This work is part of the International Institute for Social History's collection and appears in Anarchy Archives with ISSH's permission.
BY HIPPOLYTE HAVEL
STELTON, NEW JERSEY
SUNDAY, JANUARY TWENTY-THIRD
At the Celebration of his Fiftieth Birthday
Stelton, New Jersey
Sunday, January 23, 1921
Some men are endowed with a personality which makes them superior to their fellow citizens. The names of such men seldom gleam from the front page of the daily press, yet they excel in themselves and find their recognition amongst those who are able to appreciate their characteristic qualities. Their inherent modesty never creates jealousy or envy, and their lives have greater influence and are of greater reality than the lives of those who achieve their fame and fulfill their ambition by kowtowing before their masters and rulers.
Such a man who excels through his personality among his fellows, is Harry Kelly, at present the organizer of the Ferrer Modern School at Stelton in New Jersey. By birth and occupation Kelly belongs to the working class. Those who are not acquainted with his life fancy that his cradle stood on Emerald Isle of Erin; they are mistaken; Harry May Kelly--to give him his full name-- was born in the city of Saint Louis in Missouri. His early years were spent on the banks of the Mississippi. Figuratively speaking, he piloted like Mark Twain a great part of his life on the Father of Waters. Undoubtedly he could relate as many accidents and adventures as did Mark Twain in his " Life on the Mississippi."
On his mother's side Kelly comes from the well-known Calvert clan, whose members to this very day claim as heirloom from Lord Baltimore the site on which is built the city proudly carrying the name of that Colonial Governor.
Among the trades Kelly had to choose from on reaching the wage-earning age, he preferred the art of Guttenburg; he became a printer. As such he had a greater opportunity to get acquainted with social ideas than workers in other trades. It was the period of the Knights of Labor and no thinking worker could stand outside the organized movement against exploitation of labor. Anarchist ideas gained a strong foothold among progressive workers at that time and Anarchist thought soon permeated Kelly's social vision. He became the collaborator of Charles Mowbrey on the "Rebel" in Boston. After the disappearance of that paper, he lighted his own candle; he published a paper called the "Match." The "Match" went out all too suddenly, but while it burned it gave Kelly great pleasure and satisfaction.
A journey to England gave Kelly the impatiently awaited opportunity to get in closer touch with the revolutionary movement in Europe. There, among congenial friends and comrades, he without doubt spent the happiest days of his life. There, among thinkers and propagandists of Anarchism, he fortified his ideal with historical, economical and social facts and data. In Peter Kropotkin he not only found an enthusiastic comrade, but also a great teacher and a sincere friend. His journeys' to Bromley in Kent, where Kropotkin lived at that period, Kelly counts as the most blessed hours of his experience in England. He was a collaborator on the " Freedom," now the oldest Anarchist journal in existence; here lie worked with mind and brawn among such well-known Anarchists as Kropotkin, Tcherkesow, Louise Michel, Dr. Max Nettlau and John Turner. A great meeting place for all shades of social rebels was then Tom Mann's hostelry Enterprise in Longacre. One is apt to paraphrase Keats' "Ode to the Mermaid Tavern" of Marlowe's and Shakespeare's fame:
Souls of rebels dead and gone,
What Elysium have you known,
Happy fields or mossy cavern,
Choicer than Tom Mann's Tavern?
Often it has been stated with some levity, and a great deal of acrimony, that Anarchism is the offspring of the ignorance, vice and tyranny of Europe. Even if this were true it would not affect the truth or falsity of what Anarchism represents. Such names as Godwin, Bakunin Reclus, Kropotkin, Stirner, Proudhon and Tolstoy can lend only lustre to any cause with which they are coupled. But it happens that America has contributed more than her share to the intellectual labor that hat has made Anarchism the most consistent theory, the most beautiful ideal, and the onlypractical method of solving the social problem.
The American pedigree includes such names as Jossiah Warren, Lysander Spooner, Nathaniel Greene, Dyer D. Lum, Albert R. Parsons, Voltairine De Cleyre, Ross Winn --- to mention only those who went their way into Nirvana, and who during their lifetime achieved prominence as writers, orators or organizers in the labor movement.
Among those who follow in the footsteps of these, pioneers, Harry Kelly holds a prominent position. Max Nettlau the historian of the Anarchist movement, says truly:
Kelly is one of the living Anarchists who contribute
real thought to the movement, a man who can
state his theory of society in scientific, logical and precise
manner and in convincing language.
It is the fashion nowadays to change one's convictions from day to day. Those followers of' fashion in social ideas maintain with La Rochefacauld that only jackasses stick to their convictions through life. Those wiseacres forget, though, that the readiness to leave off one set of convictions in order to assume another set shows a complete indifference to convictions altogether, This weak. ness of will is a disease which consists not merely in the loss of desire, but in the loss of the capacity to translate desire into deed. Harry Kelly does not belong to those weathercocks; he does not change his convictions according to fleeting fashions; he remains true to his ideals --- for that ideal is his very life.
...To thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Yet Kelly is not satisfied with having merely a desire; what he is longing for is to translate his desire into deeds. He is not content in having an ideal --- lie works for the realization of his ideal. Consequently he is always willing to put aside his private life and to act at every opportunity as speaker, organizer or writer , as the occasion requires. Like Francisco Ferrer, the martyred founder of the Modern Schools in Spain, he has to preach the gospel at all times
It would hardly be possible to enumerate all the occasions on which Kelly participated during the years he spent in the revolutionary movement, at protest meetings, in strikes and demonstrations; and, in the all too often underestimated work of organizing, he always stands in the forefront. A staunch friend of Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman be worked with these comrades through many years, ere our wise rulers made the decision to deport them from the shores of America to Soviet Russia on the day of the tercentenary of the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers from the Mayflower. We humans realize only a small part of our dreams; Kelly is fortunate to have realized one of his supreme dreams: a social community and a school for children of proletarian parents in the country, far from the nerveracking influence of the modern city.
The Ferrer Colony in Stelton is to a great part Harry Kelly's Achievement. What an amount of sacrifice, labor and enthusiasm it took to organize a libertarian community only those can estimate who worked with Kelly in that undertaking. Due mainly to the efforts of Harry Kelly, we see today a free community and a free school based on rational education-- a free community on a free soil.
Harry Kelly is only fifty years old, and notwithstanding all hardships he encountered during these years, just as young in spirit as on the day be entered the ranks of the militant labor movement. His best work is still ahead of him.