Next year, 2008, marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Lysander Spooner (1808-1887) – abolitionist, anarchist, postal entrepreneur, and the leading legal theorist of 19th-century libertarianism.
Today Spooner is best known for his 1867-70 No Treason series of pamphlets attacking the authority of the Constitution (and by implication government generally) and defending the right of secession. Murray Rothbard called No Treason “the greatest case for anarchist political philosophy ever written.”
But Spooner’s interests ranged still more broadly, touching on nearly every aspect of the moral, economic, and legal case for a free society. Over a fifty-year writing career Spooner penned defenses of jury nullification, deist theology, natural law, and Irish revolution; as well as critiques of slavery, victimless-crime laws, the postal monopoly, and both sides in the U. S. Civil War. He also developed controversial theories of legal interpretation (according to which, e.g., slavery was unconstitutional regardless of the framers’ intentions) and of property rights (including a case for making the term of patents and copyrights perpetual); produced numerous economic tracts on banking and currency reform; and drew up plans for guerilla warfare to liberate slaves. (Note: most of Spooner’s writings are available online here; a few more can be found here.)
In honour of the upcoming Spooner bicentenary, the Journal of Libertarian Studies is planning a special symposium issue on Spooner. Submissions dealing with any aspect of Spooner’s life and thought are hereby solicited. Articles may be historical, interpretive, or critical; comparisons of Spooner to other figures are also welcome. Submissions should be sent to JLS@mises.org by 1 April 2008.