“Natural Law, or: The Science of Justice” is Part One of an incomplete treatise by Lysander Spooner (Part Two was never published). It was first published in 1882 as a book by A. Williams & Co.
“The science of mine and thine — the science of justice — is the science of all human rights; of all a man’s rights of person and property; of all his rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is the science which alone can tell any man what he can, and cannot, do; what he can, and cannot, have; what he can, and cannot, say, without infringing the rights of any other person. It is the science of peace; and the only science of peace; since it is the science which alone can tell us on what conditions mankind can live in peace, or ought to live in peace, with each other. . . If there be in nature such a principle as justice, nothing can be added to, or taken from, its supreme authority by all the legislation of which the entire human race united are capable. And all the attempts of the human race, or of any portion of it, to add to, or take from, the supreme authority of justice, in any case whatever, is of no more obligation upon any single human being than is the idle wind.”
“What is legislation? It is an assumption by one man, or body of men, of absolute, irresponsible dominion over all other men whom they call subject to their power. It is the assumption of a right to subject all other men to their will and their service. It is the assumption of a right to abolish outright all the natural rights, all the natural liberty of all other men; to make all other men their slaves; to arbitrarily dictate to all other men what they may, and may not, do; what they may, and may not, have; what they may, and may not, be. It is, in short, the assumption of a right to banish the principle of human rights, the principle of justice itself, from off the earth, and set up their own personal will, pleasure, and interest in its place. All this, and nothing less, is involved in the very idea that there can be any such thing as human legislation that is obligatory upon those upon whom it is imposed.”
Lysander Spooner (1808-1887) was a labor activist and a radical abolitionist who came out in opposition to the Civil War. (He believed that the slavery should be ended by arming the slaves and supporting their rebellion, rather than by means of invading and occupying the South.) After the war, he wrote his most famous series of essays, entitled “NO TREASON,” arguing against the U.S. Constitution and all forms of non-consensual government. His writing on natural law in the 1880s, for example in the “Letter to Bayard,” “Natural Law,” and the “Letter to Grover Cleveland,” made him an incredibly influential figure in the emerging individualist Anarchist movement, and he became close friends with the radical individualist writer and editor Benjamin Tucker. Spooner’s essays are today widely reprinted and read throughout the libertarian and anarchist movements, and his work played a major role in the 1960s intellectual revival of individualist anarchism.
Introduced July 2014.