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Maine Writers Index - Detail   (Return to List)

Scott Nearing (1883 - 1983)

Genre: Non-Fiction

Scott Nearing -- economist, homesteader, orator, and prolific writer -- was born to a wealthy family in a Pennsylvania mining town (Morris Run) in 1883. By 1905, he was speaking out on liberal issues, including the treatment and working conditions of miners. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton College of Economics in 1906 and taught at the school until he was fired in 1915 for his outspoken opposition to child labor. He taught in 1916-1917 at the Univ. of Toledo in Ohio -- the only college that would take him -- until he was also fired from this school for his anti-war stance. Nearing's private papers were seized by the Justice Department (pre-FBI) in 1916. He was charged under the Espionage Act in 1917 for his opposition to WWI, as evidenced in his tract, The Great Madness, and was tried in Feb. 1919. Nearing saw the trial as a chance to educate and, an eloquent orator, he provided most of his own defense; he was acquited after 30 hours of deliberation. Nearing never had a formal full-time job after this and most magazines and newspapers, including The Nation, Saturday Evening Post, The New York Times, and The Christian Science Monitor refused to publish his articles. Nearing eventually started his own news service, Federated Press, and his World Events newsletter. Many of his books are self-published.

Nearing joined the Socialist party in 1917 and ran for Congress on that ticket in 1918, losing by a large margin to his challenger. He left the Socialist party in 1922 because they denounced the Soviet Union. He joined the Communist party in 1927, but left them too, in 1930, when his writings were deemed to clash with Lenin's writings. Nearing spoke out and wrote on many subjects in the early years of his life, from the dangers of big business, fascism, and war to the plight of women, children, and blacks in America.

Scott Nearing and Helen Knothe (Nearing) met briefly in 1921, then again in 1928, and they were together from that time on, only marrying in 1947 when Scott's first wife, Nellie Seeds, from whom he was separated, died. They left New York City in 1932 to live in rural southern Vermont, where they homesteaded and ran a maple-sugaring business for 19 years. They moved to Harborside, Maine, in 1952, where they again built their own house and outbuildings and began a business raising blueberries. Their homesteading days are well-chronicled in their books.

Scott died by self-starvation at Harborside on August 24, 1983. Many of his books are now being reissued as the wisdom of his prescient words is recognised by some in the current generation. The Nearings' names are on a bronze plaque around the Pacifist Memorial at the Peace Abbey in Sherborn, Mass. Their home in Harborside, Forest Farm, is now the Good Life Center, which hosts Monday night meetings, free tours, and workshops. For more info, call 207.326.8211.

Books written by Scott Nearing include:

  • Economics (1908; with Frank D. Watson)
  • Social Adjustment (1911)
  • The Solution of the Child Labor Problem (1911)
  • The Super Race (1912)
  • Women and Social Progress (1912; with Nellie Seeds Nearing)
  • Social Sanity (1913)
  • Financing the Wage Earner's Family (1913)
  • Wages in the United States (1914)
  • Reducing the Cost of Living (1914)
  • Income (1915)
  • Anthracite: An Instance of Natural Resource Monopoly (1915/1971)
  • The New Education (1915/1969)
  • Social Religion (1916)
  • Poverty and Riches (1916)
  • Civics (1916; with Jessie Field)
  • The Germs of War: A Study in Preparedness (1916)
  • The Great Madness (1917; a 32-page pamphlet against WWI)
  • The Elements of Economics (1918)
  • The Trial of Scott Nearing and the American Socialist Society (1919/1970/1972)
  • The American Empire (1921; chapter 6, 'The Beginnings of World Dominion,' from The American Empire is on-line)
  • The Next Step (1922)
  • Oil and the Germs of War (1923)
  • Educational Frontiers (1925)
  • Dollar Diplomacy (1925/1966/1970; with Joseph Freeman)
  • Education in Soviet Russia (1926)
  • The British General Strike (1926)
  • Whither China: An Economic Interpretation of Recent Events in the Far East (1927/1977)
  • The Economic Organization of the Soviet Union (1927)
  • Where is Civilization Going? (1927)
  • Black America (1929/1969)
  • The Twilight of Empire: An Economic Interpretation of Imperialist Cycles (1930)
  • War: Organized Destruction and Mass Murder by Civilized Nations (1931/1971/1972)
  • Must We Starve? (1932)
  • Free Born: An Unpublishable Novel (1932/1972; Scott Nearing's only novel)
  • Fascism (1933)
  • United World (1945)
  • The Soviet Union as a World Power (1945)
  • Democracy is Not Enough (1945)
  • The Tragedy of Empire (1945)
  • War or Peace? (1946)
  • The Revolution of Our Time (1947)
  • Economics for the Power Age (1952)
  • Man's Search for the Good Life (1954/1999)
  • To Promote the General Welfare (1956)
  • Soviet Education (1958)
  • Freedom: Promise and Menace (1961/1999)
  • Economic Crisis in the United States (1962)
  • Socialism in Practice (1962)
  • Cuba and Latin America (1963)
  • The Conscience of a Radical (1965)
  • The Making of a Radical (1972/1999)
  • Civilization and Beyond (1975)

Books co-authored by Scott and Helen Nearing:

  • The Maple Sugar Book (1950/1970/1999)
  • Living the Good Life (1954/1970/1974; on the Nearings' life in Vermont)
  • USA Today: Educational Excursions Through Darkest America (1955)
  • The Brave New World (1958; on Russia and China)
  • Socialists Around the World (1958)
  • The Right To Travel (1959)
  • Building and Using Our Sun-Heated Greenhouse: Grow Vegetables Year-Round (1977)
  • Continuing the Good Life: Half A Century of Homesteading (1979; their life in Maine)

Scott and Helen also wrote a regular Mother Earth News column in the 1960s and 1970s.

Some of the books written about Scott Nearing include:

  • The Nearing Case: The Limitation of Academic Freedom at the University of Pennsylvania by Act of the Board of Trustees, June 14, 1915; a brief of facts and opinions, by Lightner Witmer (1974)
  • Scott Nearing: Apostle of American Radicalism, by Stephen Whitfield (1974)
  • A Scott Nearing Reader: The Good Life in Bad Times, edited by Steve Sherman (1989)
  • Scott Nearing An Intellectual Biography, by John A. Saltmarsh (1991)
  • Scott Nearing: The Making of a Homesteader, by John A. Saltmarsh (1998; review of this book through Amazon)
  • Scott Nearing: An American Radical, An American Homesteader, An Americal Original, by John A. Saltmarsh

Jean Hay has written a great biographical introduction to Scott Nearing, "The Personal Price of Free Speech, " available on-line through her site. Hay's Web site also contains an article about being the Nearings' close neighbour. There is also a lot of biographical information on Scott Nearing in Helen Nearing's book Loving and Leaving the Good Life

Last Update: 06/04/2007

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