Lysander Spooner was born on January 19, 1808 in Athol, Massachusetts. He studied law under John Davis and Charles Allen, two prominent politicians, but never officially attended law school. He started practicing law after three years of studying, despite a state law that stated that law students not taking classes must work as apprentices for five years.
It is interesting to note the irony of him starting his career as a lawyer illegally by establishing a law practice in Worcester. He openly defied the law based on his claim that the law discriminated against the poor, who could not afford law school. To quote him, it was "so monstrous a principle as that the rich ought to be protected by law from the competition of the poor." The law was reversed by the state legislature in 1836, largely due to his intensive lobbying.
While working as a lawyer, Spooner began publishing a number of radical and controversial essays regarding government and its role. This appears to have affected his clientele since his practice floundered for several years before he decided to quit the profession altogether. In 1840, he returned to work on his father's farm out of desperation.
In 1844, Spooner established the American Letter Mail Company as a delivery service for letters and packages. His intention was to compete with the United States Postal Service, which he claimed held an unlawful monopoly over the market. He also began publishing a pamphlet about the issue that was entitled, "The Unconstitutionality of the Laws of Congress Prohibiting Private Mails".
Spooner's company was a surprise hit and was his first successful business venture. However, he began to face legal battles brought by the federal government and he eventually went broke from legal fees and had to shut down the company. His company at least had the effect of convincing the USPS to reduce rates and introduce the three cent stamp. He was dubbed "The Father of Affordable Postage".
He next directed his attention to the very controversial issue of slavery. Spooner was a devout abolitionist and produced numerous writings on the subject. One such work was a book entitled "The Unconstitutionality of Slavery" and decried slavery based on arguments of natural law and federal law. It was published in 1846 and proved to be controversial due to its subject matter.
Following the release of his book, Spooner began publishing pamphlets about slavery. He also offered legal services to slaves, free of charge, in an effort to defend them from their owners. In 1858, he published a pamphlet entitled, "Plan for the Abolition of Slavery", which detailed a plan for abolishing slavery through guerrilla warfare conducted against slavery plantations. He also attempted to help free John Brown, another prominent abolitionist, from execution, but failed.
When the Civil War began, Spooner sided with the Confederacy and claimed that they had a right to secede since they were exercising government by consent. He stated that the Northern States were attempting to prevent the southerners from conducting government by consent and as a result were violating their rights. As a result, he was a harsh critic of the Civil War and the Reconstruction.
After the war ended, Spooner praised the federal government for abolishing the practice of slavery. However, he maintained that the war was not justified since their main goal was to preserve the union and not to simply end slavery. He also declared that the war violated the Declaration of Independence, since it prevented the people from dissolving their connections to other governments as they pleased.
Spooner published a book detailing his views on the Civil War and called it "No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority". The book claimed that the constitution was a contract that had been violated by the war and subsequently made void. He also claimed that the US government was not operating with the consent of many of its constituents, whose approval was assumed and never established.
Later on in his life, he published a number of books about his theories, including Natural Law. His Natural Law theory advocated abolishing all laws except natural law, which made any crimes against people or their property illegal. This theory is in many ways anarchistic and calls for the people to rule themselves with as few rules as possible.
Lysander Spooner died on May 14, 1887 from natural causes. His political activism forever shaped political science and people's views on the government.
"A man is none the less a slave because he is allowed to choose a new master once in a term of years."
"If our fathers, in 1776, had acknowledged the principle that a majority had the right to rule the minority, we should never have become a nation; for they were in a small minority, as compared with those who claimed the right to rule over them."