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. Part First./Left and Right

Although no byline was included with this introduction to Spooner’s essay, the author of the introduction is likely the journal’s editor, Murray N. Rothbard.  While the entire essay was republished Left and Right: A Journal of Libertarian Thought, the introduction only took up the first two pages, 53 and 54.  Although this work was originally copyrighted, the owner (the Ludwig von Mises Institute) does not believe in intellectual property, and, as such, has released it into the public domain.

[PAGE 53]  Lysander Spooner has many great distinctions in the history of political thought.  For one thing, he was undoubtedly the only constitutional lawyer in history to evolve into an individualist anarchist; for another, he became steadily and inexorably more radical as he grew older.  From the time that Benjamin R. Tucker founded the scintillating periodical, Liberty, in 1881, Spooner and Tucker were the two great theoreticians of the flourishing individualist anarchist movement, and this continued until Spooner’s death in 1887, at the age of 79.

Spooner and the younger Tucker differed on one crucial point, though on that point alone:  Tucker was strictly and defiantly a utilitarian, whereas Spooner grounded his belief in liberty on a philosophy of natural rights and natural law.  Unfortunately, Spooner’s death left Tucker as the major influence on the movement, which quickly adopted the utilitarian creed while Spooner’s natural rights-anarchism faded into the background.  The present-day followers of Spooner and Tucker, in the United States and England, have also forgotten the fundamental natural-rights grounding in Spooner and have rested on the far more shaky and tenuous Tuckerian base of egoistic utilitarianism.

Lysander Spooner published Natural Law, or the Science of Justice as a pamphlet in 1882; the publisher was A. Williams & Co. of Boston.  The pamphlet had considerable influence among American and European anarchists of the day, and was reprinted in three editions in the three years following publication.  Spooner meant the pamphlet to be the introduction to a comprehensive masterwork on the [PAGE 54] natural law of liberty, and it is a great tragedy of the history of political thought that Spooner never lived to complete the projected treatise.  But what we have retains enduring value from the fact that, of all the host of Lockean natural rights theorists, Lysander Spooner was the only one to push the theory to its logical--and infinitely radical--conclusion: individualist anarchism.

Those who are interest in delving further into Spooner’s exhilirating writings will be greatly rewarded by reading his No Treason and his Letter to Thomas F. Bayard, published together under the title No Treason by the Pine Tree Press, Box 158, Larkspur, Colorado, and available for $1.50.

The following is the complete and unabridged pamphlet by Spooner; his characteristic subtitle to the pamphlet was: 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.  Spooner also appended another characteristic note that: “The Author reserves his copyright in this pamphlet, believing that, on principles of natural law, authors and inventors have a right of perpetual property in their ideas.”

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