Lysander Spooner: Northern Abolitionist and Supporter of Southern Independence
April 1, 2022 | View PDF
Court historians and perpetuators of the righteous cause myth have devoted much attention to the abolitionist John Brown. Heavily financed by the Secret Six (mainly Northern Industrialists and Unitarians), Brown led a rag-tag band of murderous misfits. The first person they killed in Virginia was Heyward Shepherd, a highly respected free Black man intelligent enough to not join their gang. Brown was eventually arrested, tried, convicted, and hanged for committing treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia. Conversely,
Northern abolitionist Lysander Spooner has received minimal attention, with that coming mostly from libertarian circles. Spooner sympathized with Brown in many ways, did not oppose the use of violence, and equally despised the slave labor system; however, as an “individual anarchist” he also understood the Jeffersonian concepts of consensual government and peaceful secession. Murray Rothbard described Spooner as “the last of the great natural rights theorists…”
Born in Athol, Massachusetts, Spooner grasped why the North would not tolerate Southern Independence. He also understood the bigotry in his region where they generally viewed Blacks as undesirable and best left confined to the Southern and Border States. Realizing the schism was driven by economics, banking and political power, Spooner knew Northerners would not invade the South over slavery, stating: “The pretense that the “abolition of slavery” was either a motive or justification for the war, is a fraud of the same character with that of “maintaining the national honor.” He noted the government itself had aided and abetted the institution of slavery and suddenly, with the departure of the Southern States, their motivation to abolish it was “as a war measure.” Thus, using Blacks to fight for the “regime” was important in maintaining political and corporate power. The goal was “industrial slavery,” which includes all racial and ethnic groups. (As H.L. Mencken later noted.) Spooner also recognized that forcing people to live under a government they had rejected was a form of slavery itself.
A vocal skeptic of the U.S. Constitution, Spooner felt the document and/or its manipulation played a role in perpetuating slavery. He recognized the commercial interests of the North saw an independent South as a financial calamity. Abraham Lincoln, an adept corporate lawyer, helped the railroad industry enormously through numerous successful lawsuits. Lincoln’s backers said a “free trade” South must be stopped. Spooner also saw control of Southern markets as a motivating factor for Northern corporate interests. Thus, various attempts were made to appease Southern and Border State slaveholders. Spooner often referenced “blood money” associated with loans from Northern banks that helped prop up slavery. Northern control of Southern markets also had a direct relationship to currency monopolization. As noted by James Garfield (and others), “He who controls the money supply of a nation controls the nation.” This would provide iron-fisted control over industry and trade and keep all workers enslaved within the system.
The denial of Southern Independence required a propaganda platform so the North’s corporate and banking complex could “glorify” their accomplishments under the ruse of ending slavery. Spooner saw through it: “Their pretenses that they have ‘Saved the Country,’ and ‘Preserved our Glorious Union,’ are frauds like all the rest of their pretenses. By them they mean simply that they have subjugated, and maintained their power over, an unwilling people...as if an enslaved and subjugated people – or as if any people kept in subjection by the sword (as it is intended that all of us shall be hereafter) – could be said to have any country.” Indeed, Lincoln’s so-called “preservation” was literally the conquerors versus the subjugated, i.e., his was an involuntary Union, the complete antithesis of the original voluntary confederation of American States.
Spooner further observed, “All these cries of having ‘abolished slavery,’ of having ‘saved the country,’ of having ‘preserved the union,’ of establishing ‘a government of consent,’ and of ‘maintaining the national honor,’ are all gross, shameless, transparent cheats -- so transparent that they ought to deceive no one – when uttered as justifications for the war, or for the government that has succeeded the war, or for now compelling the people to pay the cost of the war, or for compelling anybody to support a government that he does not want.”
Lincoln was instrumental in turning the country over to corporate and banking interests. In our era, Big Pharma, mega-corporations, the Military Industrial Complex, and their media lackeys exercise undue influence over an often naïve public. It is unlikely that Lysander Spooner will be given credit for identifying this recurring phenomenon. In his day, the government was manipulated and largely controlled by the railroads, steel/iron companies, and banking interests. Presently, the uniforms may have changed but the agenda has remained the same.
References: “Lysander Spooner on Lincoln’s War (1870)” by GOP Capitalist; “Lysander Spooner” by Wendy McElroy (from lewrockwell.com); “Government Is not Owned and Controlled by the People, People Are Owned and Controlled by
Government,” by Gary D. Barnett, January 13, 2021 (from lewrockwell.com); and Lysander Spooner, “No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority,” 1870.