VII. CONCLUSIONS

Lysander Spooner’s contributions to constitutional theory rarely receive serious scholarly praise. Instead, the Athol, Massachusetts, native is described as having “always [been] a pamphleteer/advocate before he [was] a philosopher.”125 It is conceded that he was responsible for “the most highly developed and workable system of individualist anarchism that emerges in nineteenth century America,” but it […]

VI. TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY POSTSCRIPT

On June 26, 2008, a citation inserted into Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion for the Court in District of Columbia v. Heller inadvertently confirmed the twenty-first century relevance of Spooner’s views, particularly as they relate to the incorporation of the Second Amendment.116 Justice Scalia devoted much of his opinion to an extensive survey of sources that […]

V. THE LIBERTARIAN PROMISE OF AN UNFINISHED TREATISE

When Part First was published, it made no mention of Pro-Slavery Compact. The content of Spooner’s work made it clear that it did not constitute a direct response to Phillips’s arguments. Spooner chose not to mention his intellectual adversary by name until two years later when he specifically noted that the writing of Part Second […]

IV. LYSANDER SPOONER: GIVE ME LIBERTY . . . “[W]ITH [I]RRESISTIBLE [C]LEARNESS”63

By Spooner’s definition of law, it was clear that law and morals were not separate concepts. What role did natural justice play, however, in an interpretation of the U.S. Constitution? In order to answer this question, Spooner also looked to the writings of Chief Justice Marshall. He did so not, like Phillips, for vindication of […]

III. WENDELL PHILLIPS: GIVE ME HISTORY NOT LIBERTY!

One of the most important things to understand about the Phillips-Spooner debate is that the text of the Constitution alone could not conclusively support the arguments of either Phillips or Spooner.41 For Phillips, the way in which to determine the intentions of the Framers was to look to external, historical sources. He was enamored with […]

II. SPOONER VERSUS PHILLIPS: AN OVERVIEW OF THEIR “GREAT DEBATE”

In 1855, Lewis Tappan, a New York abolitionist, wrote to Louis Alexis Chamerovzow, the Secretary of the British and Foreign AntiSlavery Society, about abolitionist organizations in the United States. Writing about the founders of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, Tappan observed that they initially: conceded that they could not constitutionally touch the slavery question […]

I. INTRODUCTION

Few except close friends and sponsors seem to have taken the time to realize that Spooner’s view of the Constitution required nothing less than a complete reinterpretation of how the Constitution had been formulated and what it authorized. His view was the truly radical one, but it offered an emotionally less satisfying alternative.7 Born two […]