and activity of these figures did much to attain the political freedom and economic well- being that Americans are inclined to take for granted. These individual chapters are set in frames supplied by background sketches of the movements each group led, and the whole is an attempt to depict and re-evaluate America's social progress without the rigor or formality of impersonalised history.
"Mr. Madison writes earnestly and clearly... of his eighteen heroes and heroines. [H]e has immersed himself in their writings and has gone to the right monographs and biographies for his background material... [A] useful and timely collection of popular sketches, emphasizing an important strand in our national culture." --Frederick B. Tolles, American Literature "[Mr. Madison] writes with enthusiasm and at times with eloquence about a representative collection of American radicals all of whom, despite great diversity, obviously excite his admiration and sympathy." --Paul M. Sweezy, The American Economic Review "[A]long with the ably done portraits and the many heartening examples of self-sacrificing courage, the feeling this book gives of the immediacy and urgency of the long fight to preserve human freedom furnishes ample justification for Mr. Madison's method." --Townsend Scudder, The American Historical Review "Every one of the eighteen portraits is a brief but well-rounded study." --Albert Guerard, The Nation "This volume is an excellent effort to provide briefly but accurately both the highlights and the atmosphere of the careers of 18 American luminaries in the area of independent thought and progressive action." --Robert S. Browne, Phylon