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Spooner, Lysander (1808–1887)

Jeff Shantz


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Lysander Spooner was an American individualist anarchist, abolitionist, libertarian, and political philosopher. He was born to a successful farm family in Athol, Massachusetts, and became a sharp critic of the US Constitution and contractual notions of government after quitting his career as a lawyer. The popular reception of his 1846 book, The Unconstitutionality of Slavery , established Spooner as a prominent voice within the abolitionist movement. Rejecting the pacifism that characterized much of the abolitionist movement, Spooner argued for the use of violence to bring an end to slavery. His 1858 Plan for the Abolition of Slavery proposed that slaves and non-slaveholding Southerners engage in a campaign of guerilla warfare against slaveholders. Backing up his word with deeds, Spooner took part in the unsuccessful plot to free John Brown after the raid on Harper's Ferry, Virginia. Spooner's emphasis was on the transformation of society through the development of voluntary association and the limited redistribution of wealth through interest-free loans. In works that have influenced right-wing libertarians as well as individualist anarchists, Spooner asserted the inviolability of property and argued for voluntary association as a safeguard against commercial ruin. In response to the social ills of his day, Spooner presented a petit-bourgeois vision of a libertarian society ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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