The Collected Works of Lysander Spooner

Astonishingly, Lysander Spooner has been very active during our hiatus. One of the most welcome developments is that the wonderful Online Library of Liberty has published The Collected Works of Lysander Spooner (1834-1886) in five volumes of facsimile pdf. On Amazon you can currently find sellers offering complete hardcover collections of Spooner’s work for $350-$425. I’m delighted with this free version.

The contents:

Volume I (1834-1850) [473 pp.]

1.The Deist’s Immortality, and an Essay on Man’s Accountability for his Belief (Boston, 1834).

2.”To the Members of the Legislature ofMassachusetts.” Worcester Republican. -Extra. August 26, 1835.

3.The Deist’s Reply to the Alleged Supernatural Evidences of Christianity (Boston, 1836).

4.Supreme Court of United States, January Term, 1839. Spooner vs. M’Connell, et al.

5.Constitutional Law, relative to Credit, Currency, and Banking (Worcester, Mass.: Jos. B. Ripley, 1843).

6.The Unconstitutionality of the Laws of Congress, Prohibiting Private Mails (New York: Tribune Printing Establishment, 1844).

7.Poverty: its Illegal Causes and Legal Cure. Part First. (Boston: Bela Marsh, 1846).

8.Who caused the Reduction of Postage? Ought he to be Paid? (Boston: Wright and Hasty’s Press, 1850).

9.Illegality of the Trial of John W. Webster. (Boston: Bela Marsh, 1850)

10.A Defence for Fugitive Slaves (Boston: Bela Marsh, 1850).

Volume II (1852-1855) [463 pp.]

11.An Essay on the Trial by Jury (Boston:John P. Jewett and Co., 1852).

12.The Law of Intellectual Property; or An Essay on the Right of Authors and Inventors to a Perpetual Property in their Ideas, Vol. 1 (Boston: Bela Marsh, 1855).

Volume III (1858-1862) [488 pp.]

13.To the Non-Slaveholders of the South (1858).

14.Address of the Free Constitutionalists to the People of the United States (Boston: Thayer & Eldridge, 1860).

15.The Unconstitutionality of Slavery (Boston: Bela Marsh, 1860).

16.The Unconstitutionality of Slavery: Part Second (Boston: Bela Marsh, 1860).

17.A New System of Paper Currency. (Boston: Stacy and Richardson, 1861).

18.Our Mechanical Industry, as Affected by our Present Currency System: An Argument for the Author’s “New System of Paper Currency” (Boston: Stacy & Richardson, 1862).

Volume IV (1863-1873) [306 pp.]

19.Articles of Association of the Spooner Copyright Company for Massachusetts (1863).

20.Considerations for Bankers, and Holders of United States Bonds (Boston: A. Williams & Co., 1864).

21.A Letter to Charles Sumner (1864).

22.No Treason, No. 1 (Boston: Published by the Author, 1867).

23.No Treason. No II.The Constitution (Boston: Published by the Author, 1867).

24.Senate-No. 824. Thomas Drew vs. John M. Clark (1869).

25. No T reason. No VI. The Constitution of No Authority (Boston: Published by the Author, 1870).

26. A New Banking System: The Needful Capital for Rebuilding the Burnt District (Boston: A. Williams % Co., 1873).

Volume V (1875-1886) [294 pp.]

27.Vices are Not Crimes: A Vindication of Moral Liberty (1875).

28.Our Financiers: Their Ignorance, Usurpations, and Frauds. Reprinted from “The Radical Review” (Boston: A. Williams & Co., 1877).

29.The Law of Prices: A Demonstration of the Necessity for an Indefinite Increase of Money. Reprinted from “The Radical Review” (Boston: A. Williams & Co., 1877).

30.Gold and Silver as Standards of Value: The Flagrant Cheat in Regard to Them. Reprinted from “The Radical Review” (Boston: A. Williams & Co., 1878).

31. Universal Wealth shown to be Easily Attainable (Boston: A. Williams & Co., 1879).

32. No. 1. Revolution: The only Remedy for the Oppressed Classes of Ireland, England, and Other Parts of the British Empire. A Reply to “Dunraven” (Second Edition, 1880).

33. Natural Law; or the Science of Justice: A Treatise on Natural Law, Natural Justice, Natural Rights, Natural Liberty, and Natural Society; showing that all Legislation whatsoever is an Absurdity, a Usurpation, and a Crime. Part First. (Boston: A. Williams & Co., 1882).

34. A Letter to Thomas F. Bayard: Challenging his Right – and that of all the Other So-called Senators and Representatives in Congress – to Exercise any Legislative Power whatever over the People of the United States (Boston: Published by the Author, 1882).

35. A Letter to Scientist and Inventors, on the Science of Justice, and their Right of Perpetual Property in their Discoveries and Inventions (Boston: Cupples, Upham & Co., 1884).

36. A Letter to Grover Cleveland, on his False Inaugural Address, the Usurpations and Crimes of Lawmakers and Judges, and the Consequent Poverty, Ignorance, and Servitude of the People (Boston: Benj. R. Tucker, Publisher, 1886).

Randy Barnett’s Oddly Brief Response To Spooner

The previous post on Randy Barnett caused me to revisit my copy of Restoring The Lost Constitution. Just to recap, it’s widely claimed that Barnett’s book is a refutation of Lysander Spooner’s No Treason – The Constitution Of No Authority (*). Just for fun, I had a look at the Index of Names, looking specifically for all of the references to Spooner’s classic piece to see for myself just how neatly Barnett was able to demolish Spooner’s arguments. So how many times do you suppose that Barnett refers to Spooner’s No Treason in his 300-odd pages?

Get ready for it: once. In the introduction, he refers to having read No Treason years ago and finding it “unanswerable” at the time. Barnett then implies a few sentences later that this first impression has since changed. And that’s all he’s got to say about that. All of the other references to Lysander Spooner listed in the index (all seven others) are references either to Spooner’s Unconstitutionality Of Slavery or to Barnett’s writings on that same work. For perspective, Robert Bork is indexed as being mentioned in nine places.

Just in case that wasn’t clear: In Restoring The Lost Constitution, Randy Barnett refers to Robert Bork in more places than he refers to Lysander Spooner.

I personally find this brevity to be quite striking.

(*) Update [9-11-06]: It’s come to my attention that not everyone knows that Barnett’s book purports to be a refutation of Spooner. A couple of quotes ought to clarify matters. First, Barnett gives us an introduction to Spooner (first page of the book’s Preface):

In his best-known work, No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority (1870), Spooner argued that the Constitution of the United States was illegitimate because it was not and never could have been consented to by the people on whom it was imposed.

Then Barnett makes this odd claim (pages xiii and xiv):

Whether or not Spooner was right in this assessment of the constitutionality of slavery, his argument opened for me an entirely new position: a defense of original meaning rather than original intent that could withstand the well-known critique of originalism. The final missing ingredient was an answer to Spooner’s later charge [i.e., as laid in No Treason — ed.] that the Constitution was without authority because it lacked actual consent. My answer to Spooner’s challenge is presented in Part 1 of this book.

Scorn On The Fourth Of July


Inasmuch as the Constitution was never signed, nor agreed to, by anybody, as a contract, and therefore never bound anybody, and is now binding upon nobody; and is, moreover, such an one as no people can ever hereafter be expected to consent to, except as they may be forced to do so at the point of the bayonet, it is perhaps of no importance what its true legal meaning, as a contract, is. Nevertheless, the writer thinks it proper to say that, in his opinion, the Constitution is no such instrument as it has generally been assumed to be but that by false interpretations, and naked usurpations, the government has been made in practice a very widely, and almost wholly, different thing from what the Constitution itself purports to authorize. He has heretofore written much, and could write much more, to prove that such is the truth. But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain—that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

— Lysander Spooner, No Treason No. VI: The Constitution of No Authority, 1870.

Spooner: Against Woman Suffrage

I just happened to come across this:

Against Woman Suffrage
by Lysander Spooner
New Age, February 24, 1877

Women are human beings, and consequently have all the natural rights that any human beings can have. They have just as good a right to make laws as men have, and no better; AND THAT IS JUST NO RIGHT AT ALL. No human being, nor any number of human beings, have any right to make laws, and compel other human beings to obey them. To say that they have is to say that they are the masters and owners of those of whom they require such obedience.

The only law that any human being can rightfully be compelled to obey is simply the law of justice. And justice is not a thing that is made, or that can be unmade, or altered, by any human authority. It is a natural principle, inhering in the very nature of man and of things. It is that natural principle which determines what is mine and what is thine, what is one man’s right or property and what is another man’s right or property. It is, so to speak, the line that Nature has drawn between one man’s rights of person and property and another man’s rights of person and property.

This natural principle, which we will call justice, and which assigns to each and every human being, is, I repeat, not a thing that has made, but is a matter of science to be learned, like mathematics, or chemistry, or geology. And all the laws, so called, that men have ever made, either to create, define, or control the rights of individuals, were intrinsically just as absurd and ridiculous as would be laws to create, define, or control mathematics, or chemistry, or geology.

Substantially all the tyranny and robbery and crime that governments have ever committed—and they have either themselves committed, or licensed others to commit, nearly all that have ever been committed in the world by anybody—have been committed by them under the pretence of making laws. Some man, or some body of men, have claimed the right, or usurped the power, of making laws, and compelling other men to obey; thus setting up their own will, and enforcing it, in place of that natural law, or natural principle, which says that no man or body of men can rightfully exercise any arbitrary power whatever over the persons or property of other men.

There are a large class of men who are so rapacious that they desire to appropriate to their own uses the persons and properties of other men. They combined for the purpose, call themselves governments, make what they call laws, and then employ courts, and governors, and constables, and, in the last resort, bayonets, to enforce obedience.

There is another class of men, who are devoured by ambition, by the love of power, and the love of fame.

They think it a very glorious thing to rule over men; to make laws to govern them. But as they have no power of their own to compel obedience, they unite with the rapacious class before mentioned, and become their tools. They promise to make such laws as the rapacious class desire, if this latter class will but authorize them to act in their name, and furnish the money and the soldiers necessary for carrying their laws, so called, into execution.

Still another class of men, with a sublime conceit of their own wisdom, or virtue, or religion, think they have a right, and a sort of divine authority, for making laws to govern those who, they think are less wise, or less virtuous, or less religious than themselves. They assume to know what is best for all other men to do and not to do, to be and not to be, to have and not to have. And they conspire to make laws to compel all those other men to conform to their will, or, as they would say, to their superior discretion. They seem to have no perception of the truth that each and every human being has had given to him a mind and body of his own, separate and distinct from the minds and bodies of all other men; and that each man’s mind and body have, by nature, rights that are utterly separate and distinct from the rights of any and all other men; that these individual rights are really the only human rights there are in the world; that each man’s rights are simply the right to control his own soul, and body, and property, according to his own will, pleasure, and discretion, so long as he does not interfere with the equal right of any other man to the free exercise and control of his own soul, body, and property. They seem to have no conception of the truth that, so long as he lets all other men’s souls, bodies, and properties alone, he is under no obligation whatever to believe in such wisdom, or virtue, or religion as they do, or as they think best for him.

This body of self-conceited, wise, virtuous, and religious people, not being sufficiently powerful of themselves to make laws and enforce them upon the rest of mankind, combined with the rapacious and ambitious classes before mentioned to carry out such purposes as they can all agree upon. And the farce, and jargon, and Babel they all make of what they call government would be supremely ludicrous and ridiculous, if it were not the cause of nearly all the poverty, ignorance, vice, crime, and misery there are in the world.

Of this latter class—that is, the self-conceited, wise, virtuous, and religious class—are those woman suffrage persons who are so anxious that women should participate in all the falsehood, absurdity, usurpation, and crime of making laws, and enforcing them upon other persons. It is astonishing what an amount of wisdom, virtue, and knowledge they propose to inflict upon, or force into, the rest of mankind, if they can but be permitted to participate with the men in making laws. According to their own promises and predictions, there will not be a single natural human being left upon the globe, if the women can but get hold of us, and add their power to that of the men in making such laws as nobody has any right to make, and such as nobody will be under the least obligation to obey. According to their programme, we are to be put into their legislative mill, and be run through, ground up, worked over, and made into some shape in which we shall be scarcely recognized as human beings. Assuming to be gods, they propose to make us over into their own image. But there are so many different images among them, that we can have, at most, but one feature after one model, and another after another. What the whole conglomerate human animal will be like, it is impossible to conjecture.

In all conscience, it is not for us even to bear the nearly unbearable ills inflicted upon us by the laws already made,–at any rate it is not better for us to be (if we can but be permitted to be) such simple human beings as Nature made us,–than suffer ourselves to be made over into such grotesque and horrible shapes as a new set of lawmakers would make us into, if we suffer them to try their powers upon us?

The excuse which the women offer for all the laws which they propose to inflict upon us is that they themselves are oppressed by the laws that now exist. Of course they are oppressed; and so are all men—except the oppressors themselves—oppressed by the laws that are made. As a general rule, oppression was the only motive for which laws were ever made. If men wanted justice, and only justice, no laws would ever need to be made; since justice itself is not a thing that can be made. If men or women, or men and women, want justice, and only justice, their true course is not to make any more laws, but to abolish the laws—all the laws—that have already been made. When they shall have abolished all the laws that have already been made, let them give themselves to the study and observance, and, if need be, the enforcement, of that one universal law—the law of Nature—which is “the same at Rome and Athens”—in China and in England—and which man did not make. Women and men alike will then have their rights; all their rights; all the rights that Nature gave them. But until then, neither men nor women will have anything that they can call their rights. They will at most have only such liberties or privileges as the laws that are made shall see fit to allow them.

If the women, instead of petitioning to be admitted to a participation in the power of making more laws, will but give notice to the present lawmakers that they (the women) are going up to the State House, and are going to throw all the existing statute books in the fire, they will do a very sensible thing,–one of the most sensible things it is in their power to do. And they will have a crowd of men—at least all the sensible and honest men in the country to go with them.

But this subject requires a treatise, and is not to be judged of by the few words here written. Nor is any special odium designed to be cast on the woman suffragists; many of whom are undoubtedly among the best and most honest of all those foolish people who believe that laws should be made.

This has essentially been the foundation of my argument against extending legal marriage to include gays: Gays have as good a right to have their marriages legally recognized as straights have; and that is no right at all.

The Five To Ten Percent Solution

Lysander Spooner estimated that no more than 5-10% of the American population was even eligible to vote at the time the Constitution was framed and ratified. In his own time less than 20% of the population could vote.

In the very nature of things, the act of voting could bind nobody but the actual voters. But owing to the property qualifications required, it is probable that, during the first twenty or thirty years under the Constitution, not more than one-tenth, fifteenth, or perhaps twentieth of the whole population (black and white, men, women, and minors) were permitted to vote. Consequently, so far as voting was concerned, not more than one-tenth, fifteenth, or twentieth of those then existing, could have incurred any obligation to support the Constitution.

At the present time [1869], it is probable that not more than one-sixth of the whole population are permitted to vote. Consequently, so far as voting is concerned, the other five-sixths can have given no pledge that they will support the Constitution.

2. Of the one-sixth that are permitted to vote, probably not more than two-thirds (about one-ninth of the whole population) have usually voted. Many never vote at all. Many vote only once in two, three, five, or ten years, in periods of great excitement.

Even if there had been unanimous support for ratification of the Constitution among voters that would have been roughly the same percentage of the population that voted for Ross Perot in 1992. And Perot finished a distant third.

Yet constitutionalists pretend that this small minority was somehow entitled to bind all Americans in an eternal social contract.

Spooner’s critique doesn’t end here of course, he’s just getting warmed up. In No Treason he systematically demolishes any hope for the idea of legitimate Constitutional authority.

Responsible To Whom?

This was no surprise:

At a joint news conference with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, President Bush was asked about the government’s ability to respond to disasters. He responded “Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government. And, to the extent the federal government didn’t fully do its job right, I take responsibility.”

Okay, now what? What’s going to happen to Bush now that he’s “taken responsibility”?

Answer is, not much of anything.

So why is Bush taking responsibility, so called? Simple practical politics: most people want an authority figure telling them that everything’s okay, the classic Big Mommy or Big Pappy to hold their hands and reassure them. Bush can achieve that image by just mouthing some nonsense-words on TV, and precious few are going to think twice about the matter.

Even Claire Wolfe, usually spot-on on these matters, veers off course:

If the owners of St. Rita’s nursing home have been arrested and charged with negligent homicide, then why are Mssrs. Bush, Brown, Chertoff, and Nagin still running around free?

Leaving aside the obvious answer regarding who has the most guns, it’s far from clear that Bush et. al. are in fact guilty of negligent homicide. In fact, to conflate the political class with the owners of a nursing home is actually a rather dangerous comparison: I don’t know about you-all, but I personally am both competent in my affairs and pretty God-damned sure that I never agreed to let Bush, Nagin, or any other elected or appointed dimwit see to my care and feeding. To argue otherwise is to stipulate that politicians do in fact have some sort of responsibility to take care of us.

And how would they get such a responsibility? A contract? Nope:

This is the most that any member of Congress can say in proof that he has any constituency; that he represents anybody; that his oath “to support the Constitution,” is given to anybody, or pledges his faith to anybody. He has no open, written, or other authentic evidence, such as is required in all other cases, that he was ever appointed the agent or representative of anybody.

No one can come forward and say to him: I appointed you my attorney to act for me. I required you to swear that, as my attorney, you would support the Constitution. You promised me that you would do so; and now you have forfeited the oath you gave to me. No single individual can say this.

On general principles of law and reason, it would be a sufficient answer for him to say, to all individuals, and to all pretended associations of individuals, who should accuse him of a breach of faith to them:

I never knew you. Where is your evidence that you, either individually or collectively, ever appointed me your attorney? that you ever required me to swear to you, that, as your attorney, I would support the Constitution? or that I have now broken any faith that I ever pledged to you? You may, or you may not, be members of that secret band of robbers and murderers, who act in secret; appoint their agents by a secret ballot; who keep themselves individually unknown even to the agents they thus appoint; and who, therefore, cannot claim that they have any agents; or that any of their pretended agents ever gave his oath, or pledged his faith to them. I repudiate you altogether. My oath was given to others, with whom you have nothing to do; or it was idle wind, given only to the idle winds. Begone!

Exactly what has Bush promised to whom? The answer as Spooner eloquently shows us is nothing, to no one. Bush never promised the inhabitants of New Orleans that he would facilitate their rescues, he has promised nothing to no one. So who cares for assigning “responsibility”? Bush, Nagin, etc. have none, and can have none. They never had any to begin with.

Ignoring the Lost Constitution

Over at Catallarchy, Scott Scheule is wrestling with Randy Barnett’s Restoring the Lost Constitution. I’ve been thinking about the book again, and it struck me that Barnett’s argument itself is an argument for the illegitimacy of the US Constitution.

Barnett argues that a legitimate constitution is one that has adequate procedures to ensure that its laws respect rights. What these procedures are is anyone’s guess. A legitimate constitution, according to Barnett, creates a Prima Facie Duty of Obedience. For purposes of argument, let me stipulate to this.

Yet, when Barnett reviews the US Constitution, he develops an argument for the Presumption of Liberty. That is, the acts of the government are presumptively unconstitutional unless they can be shown to be (1) necessary to protect rights and (2) proper in that they do not violate the rights of others.

But what is a Prima Facie Duty of Obedience? A prima facie duty is a duty that one presumptively has unless one can defeat it with evidence or law. Yet Barnett is saying that there is a Prima Facie Duty not to obey laws following the Constitution.

If a Presumption of Liberty is correct for the US courts, but a Prima Facie Duty of Obedience is enforceable under the legitimate constitution, then the US Constitution is illegitimate. Hence, even if Barnett’s argument holds, the US Constitution is illegitimate.

Of course, there are more serious issues attacking Barnett’s argument:

1. What happens when actual Spoonerian consent clashes with Barnett’s constitutional duty? Barnett praises Spoonerian consent and agrees with it. So which prevails?

2. If a constitution has procedures not to violate rights, then that constitution has procedures that prevent it from stopping another government from coming into competition with it. Hasn’t Barnett just reached anarchism again?

3. If two legitimate and equally just constitutional structures claim the same territory, which one’s laws prevail?

Rather than trying to figure out how to wring the most liberty out of the Constitution, it’s better just to drop it and look for legitimate ways to secure the blessings of liberty.

(Salem County represent!)

Roderick Long Interprets The Wind

In a new article Roderick Long attempts a Spoonerite interpretation of the constitution and fails.

One thing I do like about the piece is how neatly Long dismisses Stephan Kinsella’s objection that the ratification of the Fourteenth amendment was illegitimate: There was never any legitimate ratification of any part of the constitution. But Long’s entire argument can be dispatched almost as easily.

Long seeks to interpret the intent of the constitution by Spoonerite means, but this is fruitless for his purposes. Rather than take Long point by point I’ll just offer a simpler and more correct argument based on Spooner’s principles that leads directly to very different conclusions.

Of natural law Spooner writes:

Lawmakers, as they call themselves, can add nothing to it, nor take anything from it. Therefore all their laws, as they call them,–that is, all the laws of their own making,–have no color of authority or obligation. It is a falsehood to call them laws; for there is nothing in them that either creates men’s duties or rights, or enlightens them as to their duties or rights. There is consequently nothing binding or obligatory about them. And nobody is bound to take the least notice of them, unless it be to trample them under foot, as usurpation. If they command men to do justice, they add nothing to men’s obligation to do it, or to any man’s right to enforce it. They are therefore mere idle wind, such as would be commands to consider the day as day, and the night as night. If they command or license any man to do injustice, they are criminal on their face. If they command any man to do anything which justice does not require him to do, they are simple, naked usurpation and tyrannies. If they forbid any man to do anything which justice would permit him to do, they are criminal invasions of his natural and rightful liberty. In whatever light, therefore, they are viewed, they are utterly destitute of everything like authority or obligation. They are all necessarily either the impudent, fraudulent, and criminal usurpations of tyrants, robbers, and murderers, or the senseless work of ignorant or thoughtless men, who do not know, or certainly do not realize, what they are doing.

On it’s face the constitution appears to intend limited government but limited government is impossible in principle. So does it fundamentally intend usurpation or justice? I’d say the document fundamentally intends usurpation but it doesn’t really matter. To the extent that it intends usurpation nobody is bound to take the least notice of it. To the intent that it intends justice it is empty wind adding nothing to anyone’s responsibilities or obligations.

But isn’t the constitution in some way binding on government officials who hold it to be a valid agreement? Spooner correctly observes that it is not:

It is mere idle wind. At most, it is only a pledge of faith to an unknown band of robbers and murderers, whose instrument for plundering and murdering other people, I thus publicly confess myself to be. And it has no other obligation than a similar oath given to any other unknown body of pirates, robbers, and murderers.

For these reasons the oaths taken by members of Congress, “to support the Constitution,” are, on general principles of law and reason, of no validity. They are not only criminal in themselves, and therefore void; but they are also void for the further reason that they are given to nobody.

An idle wind cannot reasonably be construed as any kind of agreement among any parties to limit government, nor can an intent to usurp individual rights since it necessarily asserts unlimited authority.

At the end of the day the only proper reason for contemplating the intent of the constitution is to demonstrate it’s incoherence, to reduce it to plain absurdity. Long has gone astray by attempting to put the wind to another purpose.

(I crossposted this to the comment section of the Liberty and Power blog here. There is further discussion at the bottom of that page.)

DiLorenzo On Spooner

Stephan Kinsella and Karen De Coster have sought a response to a recent article by Thomas J. DiLorenzo on Lysander Spooner. The piece is quite evidently a response to me, DiLorenzo has taken it upon himself to school this site on Lysander Spooner.

DiLorenzo’s revel elation is that Spooner held the Civil War to be unjust aggression by the Union. I knew this, of course, and have said so. The Union had no just grounds to force the South to remain in the Union. Southerners were perfectly entitled to defend themselves from such aggression. I freely grant that the cause of defending secession was a just cause and the basis for just war on the part of the South.

But so what? That and pocket change will get you a cup of coffee. The fact that the Confederacy had a just cause in defending secession doesn’t remotely make the Confederacy a just nation. And no cause could justify the means employed by the Confederacy, starting with conscription.

It’s misleading to say Spooner defended the South: He defended secession.

Consider what defense Spooner would make of John C. Calhoun, the champion of slavery so admired by DiLorenzo. Spooner would of course have held that Calhoun had a perfect right to secede from any political union. He would also have advocated making war on Calhoun’s property. He’d have taught Calhoun’s slaves to burn Calhoun’s buildings and kill his cattle and horses. He’d have had Calhoun flogged. Hell, he’d have given John Brown whatever support he needed to separate Calhoun’s head from his shoulder’s if that was what it took to free his slaves.

Some defense.

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.