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Biographical profile published by The Daily Objectivist; excerpted from 18 May 1887 obituary published in the Boston Daily Globe

The following is excerpted from an obituary of Spooner that appeared in the Boston Daily Globe of May 18, 1887.

Hero of the Day - Lysander Spooner


Yesterday afternoon, at 12.50 o'clock, one of the most remarkable men who has ever walked the streets of Boston departed this life at his residence, 109 Myrtle street. His name, Lysander Spooner [1808-1887], is known to but few—to fewer perhaps than 30 years ago—but, as John Boyle O'Reilly says, it will some day be honored by millions. ...

Mr. Spooner was in his eightieth year, having been born in Athol January 19, 1808. A farmer's boy, he left agricultural life on becoming a man, and at the age of 25 entered the law office of John Davis in Worcester, continuing his studies later with another distinguished lawyer of the same city, Charles Allen. At that time there was a law on the statute books requiring three years' extra study from men not college bred as a condition of admission to the bar. Then it was that he first displayed that

Preference for Natural Justice

over artificial legislation which ever characterized him in after life. In defiance of the statute, he opened a law office in Worcester, and began his career as a pamphleteer by supplying each member of the Legislature with an address which made the objectionable statute so ridiculous that it was straightaway repealed. ...

In the Anti-Slavery Conflict

Mr. Spooner was a veteran, and in connection with it he produced the work which won greater fame than any other he ever wrote, his remarkable essay on "The Unconstitutionality of Slavery." His conclusions were bitterly opposed by the Garrisonians, who held that the Constitution was "an agreement with death and a covenant with hell," but Mr. Spooner, though denying the authority of the Constitution even more fundamentally than Garrison, maintained—and successfully, it is now generally believed—that it contained no sanction of the institution of slavery. His book became the text-book of the Liberty party, and was warmly supported by Gerrit Smith, Elizur Wright, and all the anti-Garrisonians.

Another important work was his treatise on "Trial by Jury," in which he showed that juries should be drawn by lot from the whole body of citizens, and that they should always be judges of the law as well as of the facts. ...

His Latest Works

Hear the following long titles: "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," and "A Letter to Grover Cleveland on His False Inaugural Address, the Usurpation and Crimes of Lawmakers and Judges, and the Consequent Poverty, Ignorance, and Servitude of the People." The latter, which is now in pamphlet, but was originally published in the Anarchist organ, Liberty, is the greatest he ever wrote in the opinion of his friends. Though Mr. Spooner did not call himself an Anarchist, his political and financial views coincided more nearly with those of the Individualistic Anarchists than with those of any other school. ...

Upon almost every subject, this large-hearted man was at odds with his day and generation. He was intensely in earnest, and far in advance of the average sentiment. While he was possessed of many lovable qualities, his personality was so pronounced and his convictions of duty so strong that he had few lasting affiliations with friends. But such as he had were of the strongest. ... His contemporaries one and all bear glad testimony to his uncompromising honesty and integrity of purpose and to the transcendent nobility of his manhood.1

Copyright © 2000, The Daily Objectivist - Reprinted with permission of The Daily Objectivist and

17 Jul 2009 (last edit: 11 Jan 2024)

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  1. "Lysander Spooner, One of the Old Guard of Abolition Heroes, Dies in His Eightieth Year After a Fortnight's Illness: John Boyle O'Reilly Predicts a Monument to His Memory", The Boston Sunday Globe, 15 May 1887, p. 8. (Freedom Circle note) ↩︎