A Plan for the Abolition of Slavery

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“The state of Slavery is a state of war. . .”

This rare, incendiary classic of radical Abolitionism, printed at Boston in 1858, was circulated in secret by the Abolitionist lawyer and radical libertarian, Lysander Spooner (1808-1887), later the author of No Treason, the “Letter to Bayard,” and “Vices Are Not Crimes.” Spooner defended the natural right of revolution against slaveholders and detailed a plan to destroy the slave system by overturning Southern society from the bottom up: emancipation brought about not by government wars, invasions or occupations; and not by legislative authority and political compromises; but with power taken into the hands of slaves themselves rising up to defend themselves from enslavement, free themselves of masters, claim the land and the fruits of their forced labor, and destroy the slave system by rendering the South ungovernable by the slavemasters.

“It is only those who have a false and superstitious reverence for the authority of governments, and have contracted the habit of thinking that the most tyrannical and iniquitous laws have the power to make that right which is naturally wrong, or that wrong which is naturally right, who will have any doubt as to the right of the Slaves (and those who would assist them) to make war, to all possible extent, upon the property of the Slaveholders and their abettors. . . . Make slavery unprofitable, in this way, if it can be done in no other. . . .” — Anonymous.

The “Plan” called on abolitionists and non-slaveholders to declare their support for uprisings and campaigns of sabotage against slaveholders and pro-slavery governments, guerrilla militias uniting enslaved blacks with poor Southern whites, and solidarity from Northern Abolitionists to provide aid to fugitive slaves, local slave uprisings and free maroon communities.

“We specially advise the flogging of individual Slaveholders. . . .” —Anonymous.

Originally published as a two page, anonymous circular in the radical abolitionist underground, only about 200 copies were ever printed. Spooner himself withdrew the circular at the request of John Brown — who feared that the appeal might tip off the government to his own plans for the raid on Harper’s Ferry the next year.

Introduced September 2012.

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