Speaking Of Slavery, Again

Kennedy’s recent post has sparked the memory of Spooner’s Plan for the Abolition of Slavery:

The following self-evident principles of justice and humanity will serve as guides to the measures proper to be adopted. These principles are:

1. That the Slaves have a natural right to their liberty.

2. That they have a natural right to compensation (so far as the property of the Slaveholders and their abettors can compensate them) for the wrongs they have suffered.

3. That so long as the governments, under which they live, refuse to give them liberty or compensation, they have the right to take it by stratagem or force.

4. That it is the duty of all, who can, to assist them in such an enterprise.


1. To make war (openly or secretly as circumstances may dictate) upon the property of the Slaveholders and their abettors’ not for its destruction, if that can easily be avoided, but to convert it to the use of the Slaves. If it cannot be thus converted, then we advise its destruction. Teach the Slaves to burn their masters’ buildings, to kill their cattle and horses, to conceal or destroy farming utensils, to abandon labor in seed time and harvest, and let crops perish. Make Slavery unprofitable, in this way, if it can be done in no other.

2. To make Slaveholders objects of derision and contempt, by flogging them, whenever they shall be guilty of flogging their slaves.

3. To risk no general insurrection, until we of the North go to your assistance, or you are sure of success without our aid.

4. To cultivate the friendship and confidence of the Slaves; to consult with them as to their rights and interests, and the means of promoting them; to show your interest in their welfare, and your readiness to assist them. Let them know that they have your sympathy, and it will give them courage, self-respect, and ambition, and make men of them; infinitely better men to live by, as neighbors and friends, than the indolent, arrogant, selfish, heartless, domineering robbers and tyrants, who now keep both yourselves and the Slaves in subjection, and look with contempt upon all who live by honest labor.

5. To change your political Institutions soon as possible. And in the meantime give never a vote to a Slaveholder; pay no taxes to their government, if you can either resist or evade them; as witnesses and jurors, give no testimony, and no verdicts, in support of any Slaveholding claims; perform no military, patrol, or police service; mob Slaveholding courts, goals and sheriffs; do nothing, in short, for sustaining Slavery, but every thing you safely and rightfully can, publicly and privately, for its overthrow.

I especially enjoy this expansion on point 2 of the plan, above:

We specially advise the flogging of individual Slave-holders. This is a case where the medical principle, that like cures like, will certainly succeed. Give the Slave-holders, then, a taste of their own whips. Spare their lives, but not their backs. The arrogance they have acquired by the use of the lash upon others, will be soon taken out of them, when the same scourge shall be applied to themselves. A band of ten or twenty determined negroes, well armed, having their rendezvous in the forests, coming out upon the plantations by day or night, seizing individual Slaveholders, stripping them and flogging them soundly, in the presence of their own Slaves, would soon abolish Slavery over a large district.

One thought on “Speaking Of Slavery, Again”

  1. I would quibble with the first point #4. No one had any positive duty to assist the slaves. I think Spooner would concede he went a hair too far there.

    I can’t help but think about our own situation when I read the plan. These are different circumstances and I think some of the tactics are not advisable in these circumstances, but they are certainly food for thought.

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