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The Lysander Spooner Reader Paperback – May 1, 1992

4.8 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


It has been nearly 20 years since I read Spooner in high school, and my life has not been the same since. After wrestling with Spooner's tightly reasoned arguments against the state in "No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority," you'll never look at the government the same way again.

Lawyer, abolitionist, radical, friend of liberty, one of the most fascinating figures in American history: that was Spooner. A ferocious opponent of slavery, he supported the right of secession. An ardent enemy of statist legislation, he was a brilliant jurist who put his faith in the law. An eloquent foe of prohibition of alcohol or drugs, he offered a moral defense of liberty.

Includes "Vices Are Not Crimes," "Natural Law," "Trial by Jury," "Letter to Thomas Bayard," "No Treason," and the eulogy for Spooner by American individualist-anarchist publisher Benjamin Tucker. -- Tom G. Palmer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

from the Introduction by George H. Smith

Somewhere, sometime a person will open this book not knowing what to expect, but curious about a man with the curious name of Lysander Spooner. I envy that reader, for that was me nearly twenty-five years ago when I encountered No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority.

I could scarcely believe my eyes. Here were ideas radical yet commensensical, subversive yet quintessentially American. Spooner challenged and excited me. Such experiences are rare because truly original thinkers are rare, and you can discover them but once. Alas, my days of innocent discovery are over, the casualty of too much reading. I have read libertarian writers so obscure that even obscure libertarians have never heard of them. I doubt if my future holds many surprises, but it does hold many pleasures. This is one of them: introducing others to Lysander Spooner.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 343 pages
  • Publisher: Fox & Wilkes; 1st edition (May 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0930073266
  • ISBN-13: 978-0930073268
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,434,902 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This edition contains:
1. A short introduction by George Smith that includes a thumbnail biographical sketch of Spooner's life. It's a good bio but a better one can be found in THE COLLECTED WORKS OF LYSANDER SPOONER, a more complete but hugely more expensive collection of Spooner's work.
2. OUR NESTOR- Benjamin Tucker's eulogy for Spooner, written in 1887. A short, touching farewell to a friend and fellow anarchist.
3. NATURAL LAW- Spooner says: "Natural Law [...] is naturally applicable and adequate to the rightful settlement of every possible controversy that can arise among men." Spooner envisions a stateless society built on natural law and voluntary associations. He has plenty of venom for 'legislators', calling all governments "a band of robbers who have associated for purposes of plunder, conquest, and the enslavement of their fellow men."
4. VICES ARE NOT CRIMES: A VINDICATION OF MORAL LIBERTY- An amazingly forward looking critique of consensual or victimless crime laws(keep in mind this was written in 1875!). As Spooner says, "Vices are those acts by which a man harms himself or his property. Crimes are those acts by which one man harms the person or property of another."
5. & 6. NO TREASON No. I & II- "No Treason" is a series of pamphlets that Spooner published shortly after the Civil War. He was a staunch abolitionist but also believed that the south had the right to secede from the union and authored this series to prove that confederates were not traitors to the union because they never owed it any allegiance. Numbers 3, 4, and 5 were never published and the manuscripts(if they ever existed) were destroyed in a fire.
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Format: Hardcover
It just so happens that the day I write this review is not only Constitution Day (the anniversary of the US Constitution being sent to the states for ratification), but also primary election day here in Seattle. That means there's no better day to re-read the works of Lysander Spooner -- a writer who, perhaps more than any other, can single-handedly change the way you look at both the Constitution and voting. This collection is the place to do that, including as it does nearly all of Spooner's most important work: "No Treason" (with "The Constitution of No Authority"), "Vices are not Crimes," "Trial by Jury," and his "Letter to Thomas F. Bayard."
Lysander Spooner was a fascinating man in his own right, as both the Introduction by editor George Smith and the first chapter, "Our Nestor Taken From Us," an obituary by Benjamin Tucker, make clear. Individualist anarchist, abolitionist, scholar, pamphleteer, radical -- it's a shame this Forgotten Hero is so obscure today. But given the skill and passion with which he slaughtered, barbecued, and served up America's most sacred cows, it's hardly surprising. It's a rare, almost forbidden, treat to find an original thinker any more. As Smith notes in his introduction, it's easy to envy someone reading Spooner for the first time the thought-provoking challenge she's about to experience.
Doctrinaires of the left and the right will be horrified by what they read between these pages. And those who still parrot the Received Wisdom of their junior-high "social studies" teachers (it's your duty to vote ... if you don't vote, you can't complain ... in a democracy, the people govern themselves ... "taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society" ...
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Format: Hardcover
There are only a few major minds that every libertarian should be familiar with, and Lysander Spooner is one of them. Without a doubt, he was one of the most radical, consistent, and eccentric libertarians in all of history. Although he never explicitly identified himself as an anarchist, his works leave no doubt about his stance. Fortunately for the reading public, his most important works have been gathered in this fine, affordable edition. The pieces featured here include his wonderful "No Treason," in which he demonstrates the complete absurdity of popular conceptions and justifications of government, particularly those associated with the United States and its Constitution. His critique of government is further expanded upon in his brilliant "Natural Law." While the seasoned radical libertarian will be overjoyed and delighted by the force and eloquence of his writing, those of a more moderate bent may be startled by his conclusions. This however, is a good thing. In addition to several smaller pieces, this collection also features the work that perhaps should be considered as his magnum opus, viz. his "Trial By Jury." Here Spooner employs a massive amount of knowledge and erudition in order to defend what is commonly known as jury nullification, i.e. the theory that proposes that juries should have the right to judge the justness of the law as well as the facts of the individual case. This is especially significant for those anarcho-capitalists wishing to investigate the potentialities for a purely voluntary social order. Spooner's work suggests a system of decentralized law founded upon the right to trial by jury, and indeed, his ideas deserve serious consideration.
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